Some of you may not believe me, but our family dog, Java, was the greatest dog in the world. He was part of our family for almost 13 years, until had to put him down in 2012. He was suffering with advanced congestive heart failure, and we chose to put him down before his suffering became acute. With heavy hearts, we took him to the vet one last time one afternoon, and then I buried him in a quiet place in our yard.
I don’t like to anthropomorphize animals, but I learned a great deal from my loyal dog, including some interesting and unexpected theological lessons. My dog taught me about unconditional love, trust, obedience, and companionship. At the risk of sounding maudlin, his company provided more solace than that of some people I have known.
He was with us as playmate, travel companion, comforter, home alarm, and entertainer, and asked no more than food, drink, and the benefit of our presence. His absence left a hole in our lives that took some time to heal (and we still remember him fondly eight years later), but we are grateful for the time we had with him.
At the time, my son asked me if Java will be in heaven — an interesting theological question I realized my need to reconsider. I told my son that heaven’s glory is such that Java’s presence could not add to it, nor could his absence detract from it. While I am not inclined to make metaphysical speculations about animals, I felt inclined to revisit my initial assessment, and I stand by my reassessment to this day.
I do not think that the presence of beloved animal companions will detract from the glory of God’s presence in heaven, nor will their absence add to it. I do believe that our gracious God knows best how to prepare a place for his children; I think I will leave the rest of the question unanswered. But for now, I remember the loss of a loyal companion, and I appreciate the dogs we have enjoyed for the past eight years. Pets are a blessing from God, and should be appreciated as such.