If you had asked me two weeks ago if our pets will be in heaven, I would have given you a theological answer that brought up things like immortal souls, eternal spirits, and biblical references. I would have told you that there will be animals after the resurrection but that I could not be certain if our pets will be in heaven. For me, it was a theologicaly, theoretical conundrum that was interesting to ponder from time to time; nothing more.
Now, when my younger granddaughter, eyes wide open and welling with tears asked me if her beloved Barley would be in heaven, the question moved from theory to reality. The answer suddenly became very important, so I responded with absolute certainty, "Of course she will." My precious little one paused then asked, "But Grandpa, who will take care of her?" Again, without hesitation, I gave her the benefit of my years of ministry and theological study. "Well, honey, Great Grandpa Richard is in Heaven and you know how much he loved dogs. He'll watch Barley until you get there someday."
I could tell that knowing that Barley was in the last days of her life was weighing on my granddaughters because they both kept speaking about it. We do that, right? When things are worrisome, we tend to talk them out and reach out to others hoping for some comfort. The idea of my dad being in heaven with Barley must have brought them some comfort because it wasn't long before the older one said, "Maybe we should get Barley a shiny, new collar, so Great Grandpa Richard will recognize her when she gets to Heaven." What a thoughtful girl she is.
My son in law got Barley a little over 12 years ago. I'm not really a pet person, but I sure liked Barley. She was loyal, playful and a valient protector. She has been a constant in the lives of my granddaughters since the days they were born. Those ornery girls pulled Barley's tail, tugged her ears, smothered her with suffocating hugs, and she just went with it as if she was simply being patient with her human puppies. When a stranger entered a room where the girls were, Barley would place herself in between the stranger and the girls until it was clear whether they were friend or foe. When the girls needed
to calm down, especially my older granddaughter, Barley was able to sit still and cuddle as long as necessary. It seemed like she knew she was helping. Such a good girl.
What a gift God has given to us in the form of the Barleys of this world. The good-natured, canine companions who love us in all of our imperfections and ask nothing in return. Just between you, me and the fencepost, I am not sure that we'll see our beloved pets in Heaven. It may be that God has just given them to us for our time in this world as a revelation of his beauty. Perhaps He wants us to know unconditional love the way only a dog can display it. Perhaps God wants us to display kindness and compassion toward another living being at times when we are so broken that we cannot treat other humans well.
I don't know for sure but I do know this: Barley was a really good girl and if any dog ever got into heaven, it was probably her, just a few hours ago. Farewell, Barley.