Sally RIP

animals-heavenI wrote an article about my dog Sally who was ill with hemolytic anaemia as diagnosed by our vet a few days ago, probably caused by cancer of the spleen and liver. Before coming to the decision to have her put to sleep, unsure about the cancer, she got high doses of corticosteroids to fight against the immuno suppression of her red blood cells. It was a last chance to see if she would brighten up and start eating again.

She got worse, and I was going to take her to the vet today to have her put down. I gave her the blessing for sick animals yesterday. She died this morning at 8 am, peacefully and apparently without suffering. We will be burying her this evening in the garden.

Lose two dogs in the space of less than two months… Trop c’est trop.

* * *

I give you this link to reflect on Do Our Pets Go to Heaven? Metaphysics of Animal Souls and The Afterlife. I really do think that many Christians have a problem with this because they want to make access to the afterlife (other than hell) conditioned by full subscription to the teachings of Christianity and the Church. Traditional Church teaching considers only humans as having immortal souls.

Even for humans, the whole notion of our metaphysical existence beyond bodily death is bigger and greater than orthodox Catholicism and Protestantism. Taking the sum of all religious and philosophical traditions, we see that we have problems with metaphysics and tend to materialism, differing only in degree from that of atheists. What a human and a pet dog (or even a pig in a slaughterhouse) have in common is personality. That is something that abides if anything has any meaning for any of us.

We humans are at the top of the food chain, well almost. People get eaten by crocodiles, piranha fish and great white sharks! We are arrogant, and animals are still treated with incredible cruelty. We humans are set apart from other species by our use of language, tools and technology and many things. All the same, like other species, we are a part of nature. We become sick and die like they do. Perhaps, instead of seeing ourselves on top, we might be humbler to consider that we might be somewhere between the “higher” species of mammals and the angels.

Animals not only feed us and work for us. They teach us respect for their lives and happiness. We as a species have raped our planet, and perhaps can find redemption with the help of our dogs, cats, rats or whatever we have decided to go for. If we reconnect with our animals spiritually and recognise this quality in them, perhaps the gulf between our life and heaven might become that little bit smaller.

Another problem is what we eat. As I mentioned elsewhere in a comment, plant life is also life. Killing to eat is a part of our condition. We can only kill them as humanely as possible and avoid eating the “higher” species. We humans, as a species, need to forsake factory farming and return to traditional farming. Perhaps we should only eat meat if we are prepared to kill the animals like pigs and lambs ourselves! Vegetarianism presents other problems, and I am not a vegetarian myself. I know many vegetarians who wear leather shoes!

Another aspect to this reflection is the character of the world of which this world is only a part, like the entire range of all electro-magnetic frequencies and the capacity of a radio to tune in onto only one at a time. The new heaven and the new earth are beyond our imaginations or petty orthodoxies. Even the Holy Scriptures can only speak of them through allegory and analogy.

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10 Responses to Sally RIP

  1. Fr. Lawrence B. Wheeler says:

    I am sorry to hear of the loss of your dog, father. I know what it is like to lose close canine companions. You have suffered the loss of such dear ones lately, both canine and human, I pray that the Lord comfort you.

    • ed pacht says:

      Amen!
      I don’t have pets as I recognize my inability to give them the care they deserve, but I honor those who have entered into such a partnership. While animals are not ‘spiritual beings’ in the same way as humans, they certainly are sentient individuals and merit our respect, both for being what they are and for the blessings that they bring to us. May both of your friends rest in peace, whatever exactly that means for an animal, and may you and your lady receive all the comfort a good God can give.

      • How do you know they are not spiritual beings? Of course I read your rider “in the same way as humans”. Cats sense approaching death as humans fail to do. Our problem as humans is our almost total reliance on speech for communication. We know just about zilch about such things now, but we will probably find a much bigger hereafter than what many Christians believe in.

        Thank you for your message of sympathy.

      • ed pacht says:

        Scripture treats of humanity as “in the image of God” and treats of animals differently.. Scripture also fails to make the statement often made by literalists that animals have neither soul nor spirit.. My wording was carefully chosen, and deliberately italicized. My own belief is that they indeed may be spiritual beings in another sense than is so for humans, and I am confident (without scriptural evidence, but also without going against scriptural teaching) that the afterlife will in some way include them — after all, even if He did not say “very good”, he did say “It was good” after making them. I have trouble conceiving of a real heaven that does not include our four-footed friends, even if I know zilch and cannot declare my feelings to be actual.

        I think warm thoughts about Sally and all the others in a happy doggy afterlife, and I know that, whatever I have imagined about heaven, the truth is vaster.

