Friday, October 25, 2013

Do Dogs Go to Heaven?

We have certain things in our life that serve as symbols- tokens, people, animals, belongings. Whether we recognize it or not- these things trigger reassurances or provide us with small glimmers of happiness, hope or guidance. Each symbol is like a small white light along our long, sometimes dark pathway one year to the next.

One easy example of such a symbol for me is my stuffed animal horsey. Whenever I see horsey, I am reminded of comfort, family, childhood, a good nights rest etc. etc. There is an instinctual, gut reaction. Horsey triggers these reassurances every time my fingertips touch his coat.

 This week one of my symbols passed away. The beloved Tiempolo- regularly seen with Professor Taliaferro on St. Olaf’s campus- 13 year old well-loved and well-lived Border collie. He wisely sat in on so many of my favorite and most memorable classes- quietly reassuring all of us with his calm and kind demeanor.

Last December I went on a short walk with P. Taliaferro in his neighborhood. I remember thick snow falling on our grey trench coats and blending with Tiempolo’s grey and white fur. Even though we were in Minneapolis, mentally I went back to being a student on campus- the surroundings didn’t matter- only the familiar dog, professor, rich conversation and snow.

There is not much that forces pause more in life than a death. It is the passing of one of our symbols- suddenly along our road one of our lights has gone out, causing us to halt to reorient. Before Tiempolo died, I did not realize he was one of my lanterns along my road- now I do. And here I pause, noticing more carefully the other lanterns around me- they stand out more.

I don’t know if the above title is the correct title for this blog. It is not really a question I have, as it seems to me animals are the kindest and most genuine of spirits, and if they don’t get to go to heaven I don’t know if any human has a fighting chance. And personally, as great as it will be to see family members and friends in heaven, the individual I am almost most excited to reencounter is my dog Skipper when I die.

 So here is dedicated to life, to death, to our mortality, and to all of our own little guiding lights- And of course to a wonderful, memorable border collie. May we all pause more often.

1 comment:

  1. I chose the senior photo of you with Skipper as my favorite, and I am so glad. It sits on a shelf on the stair landing of our house and I pass it every day. It is a real timepiece and helps me remember your growing up years with your special dog. I remember that Jonathan and I brought Scotty over once to jump hurdles and play with you and Skipper for a special event. Now Scotty, Skipper and Jonathan are no longer with us. Could they be playing together, joyfully? Such a mystery it all is, and beyond our knowledge. C.S. Lewis firmly insisted that animals go to heaven, but I remain agnostically hopeful on the issue.