Now, about Rover, the dog — though for roving, I hardly remember him away from my side! ... I almost believe that at one period, had I been set to say who I was, I should have included Rover as an essential part of myself. His tail was my tail; his legs were my legs; his tongue was my tongue! — so much more did I, as we gamboled together, seem conscious of his joy than of my own! Surely, among other and greater mercies, I shall find him again!
We had to put Dolly, our West Highland Terrier, to sleep last week. Partially blind, deaf, mentally confused and in pain — it was the kindest thing.
In her last months she seemed bewildered, dogging our steps, never allowing us out of her sight. If I left the room she followed me and found a place on the floor near my feet. She was “an essential part of myself.”
Several months ago, while recovering from back surgery, I exercised by walking up and down the hall. Dolly, though arthritic and in pain, trudged after me dutifully as though we are on our usual outdoor walk. Her loyalty and unconditional love tugged at my heart.
I wonder, will there be dogs in heaven? The simplest answer is: Why not? One day there will be a new heaven (sky) and a new earth (Revelation 21:1). If a new earth, why a dead earth, like the moon, rather than an earth filled with trees, mountains, rivers, and flowers like our present world? Why would God allow plants and flowers and other aspects of this world, but not animals into heaven? Would He take from us there what He gives us here for our joy? I think not. C.S. Lewis’ speculated that in heaven we will be “between the angels who are our elder brothers and the beasts who are our jesters, servants, and playfellows” (That Hideous Strength).
More to the point, will my dog be in heaven? Again, why not? Someday, “the creation itself will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). Since God will populate the new earth with redeemed human beings, wouldn’t we expect him to include redeemed animals?
C.S. Lewis thought so. He believed that our animals are saved because of their association with us. They achieve heaven because they are caught up in our lives, “an essential part of ourselves” (The Problem of Pain). In another of his works, The Great Divorce, Lewis describes a woman in heaven surrounded by a gaggle of young children, angels, birds and beasts.
“What are all these animals? A cat — two cats — dozens of cats. And all those dogs... Why, I can’t count them. And the birds. And the horses.”
“They are her beasts.”
“Did she keep a sort of zoo? I mean, this is a bit too much.”
“Every beast and bird that came near her had its place in her love. In her they became themselves. And now the abundance of life she has in Christ from the Father flows over into them.”
Would God, who created animals, who preserved them through the Flood, who promised to redeem them, who made us with the capacity to love them and grieve them when they’re gone — would he revoke his decision to put animals once again under our care? I think not.
Perhaps then, among other and greater mercies, I shall find Dolly again.
David and Carolyn Roper co-direct the work of Idaho Mountain Ministries, a ministry of clergy care. David is the author of 14 books. The most recent: Teach Us To Number Our Days. His musings are archived on davidroper.blogspot.com/
The Idaho Statesman's weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.