I like to think that all dogs go to heaven. I had a lot of time recently to think about that while my little
dog Zoey was fighting for her life in a pet hospital. Zoey got into the trash, something she isn’t
supposed to do, ate some plastic and some twine, which she really is not supposed to do…the plastic got
stuck in her intestines and the twine wrapped around the piece of intestine that attaches to the
pancreas. Instead of being able to remove a piece of intestine, because it was attached to the pancreas,
all they could do was remove the obstacles and stitch up the cut in her intestines as best they could, put
her on tons of antibiotics and other meds. It was pretty touch and go, and pretty heartbreaking for me,
and I cried…a lot, and I prayed…a lot, and Michael and Ashley and Elizabeth, and others, they prayed
with me and for me. But little Zoey, well that girl had something going for her that I’d like to share,
because it shed a lot of light on life for me.
Now I realize that maybe dogs going to heaven might not be biblical. I don’t believe I’ve ever read
where it says that yes or no in the bible, and I don’t know as much of the bible as I should, or as I want
to. I know some might want to open their bibles and show me where I am wrong. I’m not a Michael or
Elizabeth Holmes, Dan Bode or Ashley Jennings, and I couldn’t last the time it takes to snap my fingers in
a theological debate or discussion.
And forgive me, as I write this, I am not an Ann Voskamp, or Beth Moore. I don’t have the kind of
writing skills to take what I have to say and to make it sound just right so that it takes hold of someone,
and roots meaning in their soul. I’m not an Ashley Jennings who can shed light on a subject with clarity
and feeling, and heart. That said, I have to say that Ashley Jennings, to me, is one of those people that
reminds me that God does not do things the way we ‘humans’ do; he doesn’t follow our math system,
he doesn’t do things the way we think he should or would, he doesn’t care about physics, gravity, or size
or proportion; He fed five thousand people with a couple fishes and loaves; he grew the prayers of a
little church for the future with children where there were none; he took that same little church, and is
using them to plant seeds around the globe, in Cambodia, and the Czech Republic and India. And he can put as big a heart as he wants into a 5’4 frame, called Ashley and make it fit because he doesn’t follow our rules and our ways are not His ways. And He….is… good.
I don’t have their skills, or gifts. But what I do have is this:
I am a daughter of God, a Sister in Christ, a mother and a grandmother. I am, at the very core of my
being a nature lover, and I love dogs…period. I have often thought, and no, I am not ready to be
committed, but I have often wondered if God takes an angel, puts it into the bodily form of dog, tucks
wings into fur, and sends them down to us because he knows that for some of us, we will respond to
them beyond the level of ohhhs and awes over cuteness. We will relate to that dog. We will connect to
that dog, and it might be a far-fetched thought to some, but it might change our perspective and push
our faith into a new direction, because of that dog.
Zoey and I have some common ground. By the time I adopted Zoey from an animal rescue agency, she
had been abused for most of her 9 month life. I spent most of my adult life in abusive relationships.
When I took her home, Zoey was startled by her own shadow; any loud noise was enough to send her
flying under the bed, into the closet, into hiding. I’m a lot like that too. A tough day at work is enough to send me home, behind locked doors and unwilling to venture out and deal with “people,” and
especially traffic. Zoey was terrified of men, but she learned to overcome that as well. As a matter of
fact, during the 2 years I have had her, Zoey has learned to let go of the past, of the hurts, of the fear
and just live. I do not share that with Zoey.
Zoey has an incredible love for running, she bursts into fast sprints and her face lights up and it looks
like she is smiling when she runs. She just finds such happiness in that. It’s one of the things that I love
about her and something that makes me think a lot about life, and how it should be lived. As I watched
Zoey fading into nothingness for a couple of weeks, it opened my eyes to how I am living my life and
what I am NOT doing with it.
You see, Zoey finds undeniable joy in LIVING….WIDE…OPEN. When she was struggling to survive, I was
struggling with the pain of watching this amazing little dog, who loves life, who loves wide, and whole,
whose entire existence is about really living, loving and giving… and wondering how on earth I could
find joy without her in my life. And I wondered; I wondered how God must feel, when he looks down
and knows that we are not living our lives that way, wide open. When we live in hurt and fear and
hiding, the ache in his heart must be unbearable. It makes my heart ache too, to think that I am hurting
him, who created me, breathed me into being…loved me when I couldn’t and wouldn’t love myself. The
one who has held my hand, had my back, and carried me down more empty, painful, hurting places than
I can count. Oh how he must ache to want me to live like Zoey.
