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The Righteous, and Their Beasts

The godly care for their animals, but the wicked are always cruel. — Proverbs 12:19 NLT

zoe-1I’ve always loved this obscure little verse. It employs the brief, contrasting style so typical of the wisdom author:

  • The righteous are THIS.
  • The wicked are THAT.

In this case, the righteous, or the “godly” in this translation, are known for how they treat their animals. The “animals” the writer of Proverbs implied were, no doubt, those of the agrarian culture — ox, sheep, mule, etc. The good person, the one like God, cares for their beasts.

Frankly, this is not how we typically define righteousness, is it?

  • Righteousness means being honest.
  • Righteousness means showing justice.
  • Righteousness means helping the impoverished.
  • Righteousness means taking good care of your pets.

Seems a bit out of place, huh? But going all the way back to Eden, Man was meant to “care” for the earth and her inhabitants. In a way, caring for your animals can be traced all the way back to our Stewardship of creation.

Of course, caring for your animals has a downside.

Yesterday morning I took our six year-old boxer to the Humane Society and had her euthanized. Her name was Zoe. I sat with Zoe, scratching her floppy ears until she drew her final breath. She’d developed a heart condition which was causing fluid build-up in her chest. Her breathing was labored and became so bad that she could not lay down and breathe without great effort.

Zoe was a good dog — even-keeled, friendly, and just loved attention. She’d worn a little path in the grass traveling from the patio to the planter, where she loved to lay in the morning sun. For some reason, she loved bread. We learned to keep hot dog buns and rolls away from her, because she’d snatch them, tear into the yard, and gobble them down. Anyway, I brought her collar home and hung it in my office near the pictures of our other two boxers that have since passed.

I take these things way too hard.

And I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

I’ve expended quite a bit of thought about that question. You know the question. Do dogs go to heaven? I don’t think it’s silly at all. Course, Scripture is silent on the subject. So we can only speculate. In a way, I think the question may be slightly off. You see, my dogs have brought a little bit of heaven to me. Their companionship, their playfulness, their loyalty. My journey Home has been much more enjoyable because of the beasts.

There’s a plaque at the vet quoting someone named Anatole France who said, “Until you have loved an animal, part of your soul will have remained dormant.” This is true. But when the animal you loved dies, that part of your soul that came alive, dies again.

Will I see Zoe again? I don’t know. But I can think of no greater joy than going Home to find my father waiting, and my beasts, with him.

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{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Jessica Thomas April 23, 2013, 4:41 AM

    Sorry to hear this. 🙁 Losing a beloved pet is very difficult. Since the Bible is silent on the issue, I choose to believe we will be reunited with our pets in heaven, and I’m looking forward to it.

  • Morgan L. Busse April 23, 2013, 5:03 AM

    Mike, I’m so sorry. Animals have a way of curling up in the deepest part of our hearts, and when they pass away it hurts as if they took our hearts with them. Sometimes I wonder why I keep pets because it hurts so bad when they are gone. But I also know that the hurt means I loved, and was loved, deeply.

    I love the verse and quote you shared. My own dog is reaching her final years and I know it’s going to be painful when she moves on. I cherish every moment I have with her right now, even if she doesn’t move and run like she used too.

    • Mike Duran April 23, 2013, 5:10 AM

      “Sometimes I wonder why I keep pets because it hurts so bad when they are gone.”

      Yeah. What’s that saying: It’s better to have loved and lost, then not loved at all. In the end, I think the companionship and joy far outweighs the temporary sadness.

  • Susan April 23, 2013, 5:07 AM

    I am sorry to hear about your loss. The pain is never less with each one. Great blog post.

  • Kat Heckenbach April 23, 2013, 5:14 AM

    I believe wholeheartedly that dogs go to heaven. I have three beloved ones up there now, including a boxer. (We kept all their collars, too.) My heart goes out to you!

    (I assume that’s a pic of Zoe in the post. She’s gorgeous!)

  • Dave Jacobs April 23, 2013, 5:59 AM

    I’ve had to put down four dogs. Each time I swore I wouldn’t cry. Each time I cried and cried and cried. I’m sorry for your loss.

  • Katherine Coble April 23, 2013, 7:25 AM

    First off, I’m so terribly sorry. I’m weeping now for you and your family.

    I started to write my thoughts out on this, but then remembered that I did so several years ago. When our dog Casey was Euthanised on Good Friday four years ago (Cancer) I was gutted. It’s the only time in my life I’ve had to be sedated apart from surgery. That grief was a throbbing black thing of pain. When Chuck Colson wrote in Christianity Today that pets OF COURSE don’t go to heaven and we’re all idolators for thinking so I had this response. It mostly sums up my thinking on the matter.


    One additional thought I’ve had in later years as I mourn for Casey and dread the coming mourning for Quinn, Gobie and Gus…

    How many times have you been out shopping and grabbed a chew toy or a bag of treats or a stick of jerky for no other reason than you knew it made Zoe happy? God puts pets in our lives as a picture of how God loves us. When you are delighted to bring your pet a small thing simply because you know it brings them great joy, how much more delighted will God be to give you what is to Him a “small thing” but is to you a great joy? How much will our Heavenly Father smile and laugh at our joy when we are reunited with those beasts we loved here in this lifetime?

  • Jill April 23, 2013, 7:32 AM

    I’m so sorry, Mike.

  • Melissa Ortega April 23, 2013, 7:36 AM

    So sorry! This is a beautiful post that makes me want to go home right now and hug my two dogs and cat!

    The pain I experience when I lose pets has been a strong gauge in determining that I will always need them in my life. Each creature that has come into my house has loved me and tried my patience in a new way and, in the end, made me a better person.

  • Nicole April 23, 2013, 8:55 AM

    Breaks my heart. Know it so well. Have three horses, two dogs, and a cat buried on our property. Each one holds special joys and crushing pain at saying goodbye.

    I also choose to believe our pets will be there because of so many biblical references to horses, eagles, etc. Jesus on His white horse leading the way. I choose to believe it’s not just metaphorical.

    Mike, I’m truly sorry for your loss. It hurts so bad.

  • Bob Avey April 23, 2013, 9:20 AM

    I’m sorry for your loss, Mike. I know how you feel. I had a weimaraner, named Ginger, that developed the same heart condition, and I, too, had to take her to the vet for the same reason you did. I still miss Ginger. I even dream about her.

  • Lelia Rose Foreman (@LeliaForeman) April 23, 2013, 9:59 AM

    I’m sorry for your loss and pain. I actually think about that verse a lot, especially when it’s rainy and muddy and cold outside and I don’t Wanna go out and feed the animals.

  • billgncs April 23, 2013, 10:55 AM

    Dogs always break our hearts. They just don’t live long enough.

    I am always comforted by the Robert Lewis Stevenson quote when asked if dogs go to heaven he replied: “I tell you they will be there before us.”

    Sorry about your loss.

  • Britt T. April 23, 2013, 6:46 PM

    I’ve been a reader of your blog for quite some time now, but I’ve never commented before. I loved this post. Especially the last line. So, so, sorry for your loss.

  • Heather Marsten April 25, 2013, 6:16 AM

    I’m so sorry about your loss, but the Bible verse you quote isn’t at the address you state.

    Prov. 12:19 NLT reads:
    Truthful words stand the test of time,
    but lies are soon exposed.

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