18 February 2020

All Dogs BETTER Go to Heaven

When I started writing this I thought I’d make it funny. But for the most part that didn’t happen. I guess I’m just not feeling too funny right now.
Pepper and me

We recently had to put our dog Pepper to sleep. It was hard and, unfortunately, not the first time we’ve lost an animal and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Many writers have dog or cat companions. Ours is a lonely life sometimes and it’s good to have other beating hearts around. I’m pretty good being alone and very disciplined about getting work done. But when my wife is gone it’s nice to have animal companions around. Over the years we’ve had various combinations of dogs and cats. Most recently Pepper and Buster, who is still with us.

Pepper was great company, got along with all our other animals. And, of course, loved to walk. And if I wasn’t on the ball she’d nudge my elbow saying, “Hey, bud, it’s time to go for our walk.” And we would.

She was old for a big dog, 14½, and she had a good life. When she came into our house at around 8 weeks old we had another dog, Audie, who immediately fell for her. We also had two cats, Curley and Moe (I wonder who they were named after). The cats had grown up with dogs. They were feral when we brought them home as tiny little black balls of fur. We had a dog at the time, Bogey, a Rottweiler. And my wife, Amy, was afraid to let the cats and Bogey be together. But on that first day, I insisted that we put them on the bed and let Bogey sniff them out. Not only did she do that, she cleaned them up and they became fast friends. Then, when we brought Audie into the house as a puppy, the cats took to him like ducks to water. And Moe, the female, especially loved him and loved playing with his tail. Which he tolerated…barely.
Pepper at the creek
When Bogey died, we waited a while and then got Pepper as a pound puppy only a few weeks old. We brought her home in a cat carrier—that’s how small she was. Audie sniffed around but decided she was okay and they became the best of friends. She even brought out a maturity in him that we hadn’t known was there as Bogey was always the alpha dog with him. It reminded me of the scene in Bambi, if I remember correctly, where Bambi’s father tells him he has to grow up after his mom is killed. Bambi did—and Audie did to take care of Pepper.

Audie (left), Pepper (right)
But the cats, Curley and Moe, were scared of this new Pepper creature in the house. Pepper was having none of that. She insisted that they be friends. She drove them nuts, in a friendly-playing way, until they decided if you can’t beat her and can’t hide from her you might as well join her. And she and Curley, the male cat, became great friends. I think they bonded over tearing our family room couch apart. We’d come out of the bedroom in the morning, before Pepper had the run of the house, and it would be like it snowed in there there’d be so much couch stuffing all over the place.

Pepper and Curley

When we lost Audie, Pepper was pretty depressed. But shortly afterwards we got Buster. He was three years old or so when we got him from the German Shepherd Rescue and we—and they—think he was abused before they got him. Pepper accepted him into her house no problem. And they became friends, if not as good friends as she and Audie had been. Curley and Moe were curious, but both died before they could really bond with him. And now he’s all we have left, though we’ll probably get another dog and maybe more cats in the future.

Pepper (left), Buster (right)
She was a particularly wonderful dog in every way. Of all our dogs I explored more with her than with any other dog. We walked up into the forest and down by the creek. She was curious and fun and playful. And when we got surrounded by a pack of feral dogs, which was a pretty scary situation, she was cool and calm. She didn’t seem scared and she didn’t act aggressively. We just stood there until the dogs started peeling off one by one. Then we began to head home. Some of the dogs followed, but they also peeled off until the only one left was the alpha. He followed us almost to our house, but he, too, eventually peeled off. I’m glad to say no blood was shed on either side that day, and I think a good part of the reason for that was Pepper’s demeanor, calm and steady. On other occasions we came across coyotes, and let me tell you the feral dogs were much scarier than the coyotes, who never bothered us at all.
On the road again...
Pepper, whose full name is Sgt. Pepper (I’ll let you figure out what that’s an homage to), was a warm and wonderful and welcoming dog. She just wanted to be friends with everyone. She was good for inspiration and a terrific writing buddy.

Pepper (front - after an operation), Buster (behind) and me
When Pepper or some of our previous animals have gotten sick or injured some people would say to put them down and just get another. But we don’t see it that way. We don’t see our dogs and cats as interchangeable cogs. They’re very much individuals with distinct personalities, and very much part of the family. And you can’t just replace one when the parts start to wear out.

And some people say that the only reason they like us is because we feed them. I read an article once where a woman argued that and it made me crazy. Yes, they like to be fed—don’t we all. But they, just like us, want more than that. They want companionship and security. And, imo, what they really want is what most of us what: to love and be loved.

