Note: This is not my daughter or our dog
She walked into the kitchen, my preteen daughter, hesitant and solemn. She stood beside me at the counter while I worked.
“Do dogs go to heaven?” she asked.
Without thinking I said,”No”
She immediately broke into tears and ran from the room.
I paused a moment to think about what I just said. I went up to her room where she lay sobbing on her bed. This is what I told her.
Aeron? I don’t know what I was thinking when I answered you. I grew up in a church that believed that when an animal dies, that’s it.
The truth is I don’t know what happens when animals die. I only know what I was taught. I like to believe that all dogs go to heaven.
She sat up sniffling and I gave her a hug. I hoped that my explanation made up for my initial response.
I remembered my childhood and how difficult it was to grow up in The Netherlands Reformed Congregation. I was too sensitive for such a harsh environment.
It is a fire and brimstone church that portrayed God as angry and vengeful. In this church most people let alone animals don’t make it to heaven. Churches like mine were often referred to as the church of the “frozen chosen.”
You were predestined for heaven or hell. God chose and there was nothing within your power to change the outcome. I spent a lot of time as a child and teenager wondering what waited for me and the ones I loved on the other side.
It’s strange that in that environment I always felt that God was love. The Jesus I read about was loving and cared tenderly for people. He healed their bodies and their spirits. All they needed was the willingness to believe.
In my early twenties I left the church. I embraced the God of love that I know so dearly and focussed on living my life with kindness. I raised my children to believe in a God that loves them and is there for them.
I don’t know what is on the other side of this life. I don’t think it’s anything like we imagine.
What I can’t imagine is heaven without animals. Their presence on this earth brings me great joy. I want to believe that when I die my pups are there to greet me. Bounding excitedly across an open field. Jesus following behind them.
Do dogs go to heaven? Please God, I hope so.