Do Animals Go to Heaven?
Two weeks ago a friend of mine, “Leonard”, announced on Facebook that his cherished Chihuahua, Goliath, had tragically been hit by a car and killed. It was 10am Saturday morning, cold and rainy by Los Angeles standards, when I arrived at the cemetery. The L.A. Pet Cemetery is hidden in the hills of Calabasas alongside the Ventura freeway. It’s been there since 1928, although you wouldn’t know it. Passing travelers used to be able to see it from the freeway, its name spelled out across the hillside in large white quartz rocks. In fact, when I was a kid, my dad used to point it out whenever we drove past in our red Country Squire Station Wagon. “Hey, kids, look, La Pet Cemetery. Only French Poodles are buried there.” This is the same man who told me, “Son, the lowest form of humor is ‘play on words.’” Since then, numerous buildings have sprouted up blocking its view from the 101. I was beginning to wonder if it was still there until I saw the overgrown wood sign marking its entrance. I drove through an archway cut out of a thick row of hedges and suddenly it appeared. A hillside of plaques and headstones neatly manicured and covered with flowers. It looked no different than a human cemetery except some of the headstones commemorated names like “Fluffy”, “Brutus ” and “Tinkerbell”. I genuinely liked Goliath, not just because he wasn’t a cat (I’m allergic to cats) but because he was the most well-adjusted little dog I ever knew. He used to attend a daily support group that I frequent. Legally, Goliath was a service animal. He brought emotional comfort to those who were troubled. He even had his own little blue vest that proclaimed his credentials. Leonard called it his magic vest that made him invisible, allowing the dog to go into restaurants, board airplanes and attend movies. Goliath was completely black with big brown eyes that emoted sadness and wisdom, like a tiny canine Emmett Kelly. I never heard him bark or “yap.” He would seek out someone who needed love and then snuggle next to them or climb up onto their lap like he had known them their entire lives. Zen-like, he could stand still in one place for minutes at a time. His legs were longer than most Chihuahuas, even fawnlike in their delicateness. Ten of us crowded around his grave, a 16” by 16” square hole cut into the ground that now held his tiny pinewood casket. Three grave tenders from the cemetery, in their forest green pants and lighter green work shirts, leaned against their shovels, waiting for us to finish our service. As we stood graveside, Leonard recounted how Goliath would prance like a colt in the shallow water along the riverbank near his home. We all shared anecdotes about mighty Goliath. A tall woman named Rain, in a wool cap with a floppy ball on top, told of a party where Goliath was almost “gang banged” by a group of larger dogs. Our three grave tenders perked up on this news but I was confused. I’m not sure but I may have even said it out loud, “But Goliath is a male.” Males don’t get gang banged, do they? Unless … “Can Animals Be Gay?” But that is an entirely different article. Rain stared at me unceasingly without a blink. Had she discovered I was one of those conservative pariahs that liberals hate so much? After all I was probably the only person in my support group who voted for Mitt Romney, maybe even the only one in the entire San Fernando Valley. But a conservative would never think of burying a pet, would he? No of course not. We despise all living things according to MSNBC. Orwell proclaimed it 68 years ago, “Four legs good, two legs bad.” Rain finally blinked. I was safe. No one spoke of God but Leonard called him a saint, St. Goliath. Can a Chihuahua be a saint? Or any dog for that matter? Of course there’s the St. Bernard but I don’t believe a dog has ever been canonized. Are dogs spiritual creatures? Can dogs go to heaven? There’s a syndicated radio show that broadcasts at 6am every Sunday Morning in Los Angeles called, “The Jesus Christ Show.” A woman recently called in and asked the host (who refers to himself as, “Your Holy Host”) if animals can go to heaven? The radio Jesus said he did believe there were animals in God’s kingdom. They bring us joy so why not? “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride horses, don’t they?” In this case Goliath is most certainly in heaven. I.M. Scoticus 1/8/12