Why Dogs Go to Heaven
|St. Christopher Depicted With a Dog's Head|
The buzz seems to be swinging away from Pope Francis having said dogs go to heaven. The fire brigade is out, citing theological consensus that animals lack an immortal soul. And Pope Francis would never depart from that, would he? The story says more about how we view Pope Francis than the eternal fate of pets. We'll believe any alleged quote by now.
Please forgive the Bear if he seems to engage in special pleading, being, after all, an animal himself. The Bear concedes better minds than his have concluded the sign over Heaven's gate reads "No Dogs Allowed." Nonetheless, the Bear will argue to the contrary, it not being, after all, de fido, er, fide.
We don't know very much about what it will be like to be in Heaven, except that we will enjoy the Beatific Vision. Coupled with another fact of our heavenly existence -- our resurrected bodies -- the Beatific Vision sounds unfortunately static and visual. We stand, we look at God, and enjoy bliss. The Church doesn't precisely teach this, at least the Bear doesn't think so, but let's say the theological terminology is more precise than evocative.
But our resurrected bodies are what the Bear can't stop thinking about. He suspects there will be a lot going on with those bodies. Why else would we have them? That implies a setting, and yes, there will be a new Earth. This will be another Paradise, and there were certainly animals there.
But will any of these animals be our pets? Each beloved animal companion of course remains complete in God's consciousness. It is perhaps not too much of a stretch to imagine that we "find" them in our contemplation of God. And why should they not be present bodily for our delight? If we are to have bodies, why, if not to rejoice in the Good God's gifts? And one of the greatest, innocent, everyday pleasures is petting and playing with a beloved pet.
|Buster Wants to Play|
We draw dogs, especially, into our human lives. Anyone who has loved a dog knows that it has its own personality. A dog feels, and thinks. The Bear rejects any argument that rests on the supposed lack of consciousness of dogs. Dogs are the symbol of loyalty. He anticipate his master's moves, mirrors his moods, remembers, solves problems and initiates interaction. Stories of dogs mourning their dead masters are too numerous to catalog. The Bear could fill a book with examples of his Yorkie's consciousness, and so could any dog owner.
Of course dogs do not have a human consciousness, and the Bear is not arguing that they have the same soul as a human. To speak in such terms is to get off track. The Christian Heaven is not Nirvana, where we are dissolved into the One. It is a bodily Paradise where every moment is suffused with the glory of God. The Bear is confident that God will not neglect to once again fill it with animals, and some of those will be our beloved pets.
No one is certain why St. Christopher is sometimes depicted with a dog's head in Orthodox iconography. The Bear notes that Roman light infantry of certain periods wore wolf heads with wolf skin capes, perhaps as an aid to recognizing individual soldiers. Others theorize it was a symbol of barbarism, although they do not explain why that should apply to a Roman soldier.
Animals are smarter than we give them credit for. Here's an amazing experiment involving a problem-solving crow.