My wife, Becky, recently informed me that my dog might not be bound for heaven. Don’t worry, she doesn’t mean all dogs, just my dog. Still, her comment has generated a mini theological crisis in my home.
To give Becky’s remark some context, you should know a few things.
First, Becky loves animals. She even bought our son a corn snake and our daughters guinea pigs.
As a schoolteacher, she encouraged her classes to raise mice. She adores the fairground piglets and is mesmerized by zoo elephants. She’s been a docent for Sand Hill Cranes and she’s an adventurous whale watcher.
But here’s her big however: she’s never had an affinity for household pets that live outside a cage. It was only after one of my particularly difficult deployments that she sympathetically agreed to adopt a pound puppy I call “Toby Dog.”
Three years later, Toby has grown into 30 pounds of half Jack Russell and half Lhasa Apso. His Lhasa part resembles the sweet, mixed-breed dog named Benji of Hollywood fame, but the Jack Russell can be a body-double from the “Poltergeist” movie.
Last week, while I was out of town speaking at a Florida veteran event, Toby began testing Becky’s tolerance at every turn, barking at each household sound. At one point, he woke Becky by pouncing on her recliner during an afternoon nap. Later, he pooped on her newly mopped floor and then nagged her for walks in the heat of the day.
Finally, hours prior to my homecoming, when Delta Airlines stranded me in airport purgatory, AKA Atlanta, I received this theologically perplexing text from Becky.
“I’m taking your crazy, hell-bent dog for a walk.”
I blinked my eyes in disbelief. It seemed as though her text hinted of the possibility that Toby Dog could go to … And I just can’t bring myself to quite say it, so I’ll spell it — H-E-double-doglegs.
Happily, Toby was not been privy to Becky’s doctrinal missive. He would be hurt to think that his immortal soul was being questioned by a layperson, a non-dog-lover.
By now, I’m sure most of you hear the tongue-in-cheek nature of this column and you realize that neither one of us has ever seriously contemplated Toby Dog’s eternal destination. That’s because we know two things.
First, my love for Toby Dog is but a microcosm of the love God has for us.
God loves us, (including Toby) in ways we can’t imagine, even though we do a lot more dumb stuff than pooping on a newly mopped floor. Seriously, our “bad dog” stunts outweigh all the stuff Toby has ever done.
Yet God still loves us. In fact, the Apostle Paul found God’s love certain enough to proclaim that “neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God….”
Secondly, no one who walks on two legs is equipped to speculate on the eternal destination of a dog — much less that of our neighbors. That sort of speculation is merely an effort to establish a celestial caste system.
At the end of the day, it’s probably best to leave the eternity questions up to Dog.
Whoops. Sorry. That was Toby’s effort to help me with this column. I meant, “God.” We should leave the eternity questions up to God.
Finally, don’t worry. Toby Dog and Becky are doing much better now. I know she loves Toby, but it’s still probably better that I stay home for a while.