I also thought, "As for men, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. Man's fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?"
So I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him?
Its been a tough year for my family. This Saturday we will likely put down our English Sheepdog of nearly 17 years. He's had a good long life, as dogs go. But as any dog owner knows, no good dog's life is nearly long enough.
Its been a tough year, because we will bury him next to our Doberman of nearly as many years as he - who we had put down just a couple months ago now. Her name was Harriet, she was horribly claustrophobic, very quiet, and fiercely defensive of her family. She even acted surrogate to my youngest brother at times - I remember how, as an infant, he would crawl over her, poking her eyes and pulling on her ears, and how she would quietly sit and let him do so. Until a strange face tried to come near them, at which point she would show her teeth as a warning to leave the child in her safe care.
Now, we are certainly blessed that this is the extent of death we've had to attend to in our family recently - please don't understand me as ignorant to the incomparable pain of those who have seen friends or relatives pass on.
But we have still loved our dogs. In one sense, we certainly aren't expected to love dogs as we are other people. On the other hand, we don't love a dog merely as we do a great piece of music, or a fine glass of wine. We live and learn and grow old with our dogs - we feel their heartbeat as they lie at our feet and we are pained to see them fall ill and die.
Death of any kind brings with it a very certain sense of the sadness and suffering that we will experience in this life. But the hope of glory turns the Christian wedding from a sad memorial into a joyous celebration one of the life to come.
And this life is just that, a life one to be spent in real, physical, living bodies. But so much more real than what we know now. For we have been promised more than to be spirited away to an ethereal heaven we will inherit both a new heaven and a new earth. And as 1 Corinthians 15:54 says, When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: Death has been swallowed up in victory. In other words, we will have more than the immaterial, but the imperishable perfect bodies beyond which we can now imagine. Martin Luther understood this perhaps better than most when asked what he would do if he knew Christ was returning tomorrow, he responded that he would plant a tree. He saw that God cares for this world and will one day renew it to perfection. Again from Corinthians, "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him." How could those preparations not include dogs?
Instead of planting a tree, Id buy just one more puppy. Im joyfully unawares of what dogs will be like in the new creation, but I know theyll be there. Someday Im going to throw tennis balls and Frisbees for eternity.
God made dogs from the same dust as us (before women, hence their status as our best friend), saved them on the same boat as Noah, prescribed the same Sabbath rest for them, knows and still cares for them (Sermon on the Mount), and will one day bring them (and all animals) into perfect harmony with us (Is. 11:6-9) although dogs certainly have a head start on the rest of the animal kingdom when it comes to that harmony.
You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us.
Robert Louis Stevenson