Earlier in the year there was an article in the Church Times entitled “Grief is the thing with fur” and told of the death of the vicar of London’s Soho’s dog Betty, a 17 year old Jack Russell. Simon was, understandably, distraught having lost, as he put it, a partner, child, and pastoral assistant. His reflection on her was that she had been his greatest asset being far more useful in mission and ministry than anything he had learned in theological college, something with which I wholehearted agree.
As a result of Betty, he had encounters with postmen, shopkeepers, builders, the homeless and numerous other people that without Betty would have avoided him rather than sought him out. Betty broke the ice and enabled conversations with random strangers that would never have happened otherwise. My experience with Lottie and now also Maisie would concur with Simon’s experience.
As we all do, he ruminated on what happens after death for animals and quotes Aquinas who said animals do not go to heaven as they are not gifted with an immortal soul and he notes that scripture offers us no certainty on the matter either. However, Simon says he finds it a “persuasive thought that those creatures who have become a part of us and leave more than just an imprint on our hearts”. He notes that C. S. Lewis mused that they might share in the immortality of their masters who named and loved them.
The article closes with these words, “Whatever the future holds in heaven, what I had on earth was certainly not “just a dog” but truly a blessing.” You may or not be a doggy person but unlike virtually any other pet they help our rhythm of life, are always pleased to see you and offer unconditional love. They are a model to our Christian life and God, a God who says come as you are and accepts us with unconditional love.
I, for one, have also been blessed by the presence of dogs in my life, who give routine to the day, great joy and love as well as keeping me alive by making me do exercise and as with Simon, opportunities to engage with others I would probably never have met if it were not for them.