The horrifying thought struck me the other day while reading a story on pet cemeteries that there are people around who believe there will be dogs in heaven.
Barking through the eternal night, no doubt.
And if there are dogs in heaven, then there will be cats as well bringing dead birds in through that pet door in the Pearly Gates, scattering feathers all over the place.
If there are cats and dogs, then there will be horses. And goldfish. And pet rats. I wonder if the people who like the idea of dogs in heaven are ready for pet rats in heaven. (There will be no snakes in heaven. You know where those rascals dwell.)
I suppose having animals around for eternity will be a lot less boring than an afterlife without them. But surely there have to be some improvements in our arrangement with animals if heaven is to be heaven.
Will we have dogs without barking, cats without fur balls and horses without horse apples? If so they wouldn't really be dogs, cats or horses. They would be some kind of glorified stuffed animals, probably full of angel feathers.
Or will they be the usual assortment of normal dogs and cats and horses, but with servants from hell doing the dirty work? Will those who go to hell spend eternity tidying up after the animals? The possibility of that fate is enough to make a person walk the straight and narrow.
However, isn't it strange that Christians lead such clean, healthy lives while atheists abuse their bodies?. You would think it would be the other way around. You would think that people who don't believe in heaven people to whom this life is all there is would try to live as long as they can, that they would watch what they eat and drink and smoke lest it shorten the only time they have.
And you would think that any Christian who truly believes in heaven and thinks it is a great place would be in a hurry to get there. You would think that Christians would be the ones who would stay up all night and drink and party and hurt themselves. The sooner this body gives up its burden, the sooner we get to the Other Side.
For that matter, how do we know that isn't what's going on with a lot of people? When you see someone eating sparsely and exercising and avoiding tobacco and booze, that may be an atheist trying to lengthen the only life he expects to have. When you see a jogger run by, you are probably witnessing an atheist racing to stay ahead of his mortality.
And let's show no scorn to the guy sitting there 50 pounds overweight, sucking down beer and smoking cigarettes. He is probably a Christian so devout that he is willing to show the kind of determination it takes to get to heaven ahead of those godless joggers.
Indeed, that possibility would tend to indicate that Catholics are more religious than Mormons because Catholics seem so much more anxious to use up their bodies.
But when we get to heaven, will we find the other animals there? Will we be reunited with all the pets who left for heaven ahead of us?
(Not the goldfish, I hope. I had to change that bowl every day in the third grade and the stupid thing never showed the slightest affection. I hope that goldfish went to hell.) But I have to admit, I wouldn't mind seeing Perky, the terrier I taught to leap up into my 12-year-old arms from a standing start.
Or Ginger, the cocker spaniel who followed me everywhere, even when she started going blind.
Or old Lady, the collie who used to protect me from the turkeys.
Or Lightning, the white burro, who came running to the fence, braying with happiness, as I came home from school.
Or a couple of dozen cats.
I am also curious about that gerbil who escaped from his cage in zero-degree weather and was never heard from again. I've always wondered if he became a Rodentsicle for some happy cat.
But a theological question intrudes on all this fuzzy nostalgia:
If I meet those many pets again in heaven, will I have to feed and look after all of them? Or will they bring the lawyers up from hell to do it?
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