But the point I’m leading up to here is the title of this piece: Pepper, and all our other critters, better be up there in heaven waiting for us—this of course assumes there is a heaven, but I think that’s a question for another time. Because if all dogs and cats don’t go to heaven, I don’t want to go there either.
My girl
And my idea of heaven, not that I’m in a hurry to check it out, is a comfortable place, with Jacopo’s pizza on their best day flowing freely, abalone and other goodies—cause I think in the other place all you get are C rats. And, of course, Amy and I and all our critters would be there. But then I start to wonder: what the hell (oops, maybe not the best word to use in this context…) do you do up there for all of eternity? Would you get bored? Would you have TV? And if you do would you get Turner Classics on a big screen? And would the History Channel or whatever it’s called these days still be running endless reruns of Forged in Fire (or maybe that only plays down below—hope so as it seems appropriate). Or the other “history” channel running endless reruns of black and white Nazis. Hmm… And would the Beatles be creating any new songs? Now that would be heaven!

Or is it gonna be like Meat Loaf’s* Paradise by the Dashboard Light, where I’m prayin’ for the end of time… Let’s hope not.


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  1. Don't be silly, you won't get bored. You'll be thinking up plots and dropping them into the ether for other writers to find in their dreams. Pepper and the others will need their walks. When a new dog arrives in heaven, they'll tell you their person needs to adopt another and they'll need help finding just the right one. Mostly, you'll be throwing a ball, scratching dogs behind the ears, and smiling. That's heaven.

  2. It's hard. They are with us for too short a time. First time my daughter saw me cry was when our black cat Charley died. It's hard.

  3. Thanks for your comment, Anonymous. We have a whole crew waiting for us. And Pepper has them but particularly Audie and Curley. Yeah, we’ll be throwing balls and walking them. I don’t think we’ll be bored. :-) .

  4. Thanks, O’Neil. And I’m sorry about Charley. But I certainly know what you mean. They’re definitely with us too short a time and they’re definitely family and it’s very hard when we lose them.

  5. I am sorry to hear about Pepper. It is so hard to say goodbye to a great companion, especially one that leaves lots of lovely memories.

  6. Losing longtime buddies is hard, and people who don't have pets (I pity and fear such people) just don't get it. I'm sorry to hear about Pepper's passing and love the pictures.

    Yes, pets give unconditional love, and they make us better people than we might be otherwise. They also help us keep a sense of proportion.

    Barb and I both grew up with dogs but now have cats because they work with our schedule better. And we've said good-bye to five of them so far. It's awful, but we keep doing it because they give us so much back in return.

    We rescued Ernie, our not-quite-12-year-old Maine coon, with his adopted sister Jewel when they were both young cats. Jewel died suddenly a little over two years ago, and it hit Ernie even harder than it hit Barb and me. He spent several weeks looking at her favorite places and sniffing her bed and crying. We weren't much better. I don't look forward to the day when his kidney disease finally wins.

  7. Thank you, Janice. It really is hard. And she was terrific. But, as you say, lots of great memories.

  8. Thanks for your comment, Steve. I think you’re right about people who don’t have pets not getting it. And hows how those pets make us better people. I know they do for me.

    I’m sorry for all of your cat losses over the years, too. It’s always hard. And sometimes one might wonder if we shouldn’t get them again so we don’t have to go through that pain again – but it’s worth it.

    And it sounds like Ernie really liked Jewel. It’s amazing to see how they interact. And I hope it’s a long time off before his kidney disease wins.

  9. It's the one-year anniversary for Buster's death. I can't say it doesn't bother me, but you know that, because you've been through it before. According to Genesis, there were animals in Heaven before the Fall. I think that's a good indication that they'll be there again, waiting for us. As for boredom? I like to imagine that, with all the answers at my fingertips, it will be like the biggest research project ever except the answers will be certain. :)

    Beautiful post, Paul.

  10. Paul, you've made cry over Pepper all over again. Jingle and I send you wags and woofs, as well as Scout from heaven.

  11. The definition of heaven includes dogs and cats and a parakeet, at least my corner of heaven includes the above referenced pets and my love whom I miss daily, but he can walk the dogs before I get there. As your Unknown commenter said, your thoughts will filter down to other writers. I read older writers (I'm talking about writers who lived a hundred years ago) and I can tell what word is coming before I turn the page. It's like we are all part of one magnificent brain. So write on and keep your loves in your heart.