  2. Stephen K says:

    Father, I absolutely believe that all life is from and “goes back to” God. We humans commonly assert the immortality of the human soul, Christians doing so largely on the back of turns of phrase attributed to Jesus in the Gospels or the language of Paul in the Epistles, and because we find it impossible to imagine a state of nothingness. (Note, I make a distinction between intellectually accepting the abstract hypothesis of nothingness and trying to imagine it). But what is the reliable basis for a distinction between a human soul and other life form souls of which we can know nothing? Our youngest cat Godfrey sleeps on my bed at night and as I type, he is sitting purring next to the keyboard. He comes racing to my wife or me from any corner of the property when we call his name. I cannot work without Josephine or Sebastian taking up residence on the blanket on the desk. Sheridan disregards my working to lie over my chest and rub his head on my shoulder; my wife has to watch television with Crispin on her stomach, our smallest dog Gabrielle in her lap and Annabelle cradled in her arms. Sophie, our youngest goat, whom I raised from two weeks old, from the wild, comes up and stands close or between my legs when I go out into the paddock, if the older Isabelle is intent on harassing her. Cullie, our foundling three-legged Maltese terrier, who also sleeps on the bed, is so smart and sensitive he is selectively protective of our place, barking at the car or truck of particular neighbours but not others, and letting us know he is on the job!

    I won’t go through the entire list. What is happening here? We protect and look after these little fellow creatures and they respond and love us with gratitude and a great sense of safety. They want to be close to us. They don’t want to be anywhere else. They do not discuss politics or theology with us, or complain when they are hurt, but they tell us when they want us and play with each other. They communicate with each other in ways we cannot. Who are we to say they are inferior? I am just as much a parent to them as I was and am to my children. They ARE children. We humans love to anthropomorphise the supernatural in every way. Even sci-fi aliens are simply variations on a theme, mimicking human characteristics. What do we know, after all? It makes perfect sense that to a cat, God is Cat, and to a dog, God is Dog etc.

    I agree with so much of your article here, Father. If we are talking about souls, well, I believe we are either all immortal or none of us are. I will leave the nuances of how it works to God. Indeed, I think it is much more likely that animals and plants will be welcomed into the divine bosom than humans, considering the evil and pettinesses we prove ourselves so capable of. But the theologies we construct reassure us. We call our attachment to our animal companions and theirs to ours ‘love’ and so it is love. We cherish them and they show us the presence and spirit of God in a different but no less significant way than any other. We can learn love and responsibility from them and in the very caring for them, just as we may do through our other children. We don’t have to be too intellectual about it; in our feelings too we can see light, truth and grace.

  3. Dear Father,
    So sorry to hears this news … so close following your previous loss. In my prayers
    +DM

  4. Patricius says:

    The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog.” A 19th century American politician said that. Dogs are simple creatures who are completely vulnerable, asking only to be loved because they love you in return. Apropos, one can open one’s heart up completely to them in a way which is seldom possible with a human being and so, in a sense, the relationship, reaching over the divide between language and such superficial things, takes on a discernible purity and depth and understanding. My dogs are 12 and 10 years old respectively and have been my best friends all of that time and, being twenty-five years old, that is a significant portion of my life. How could man presume the judgements of God? Well, we can’t without sin but we might dare to hope that God would fain take the infinite value of our canine friends into account on that Day when we give an account of our deeds, and that our canine friends have been indeed instruments of His Grace.

    I’m sorry for your loss, father.

  5. Fr Graham Colby says:

    Dear Fr Anthony,
    I hope you received my email on Sally’s passing – for some reason my computer wouldn’t let me leave a message here. I’d be very interested to know something about the picture you’ve included – I was afraid you might have written off the “Rainbow Bridge” text I sent as sentimental nonsense, but the image you’ve chosen seems rather to indicate otherwise.
    With every blessing,
    Fr Graham

    • Dear Fr Graham,
      I’m open minded about any possible understanding of things that are as outside our experience as BBC Radio 3 to a radio set that is tuned to BBC Radio 4. These are analogies like the erstwhile notion of “limbo” for babies dying without baptism. There is also the notion of Sirius the Dog Star and souls of dead dogs going there, as in the 101 Dalmatians story.

      There is a theory about dogs and cats and other domestic animals (as opposed to farm animals bred for food) getting some kind of “vicarious salvation”, a theory often used for unbaptised infants as an alternative to Limbo.

      There is also another possibility, that all life, being pure energy, continues after the death of the bodies it (or spirit) was incarnated in, and this applies to low life forms and humans alike. Particulars die to become part of the Universal Idea, to use the terms of Plato. In this view, all life continues after bodily death or all life ceases at death, there being no more of an afterlife for humans than for mussels and clams on the beach!

      We should be open to the possibility of communication with the dead. I have heard that Rome has softened its position on communicating with the dead – http://www.after-death.com/Pages/Articles/View.aspx?id=12

      I think many spirit manifestations through mediums are credible (others are fraudulent) and difficult to refute. Some “materialisations” have shown the presence of dogs and other animals in the “other dimension”. I have no experience of this kind of thing myself, but I am open to it.

      Here are some links Near death experiences and the afterlife and Life in the World Unseen, claimed to be “channelled” from Msgr Robert Hugh Benson who died a hundred years ago. Read it all with an open mind and decide for yourselves. Also see the fabulous film Nosso Lar (Portuguese with English subtitles) based on the visions of a medium.

      • Fr Graham Colby says:

        Dear Fr Anthony
        I’ll look forward to clicking all those links, and meanwhile continue to hope when I say Mass that I do indeed hear a beloved bark from beyond the veil…

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