Canine mortality has crossed my mind more often then I would care to acknowledge–I have a 13-year-old English bulldog, and after Kona’s cancer scare. Then I saw a post on Facebook about dogs going to heaven and greeting us when we get there. The caption asked: “Do you believe our dogs go to heaven?”
I’m conflicted when I think about this topic; emotion and logic run headlong into each other and it combines with a good bit philosophy, too.
Emotionally, I would like to think that Hoss; Kona; the cockapoo with seven lives that I grew up for 17 years; Rosie the English springer spaniel (my first “hunting” dog); the three red-bellied newts; umpteen cats that never lasted more than a year; the bullsnake; the horned-lizard that my dad had to kill because it somehow broke its pelvic bone; and all the other critters I collected as a kid would rush to greet my soul as it crossed over to the other side (I’m not too sure my grandma, who would undoubtedly be there, would like the snakes and lizards).
But, logically, I don’t think that would happen. It’s just too neat and pretty, and, of course, depends on each individual’s definition of heaven/afterlife/etc.
If a dog (or other animal) has an immortal soul such as man, than each time we kill for food or to end suffering, we are committing murder. Now, there are probably some animal-rights activists somewhere (probably California) jumping up and down and peeing their hippie corduroy bellbottoms that I just wrote that (to be clear, I don’t believe that, so if anyone sees a truncated quote on the PETA site, please correct them), but philosophically speaking, you can’t live on both sides of the fence.
Or can you?
I tend to fall more in line with a Native American belief system (I think anyway…), and find more equilibrium in the idea of an animal spirit. One that deserves respect and care, that feels and empathizes, but one that is somehow, and I’m not sure how to define or quantify that, less than (although, perhaps more noble) than human. The idea of paying respect to an animal – whether it’s one killed on the hunt or our dog’s life that we just humanely extinguished – and honoring it’s life, spirit and fulfillment it brings you (be that as sustenance or emotional satisfaction) seems fitting.
So, now that I’ve probably offended every religion, Native American tribe and bell-bottomed hippie, where do you stand on the question: Do dogs go to heaven?