It’s been a sad week here at the Shabby Shack, as my sister’s Agatha’s beagle, Princess Rolo has crossed the proverbial Rainbow Bridge and is now merrily running around heaven, her little beagle brain blown by the fact that she’s got no fences to limit where she can romp around.
Princess Rolo has made appearances on this blog before: here and here. She’s maybe a strange metaphor I can point to between God and me – Princess Rolo was a brat in the beginning, but I grew to love her lots. I’m still a brat, but God loves me lots.
Additionally, one of my friends had to put her cat down two weeks, ago, and I just got word tonight that Winston, a dog I housesat back in October 08, also followed Princess Rolo across the bridge, so it’s been quite the sad month for pet lovers.
There are certain things I absolutely know for sure, regardless of zero Biblical evidence for them. Most of them are controversial, and now’s not the time to quote them, but I absolutely do believe that our pets go to heaven. Yes they do. Of course they do. Because it would make no sense that God would give us furry companions who touch our hearts, make us smile, sit on our feet while we work at the computer, or watch TV, never demand anything in return except food, water, shelter, tummy rubs and ear scratches and then NOT be there with us in heaven. That makes no sense. God wouldn’t do that.
(and yes, I’m well aware of that photo series between the Catholic Church and the Presbyterian church with their dueling signs debating the topic. You know that wasn’t real, right? Right? See, look : )
I used to think heaven was one endless church service, where we’d all sing hymns for eternity. That didn’t sound like fun, but then, life down here is not exactly tequila and lime chips 24/7 either, so when I did think about it, I reasoned that just because it didn’t sound like fun didn’t mean it wasn’t fun, and that when I do finally shuffle upstairs, I must change enough to where I DO want to sing my most hated hymn of all time, “Open The Eyes Of My Heart.” I seriously hate that hymn. (I also hate “Jesus Is King” and OH, was the worship leader at church today chagrined to hear that. Heh.)
Then I used to think heaven was just some amorphous white blob of light and energy that we dissolve into when we die, forever existing in a state of bliss but not existing as separate entities, which explains why dead people don’t come back to tell loved ones what it’s like up there, and that anyone’s near death experience can be reasoned away as brain synapses going haywire, as the brain thinks this is the Last Exit.
But I don’t like that idea either, as it still doesn’t sound like much fun.
I’ve heard it said that there’s levels of heaven, which I think is dumb. (I once did a verbal smackdown in a small group saying, “If it’s heaven, it’s all gonna be great, who cares WHAT level you’re on? Besides, if there’s no negative emotions, I’m not gonna be jealous, envious, or resentful of what you got in heaven that I didn’t get. Just the fact that I got there’s enough for me. Don’t need the heaven equivalent of American Express Points to enhance the experience. Now excuse me while I go snort some coke and knock over a bank and repent later! Thanks!” (okay, I didn’t say or do that last part. Thanks for believing in me.) )
Maybe God gives us the small pleasures in life – dogs, Griffith Park, sunsets at Santa Monica Pier, laughing with friends, the genius who invented ice cream with candy pre-mixed inside – to get us through this life, but also to give us a taste of what heaven will be like – a huge open bar, massive buffet, ocean views, and all the dogs you grew up with cuddling with you as you watch all your favorite movies. And none of the dogs will want to eat off your plate. Or pee on the rug. Or have bad breath.
I like that idea. I’m sticking with it.
Here’s Eugene O’Neil’s poem, “The Last Will And Testament Of An Extremely Distinguished Dog” which he wrote for his wife in the 1940s when their Dalmatian Blemie passed away. It’s a little high falutin’, but still pretty nice.
THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT
OF AN EXTREMELY DISTINGUISHED DOG
by Eugene O'Neill
I, SILVERDENE EMBLEM O'NEILL (familiarly known to my family, friends, and acquaintances as Blemie), because the burden of my years and infirmities is heavy upon me, and I realize the end of my life is near, do hereby bury my last will and testament in the mind of my Master. He will not know it is there until after I am dead. Then, remembering me in his loneliness, he will suddenly know of this testament, and I ask him then to inscribe it as a memorial to me.