I visited Zoey everyday she was in the pet hospital and the Vet techs and doctors were so amazed at the
bond that Zoey and I share. Zoey’s eyes would light up every time she saw me, even though she
couldn’t move well for a few days. When she finally got to the stage where she could wag her tail she
banged it loud and long on the kennel walls and the table, and she would just dive into my shoulder and
lay her head there, her little paw pressed against my shoulder. The employees, all of them, the doctors,
all wanted her, she is so sweet, so loving, caring. Such a joy. But Zoey’s heart belongs to me. Was that
God who whispered then, that’s all I want, Linda, your heart.
When Zoey did come home from the hospital, it was difficult watching her eat only a few nibbles at a
time. She wasn’t very interested In food, and because she was exceptionally good at being able to eat
the piece of food and not the pill, the only thing I could do was shove the pills down her throat and each
time, she would look at me as if she were in trouble…”mommy why are you doing this.” And it hurt me
to do it. I would tell her, every single time, I’m just trying to help you baby girl, I just want you to live.
It dawned on me, during a run one day, when I thought about having to give Zoey her evening meds,
how many times God must have said and felt the same thing for me. For us. I’m just trying to help you,
Linda, I just want you to live. The ache His heart must feel when we don’t. Only it isn’t just me that
God’s saying it to, it’s mankind. It’s his children. His family. His creation. It’s us. It’s people like me,
hurt and afraid and hiding instead of living out our lives wide open for God.
Zoey is home, and healing, and everyday brings a new level to her well being. She is, if it is possible,
more caring, more loving, more giving then ever. And there is something new as well, a new vibrancy to
her joy. We went back to the vet to get her stitches out, ten days after she was home, and she “ran” into the vet office, she leapt into the arms of the vet tech who was her main caregiver during her week
stay. I believe that Zoey knew they had saved her life, and she was grateful, and she loved on the girls
and they fell in love with my little Zoey all over again. I’m guessing God kinda wants the same from me.
To fall in love with Him again, and again, and to never loose that love. To hold fast.
I cannot tell you that my entire life has just dramatically changed. It has not. I can tell you, that my
perspective has radically changed and I belive it is what I do with that that will matter. I can tell you that
I have met God in different ways through this difficult time and that through this He has shown me what
he wants for me. I don’t think it’s always what God wants FROM us, I think it’s a lot of what God wants
FOR us. And he wants me to live my life wide and free and whole and loved. And he has shown me
how, through a little gift that has angel wings tucked beneath soft, brown fur.
It is challenging for someone like me. To walk out my faith more openly. It is difficult and challenging to
just be around people a lot…it isn’t that I don’t like people, I just avoid them, because, well, because it’s
safe. This is difficult and frightening in a lot of ways for me and I imagine for others who have felt this
way as well. I might need to borrow a superhero cape for a while because I’m not even Aqua Man level.
I know this, that it starts with my meeting myself in my brokenness, and walking forward into light, even
if I have to do it over and over, until I get it right. God’s there with me… I am not alone. He’s got my
Scripture tells us that every good and perfect gift comes from above. Except for the trash eating thing,
little Zoey is pretty much perfect. She is loving and giving. She loves life, she loves to run, loves to chase
squirrels and tug-a-war with Abbie, or me. She loves me. I am IT for her. I am her sun, her moon, her
stars. I am HER human.
Jesus said, love one another, as I have loved you. Zoey, shows love in ways that bring joy and verve to
my small life, and this challenge has opened my eyes in ways that I cannot express in a few short
paragraphs. I think God must really like dogs a lot, because I think dogs can be a lot like God.
Unconditional love. Giving. Joyful. Light.
I don’t know what heaven will be like. I don’t know what we will look like; what our spirits will look like.
I just know that God gave me a glimpse of heaven’s angels in a little brown dog, with soft amber eyes,
that smiles when she runs. I’m betting that I will meet up with Zoey one of these days up there in
heaven. I hope it’s a long time from now because I have much to learn from this little bundle of energy
and lover of life. But when we do, meet up in heaven, I will recognize her in the same way that, I hope,
my loved ones, my children and grandchildren, will recognize me when they meet me up there; by her
love, her spirit, her joy and goodness, her light.
So, yeah, I like to think that all dogs go to heaven. It’s where everything good and perfect is.