  12. Pets ARE family (why can't some people understand that?), so of course we can't just go out and replace them. We have to mourn, and I agree, if there are no animals in heaven, then what good is it? All my sympathy. It's tough, tough, tough.
    Meanwhile, I think heaven will be the least boring place ever. Think of all the stories you'll hear, from all the people, all the animals. All the fun. All the music.

    And this quote from C. S. Lewis is pretty good:
    "There is no need to be worried by facetious people who try to make the Christian hope of ‘Heaven’ ridiculous by saying they do not want ‘to spend eternity playing harps’.

    "The answer to such people is that if they cannot understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them.

    "All the scriptural imagery (harps, crowns, gold, etc.) is, of course, a merely symbolical attempt to express the inexpressible. Musical instruments are mentioned because for many people (not all) music is the thing known in the present life which most strongly suggests ecstasy and infinity. Crowns are mentioned to suggest the fact that those who are united with God in eternity share His splendour and power and joy. Gold is mentioned to suggest the timelessness of Heaven (gold does not rust) and the preciousness of it. People who take these symbols literally might as well think that when Christ told us to be like doves, He meant that we were to lay eggs."

  13. A day doesn't pass without me thinking of my best friends that have proceeded me(yes I plan to go to heaven too!) Read your post with love in my heart, and a couple tears in my eyes.

  14. Great article, Paul. It made me see how much you and Amy love your furry kids. It also touched a spot in my heart reserved for the dogs I've loved who crossed that rainbow bridge. And, yes, even two beloved, long-gone parakeets.Dylan the dog is about eleven now, and is my best pal. They ARE so special.

  15. Sorry for your loss. They are family and it hurts. We lost two of our cats last year within a month and a half of each other. In two years we went from five cats to one. I think we are now finally ready to take the plunge and adopt a new cat to keep Natasha company.

  16. Thanks for your comment, Jackie. I’m sorry for Buster’s death. And I don’t think we ever really get over it though it does get better over time.

  17. I’m sorry I made you cry, Barb. But I’m glad Pepper could touch you so deeply. And thank Jingle for the wags and woofs. And maybe Pepper can meet up with Scout and have some fun.

  18. Thanks, Gayle. And yes, there’s definitely parakeets there. And I’m very sorry for the loss of your husband to whom you refer. But, as you and the Anonymous commentator say, our thoughts will filter down to others. That’s a good feeling.

  19. Thanks for your comment, thoughts, and the CS Lewis quote, Eve. They are definitely family. But some people don’t get that. And I hope you’re right about heaven being the least boring place :-) .

  20. Thanks, Madeline. And sorry for your losses.

  21. Thank you, Morgan. I’m sorry for all of your losses. But glad you still have Dylan. They are definitely all so special.

  22. Thank you for your comment, John. And I’m sorry for the loss of your cats in such a short span. I think sometimes it does take some time to get another one, but I’m sure Natasha will be happy for the company.

  23. Aw man, I'm sorry to hear that, Paul. I've spent a lot of time with animals in fields, forests, farms, and zoos, and many animals are wholly capable of affection, more than some humans we know.

    I've lived with a variety, even ferrets and a fox, plus my earlier mentioned alligator. My present live-in is a cockatoo. Large psittacines (parrots) can live 60-80 years, so there's a good chance he'll outlive me. He loves women, so we have that in common.

    But yeah, animals, particularly dogs, understand care and concern. They love us in their way.

    One thing about good naming: If someone notices a tear in your eye, just wave your hand and say, "It's the Pepper."

  24. So sorry for your loss! So wonderful you could share your lives with so many furry family members and share the story with us!

  25. Hey, Leigh, Thanks for your comment. And it’s definitely the pepper…or Pepper.

    Sounds like you’ve had a true menagerie over the years. And, as you say, I think they are definitely capable of affection and often more than some humans. They’ve definitely been good friends to me and it sounds like they have to you as well.

  26. Thanks, Jeff. They bring a lot of joy over time and a lot of sadness when they go. But it's definitely worth it.

  27. The little boy across the alley, Tommy, was Catholic and was telling me one day that I would have to go to Limbo when I died because only Catholics get to Heaven (I was a heathen Methodist). I asked him if horses and dogs and cats went to Heaven. He said, no, they would go to Limbo. So I told him I was perfectly happy with that. Still am! I'll have some dogs and cats waiting, wherever it is.

  28. Thanks for your comment, Kaye. And I guess we'll be neighbors in Limbo then, cause I'll be there with all our dogs and cats.


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