I have little in the way of material things to leave. Dogs are wiser than men. They do not set great store upon things. They do not waste their days hoarding property. They do not ruin their sleep worrying about how to keep the objects they have, and to obtain the objects they have not. There is nothing of value I have to bequeath except my love and my faith. These I leave to all those who have loved me, to my Master and Mistress, who I know will mourn me most, to Freeman who has been so good to me, to Cyn and Roy and Willie and Naomi and -- But if I should list all those who have loved me, it would force my Master to write a book. Perhaps it is vain of me to boast when I am so near death, which returns all beasts and vanities to dust, but I have always been an extremely lovable dog.
I ask my Master and Mistress to remember me always, but not to grieve for me too long. In my life I have tried to be a comfort to them in time of sorrow, and a reason for added joy in their happiness. It is painful for me to think that even in death I should cause them pain. Let them remember that while no dog has ever had a happier life (and this I owe to their love and care for me), now that I have grown blind and deaf and lame, and even my sense of smell fails me so that a rabbit could be right under my nose and I might not know, my pride has sunk to a sick, bewildered humiliation. I feel life is taunting me with having over-lingered my welcome. It is time I said good-bye, before I become too sick a burden on myself and on those who love me. It will be sorrow to leave them, but not a sorrow to die. Dogs do not fear death as men do. We accept it as part of life, not as something alien and terrible which destroys life. What may come after death, who knows? I would like to believe with those my fellow Dalmatians who are devote Mohammedans, that there is a Paradise where one is always young and full-bladdered; where all the day one dillies and dallies with an amorous multitude of houris [lovely nymphs], beautifully spotted; where jack rabbits that run fast but not too fast (like the houris) are as the sands of the desert; where each blissful hour is mealtime; where in long evenings there are a million fireplaces with logs forever burning, and one curls oneself up and blinks into the flames and nods and dreams, remembering the old brave days on earth, and the love of one's Master and Mistress.
I am afraid this is too much for even such a dog as I am to expect. But peace, at least, is certain. Peace and long rest for weary old heart and head and limbs, and eternal sleep in the earth I have loved so well. Perhaps, after all, this is best.
One last request I earnestly make. I have heard my Mistress say, "When Blemie dies we must never have another dog. I love him so much I could never love another one." Now I would ask her, for love of me, to have another. It would be a poor tribute to my memory never to have a dog again. What I would like to feel is that, having once had me in the family, now she cannot live without a dog! I have never had a narrow jealous spirit. I have always held that most dogs are good (and one cat, the black one I have permitted to share the living room rug during the evenings, whose affection I have tolerated in a kindly spirit, and in rare sentimental moods, even reciprocated a trifle). Some dogs, of course, are better than others. Dalmatians, naturally, as everyone knows, are best. So I suggest a Dalmatian as my successor. He can hardly be as well bred or as well mannered or as distinguished and handsome as I was in my prime. My Master and Mistress must not ask the impossible. But he will do his best, I am sure, and even his inevitable defects will help by comparison to keep my memory green. To him I bequeath my collar and leash and my overcoat and raincoat, made to order in 1929 at Hermes in Paris. He can never wear them with the distinction I did, walking around the Place Vendome, or later along Park Avenue, all eyes fixed on me in admiration; but again I am sure he will do his utmost not to appear a mere gauche provincial dog. Here on the ranch, he may prove himself quite worthy of comparison, in some respects. He will, I presume, come closer to jack rabbits than I have been able to in recent years.
And for all his faults, I hereby wish him the happiness I know will be his in my old home.
One last word of farewell, Dear Master and Mistress. Whenever you visit my grave, say to yourselves with regret but also with happiness in your hearts at the remembrance of my long happy life with you: "Here lies one who loved us and whom we loved". No matter how deep my sleep I shall hear you, and not all the power of death can keep my spirit from wagging a grateful tail.
Goodbye for now, Princess Rolo, Sadie The Cat, and Winston. It's not forever.