Sunday, September 01, 2019

Sept. 1, 2019, column:
Saying goodbye bittersweet with thoughts that all pets go to heaven
By Mike Haynes
            Driving an hour and a half to Spearman to pick up a puppy isn’t something I ever had pictured myself doing.
            I had grown up with outdoor ranch dogs who rarely went in the house. When Kathy and I got married, she had a gray Pekingese named Hannah – an indoor dog. If I wanted Kathy, I had to take the package deal.
            I got used to our slightly aloof pet and after 13 years of marriage, I was sad when she died in November 2004. But I wanted to wait awhile before getting another one. Then Kathy started looking at puppy pictures online, and I realized I needed to change my thinking.
            I found a little Pekingese, white with tan patches, on the internet, made a deal for her and
Abbey three days after
we got her in 2004.
printed a picture that I gave Kathy early for Christmas. She said it was the best gift I’d ever given her. We left on Christmas Eve morning to go meet her.
            We separately thought of the name, Abbey. That November, we had been in Ireland when Hannah had died. We had visited Kylemore Abbey in Ireland, and we also are ardent Beatles fans and have walked across Abbey Road, so Abbey’s name was pretty well set.
            We met a man in Spearman who had brought Abbey, about 10 weeks old, from her birthplace in Oklahoma. Once we had her, Abbey became our girl.
            We took her to obedience school, where she learned to walk with us and that’s about all. She did pretty well with potty-training, going in the back yard. She never was a chewer.
            Through the years, we pretty much became known as Kathy, Mike and Abbey, although I had to compete with the little white dog for Kathy’s affection. She stayed with Kathy’s mom, Peggy, during our vacations and barked and squealed when we came home, especially when she saw Kathy.
            She was more affectionate than most Pekingese, sitting on the couch with Kathy and actually watching TV at times. She slept in our bed until she had back surgery and then her leg bones started deteriorating. We couldn’t risk her jumping off the bed, so she got her own bed next to ours. She lost the lens of one eye in a scuffle with another dog, so she got eyedrops every day.
            I made monthly trips to our vet’s office for Abbey to get allergy shots. She would get tired of whatever we were feeding her, so we made several changes over the years, and I bought a lot of sliced turkey that we used for sandwiches and to supplement Abbey’s supper.
            Those bones started making it hard for her to walk, but she managed. She started bumping into walls, and we figured she was losing her sight. She couldn’t race through the house like she used to, but occasionally she got energetic and gave it a go. Seizures that had started a few years ago became more frequent.

Abbey after a trip to the groomer
in November 2018.
           Last month, we noticed that her breathing was labored. Our kindhearted vet, who knew Abbey well, said it could be a tumor pressing on her lungs. Her weight was down from 11 to seven pounds. We had to make a tough decision.
            I knew I wouldn’t like Abbey being gone, but it hit me harder than I expected. Kathy and I both cried. For the first time, I wondered seriously whether pets go to heaven. The Bible doesn’t say.
            I read Billy Graham’s opinion: “Heaven will be a place of perfect happiness for us – and if we need animals around us to make our happiness complete, then you can be sure God will have them there.”
            In his book, “The Great Divorce,” C.S. Lewis described a fictional woman who on Earth had loved both people and animals. He portrayed her in heaven taking care of the same animals she had on Earth.
            John Wesley preached a sermon contending that because animals suffered from the fall of man in Genesis, they, like us, will be restored to paradise when all are resurrected.
            And that guy who never met a man he didn’t like, Will Rogers, said, “If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”
Randy Alcorn, author of the 516-page book, “Heaven,” devotes two chapters to the afterlife of animals and pets. He focuses on the biblically supported premise that there is a temporary heaven but that after Christ returns, eternity will bring the New Earth, similar to the current Earth but much better.
Among many scriptures, he quotes Revelation 21:5: “Behold, I am making all things new.” “It’s not just people who will be renewed but also the Earth and ‘all things’ in it,” Alcorn writes.
            He sees no reason to doubt that our animals will be part of that restored Earth just as we will. “…The question of whether  pets will be in Heaven is not, as some assume, stupid,” he writes. “Animals aren’t nearly as valuable as people, but God is their Maker and has touched many people’s lives through them. It would be simple for him to re-create a pet in Heaven if he wants to. …
            “If it would please us to have a pet restored to the New Earth, that may be sufficient reason.”
            Kathy’s grief at Abbey’s passing was no surprise, but my own reaction took me aback. As we touched our pet’s paw for the last time, on a veterinarian’s table with Peggy behind us, I said, “Bye, Abbey,” as I had for 15 years every time I left the house. Kathy said, “Goodbye, sweet girl.” I couldn’t resist adding, “Good girl, Abbey.”