Saturday, May 19, 2012

When My Dogs Died and Do Animals Go to Heaven

My seven year old neighbor used to meet my dog on the other side of the fence every morning. "Lady!" I heard him scream. At the time, it would annoy me because he would wake me up. But I now find it sweet and wish I could've spent more time with my dog. I was ten years old then. A couple years later my dog would run away. Never seen again. We had just finished cutting a tree in our back yard and we stacked the lumber against our six and a half foot fence. I assume my dog used it to jump over the fence. She ran away in the middle of the night. A wolf guided by moonlight.

I think about this a lot. Why did she run away? She must've not been happy. She never returned. I wonder if she was killed. Hit by a truck and turned into roadkill which got ran over and over until it looked like a rug. I hope she found a new home though and died peacefully. I remember I waited for her to return. I was like a mother whose child had been kidnapped. She waits by the window for days, hoping she would come back. But soon I would give up.

Before her, I had another dog. She looked identical to Lady. Black with a brown face and small spots of white. She was a mix of many things. Her name was Star. It was pouring one day and she didn't seem to mind. The awful smell of wet dog reached my nose. I didn't care either. I took her under the stairs in the back yard and sat down with her. We had an old blue couch down there that we were meaning to throw away. She laid  her paws and head on my lap and we both just looked at the rain. I was about eight years old. I sang to her. I felt like she listened. She felt human.

(Saddest thing I've ever seen! I wonder is it's just a dog actor. You can never tell these days)

One morning she laid dead. I got up and dressed for school. She laid frozen on the ground in my backyard. I find it eerie how an animal gets stiff when it dies. Death pins them heavily against the ground. My eight year old self couldn't comprehend what had happened. I looked at her for a few seconds. A fly was on her eye. I kept shooing it away, but it kept coming back. I wanted to cry. She had been sick the day before and was throwing up all over. We gave her milk and she regurgitated it like if it wasn't meant meant to be in her body. Like putting something other than gasoline inside a car's gas tank. Ugh, I hate writing this. I feel like I could've saved her somehow. Taken her to the vet. But we didn't. My dad put her in a black garbage bag and took her away in his car. He was going to throw her away. Just like that. She had been with us for years, and now she was garbage. I couldn't stop thinking about it at school. I was a ghost the entire day. A ghost floating over the hallways, howling for a loved one. My backyard seemed empty. Unnaturally empty. It felt like an abandoned house. The creeks of the past still rumble through floors, walls, and ceilings. But it's the silence that haunts you.

I felt like an animal abuser. They were outside dogs. And I managed to let two die. Maybe if I would have kept them inside. Kept them warm. Throughout that time, I didn't even know dogs slept. I figured they probably closed their eyes, but never fell into a deep sleep. I would wake up around one in the morning and open the door to my backyard to check up on them. Every single time, they were awake. Every single time they were already looking at me with those luminescent eyes. "Maybe if I'm quiet, I'll catch her sleeping," I would say to myself. But no. Never.

Now, years later, I have a new dog. It's a puggle. He's going to be three years old on May 20th. His name is Chente. My brother wanted to give him a funny name. After the famous Mexican singer and actor, Vicente Fernandez. We keep Chente inside. One day, he ran away when we left the front door opened. He came back! He scratched the door and howled an hour later. Since then, we let him out every day. He walks himself you could say. He always comes back when he's done and the whole neighborhood knows him. One night I was sitting on a chair in my front porch when my neighbor tells me if she could use my cell phone. She had been knocking on her house for five minutes with no answer. They had just recently moved in. I gave her my phone and waited. It was pitch black. One of the street lights wasn't working. "Can you open the door? I've been outside for like half an hour!" Then whoever she was talking to must've said, "whose phone are you using?" because she responded, "The neighbors'. You know, the ones with that dog that's always running around."

There's something funny about watching him walk around. He looks so tiny when juxtaposed with the city. Sometimes, I wish I could take him to see everything in the world. His life is so short. And yet he has no clue that there's countless countries separated by borders and oceans. No clue that in some places, it snows every day. No clue where cars go at night. Now I know why my old dog ran away. She must've felt trapped. It amazes me how human they act. How alive they are. And yet, we treat them as if they're not.

"Souls don't exist," a friend of mine told me as we walked in the park. "Why do you say that?" "Because if they did, then animals would have souls. And that would mean that every single cow we've slaughtered has gone to heaven. That's millions."

(Chente and I a couple years ago.)
I didn't say anything back. I can never think of a good thing to say at the moment. And it's not like I'm completely sure that we have souls, but I know that nobody knows. How could we? Our brains are too small to comprehend such a thing. For example, a friend of mine once said, "If there was a God, then little kids wouldn't die for no reason. God would never let that happen." WHAT!? How do you know? He's God, he can do whatever the heck he wants. Then some say, "well then, I don't want to follow a God that thinks like that." Suit yourself. How arrogant some people. But it's just that they don't understand. No one really understands.

Almost went off track there. This way, please. Don't get lost.

I like to believe that animals have souls. That if there is a heaven, they will be there too. Why do we assume that heaven will then be overpopulated? Heaven could have limitless stretches of grass and mountains and oceans for all we know. Animals feel pain. They get happy when you arrive at your  house. They thought you would never return. But you did, and that filled them with joy. Their tail like a slave, trying to free itself from this growth called a dog. They feel sadness. Chente weeps whenever we don't let him go outside. I swear, he's a human trapped inside a dog's body. He's, perhaps, my best friend. No one will ever love you so unconditionally.

I hope that when I die, I will meet with all of my dogs. They will be able to speak. I will learn what happened to Lady. We will share stories. And we will understand them all. Without any barks or weeps. And without any words. "I do sleep. It was you who was asleep." And I will know what she meant.


Do you believe animals go to heaven?

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