Do Pets Go To Heaven When They Die?

Don Kroah | "The Don Kroah Show," WAVA, Washington, D.C. | Thursday, December 20, 2007

Do Pets Go To Heaven When They Die?

December 17, 2007

I don’t often do book interviews on my daily radio show, but my recent conversation with author and fellow talk host Mark Levin was one I’m really glad I did—for a couple of reasons.

First, Mark’s new book “Rescuing Sprite: A Dog Lover’s Story of Joy and Anguish” is a poignant tribute to a beautiful older dog that anyone who’s loved and lost a pet can readily relate to. Sprite came to live with Mark and his family just a few years ago but his stay was far too brief. Most any pet owner can relate to the emotional journey Mark so candidly shares. 

Second, this little book brings a much-needed balance to the significance of these wonderful creatures in our lives—a balance between the extremes of PETA and the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) on one hand and that of such animal abusers as Michael Vick on the other.

As to Mark’s story, we just happened to be doing the interview as the nation was again marking the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was just one year ago December 7th that Mark and his family were finally forced to make that excruciating decision to put Sprite to sleep. Their gentle friend had fought his physical ailments valiantly, but the time had come when nothing more could be done. Those who have had to walk that path with their pets know how painful it can be.

The questions always come: Do we have to do it yet? Isn’t there something more we can do? Why do such wonderful creatures have to leave us anyway—ever?

And then the aftermath of doubt and second-guessing ourselves: Should we have waited a little longer? Did we do it too soon?

And of course, the guilt. Oh, the guilt. No! We should have waited! We could have done something more.

All of this flying in the face of logic, common sense, the facts—and yes, even in the face of compassion for our cherished friend.

Because the facts—the non-emotional realities—were that the suffering had become too intense, and the ability to function and live any semblance of a normal or healthy life was gone. It really was an act of love that had to be done … even with the tears streaming down our faces.

We called him Shane. It’s now been a number of years since that gorgeous New England fall day when we finally had to put my wife’s beautiful Golden Retriever down—a gentle and magnificent dog whom she had raised from a puppy and named “Shane.” 

Nor will I ever forget the pain with which that inevitable decision was finally made … how long it had had been postponed, reconsidered and delayed, and then the second-guessing, even while waiting for the vet to arrive. Fighting the overwhelming urge to go the phone and tell him, “Let’s not do this today, let’s wait ’til some other day” while knowing rationally that postponing the inevitable would only add to our pet’s suffering.

And when the vet finally did arrive, the sorrow of seeing our beautiful dog struggle to take one last walk through the fallen leaves in the front yard … to let his old, tired bones soak in the warmth of the day’s sun.

And then to have to take him back into the house, place him on a covering we had prepared on the kitchen floor, and here’s the part I’ll remember as long as I live: As the veterinarian knelt behind him and administered the lethal substance that would forever take him from us that wonderful dog’s eyes locked with mine and from deep within himself he seemed to say to me, “What’s happening? I’m afraid … I’m not ready to go yet.” 

And then he was gone.

Will he be in heaven when we get there? I choose to believe he will—along with my wife’s equally-beautiful American shorthair cat Fantasia who we also had to put to sleep just a short time ago, along with all the Shanes, Sprites and Fantasias who have meant so much to us in this life.

And yes—I can hear you theologian-types saying, “Kroah, where’d you find that in the Bible?”

But as I said to Mark during our interview, although I don’t have one whit of theological information on which to base such hope, I do believe that the same God who blesses our lives with such wonderful four-legged friends in this life just might surprise us again by having them waiting—tails wagging and eyes sparkling—as they help welcome us to the best homecoming of all.

And if I’m wrong—it’s no big deal. I’m sure any alternative He has in mind will be more than adequate! In the meantime, just leave me with my own hopeful beliefs on this one, okay? Maybe, on this one, we can just agree to disagree.

The bottom line? If you’re looking for an extra-special gift for someone who has lost their pet or who will in days to come, take a look at “Rescuing Sprite.” My guess is that you’ll go home with at least two copies—one for you and one for a friend.

Don Kroah is host of “The Don Kroah Show,” heard Monday through Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. on 105.1 FM and 780 AM-WAVA and on the Contact Don at [email protected]