February 24, 2024 A Religious and Political Commentary

If There Are No Dogs in Heaven

“If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”

~ Will Rogers

The job description of “Dad” includes a lot of fine print that I’m sure most of us didn’t read before we took the job. The same is true for “Pastor.” I got the double-whammy.

One day, I came home from church and was asked to perform a funeral for Mocha, my elementary-aged kids’ pet rabbit who ran who ran afoul of some neighborhood dogs. It started as a beautiful ceremony. Mocha was in a shoebox decorated by my daughter and buried in the backyard. At the service, I talked of heaven and God’s love. And then I asked for eulogies. 

My daughter extolled Mocha’s beauty, her softness and sweet disposition, and how her nose would twitch when she ate. When it was my son’s turn, he stood over the grave, took a moment to compose his thoughts, and said something like: “Mocha was a great rabbit. And this is how she died. A dog grabbed her with his teeth and began shaking her…fur and blood was everywhere.”

I thought it best to end the service at that point.

But I’ve always wondered, will Mocha be waiting for my daughter in heaven? I recently had to euthanize my 13-year-old lab, Winnie. She was always the first to excitedly greet me when I got home. She had been my constant companion and friend for early morning walks and late nights in my study. I miss her snoring. Lots of tears that day.

Will Winnie be among the great cloud of witnesses awaiting my arrival in heaven (Heb. 12:1)? Most of us would say the Bible is silent on the matter. Some would dogmatically (yes, bad pun intended) say, “No, dogs aren’t sentient and have no souls.”

But I’m not so sure. Isaiah tells us about a new heaven and earth (an idea John picks up in Revelation) where lions, wolves, and lambs get along just fine together (Isa. 65:25; see Rev. 21:1). 

And we should remember that what we call “The Fall of Man” is a pretty self-centered notion. All of creation fell along with the earth’s caretakers. Animals (and the planet) are included in the curse of Genesis 3. The world’s first fatality is found in the same chapter: “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21) God’s first redemptive move included an ark big enough for two of each animal. 

Paul sums up fall and redemption like this: “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:19–21)

Redemption involves the whole planet and her inhabitants, a new heaven and earth.

C.S. Lewis, in The Problem of Pain, suggests there is an eternal future for animals. Beloved pets are “in” their masters similar to the way believers are “in” Christ. In that sense, he says, our pets are covered in our own redemption. 

That might sound a bit far-fetched, but Paul makes a similar argument about unbelieving spouses and children (see 1 Cor. 7:14)

Winnie’s identity was undoubtedly connected to me and me to her. And through me, to Jesus. So maybe she is waiting for me. I know in heaven, I will connect with God in a way I never have down here. I will be reunited with family and friends. Heaven will be a place of unspeakable joy. And the Lord knows it would bring me joy to see Winnie again. Like Will Rogers, I hope that’s the case.

So, although we can’t say definitively if dogs go to heaven, we have good reason to anticipate a grand reunion at the Pearly Gates…a reunion that will include wagging tails and slobbery kisses.

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