all dogs do go to heaven

I wasn’t going to mention this because I hate when people talk to me about dead or dying animals and I wanted to spare you all that uncomfortable reading experience. But something happened recently that I think is worthy of writing about. If you’re sensitive to such matters, you can skip this one.

Anne-Marie: Charlie, will I ever see you again?
Charlie: Sure you will, kid. You know goodbyes aren’t forever.
Anne-Marie: Then goodbye, Charlie. I love you.
Charlie: Yep… I love you too.

-All Dogs go to Heaven

Our family dog, Sam, passed away in October. He was 14-years-old. It was a sad time but he had advanced in age and I saw it coming. So when it happened, I was prepared. I was sad but I was also relieved that he was no longer hurting.

Our family dog, Sam, that we had for fourteen years passed away in October. My dad took him to the vet after we’d noticed he’d been acting strangely. The vet informed my dad Sam had suffered a stroke some time earlier. Sam was given medication but it didn’t help. A few days later, he passed away.

It was a sad time but because of his advanced age, concerning behavior, and grim vet visit, and I saw it coming and so when it did happen, I was prepared. I was upset but also relieved because I knew he wasn’t in pain any longer. For a few days after the vet, I lived in a fog of intense worry, scared each day would be the day he’d die because he was getting worse but also hoping it would go ahead and happen so he wouldn’t continue to suffer.

I thought my dad would take him back to the vet and have him put to sleep. And maybe that was his plan. But he didn’t have to. Sam knew it was time and walked to the pasture behind our back yard. He laid down under a tree and closed his eyes for the last time.

My dad took it the hardest, although his stoic upbringing didn’t allow him to express it. My dad’s a good ol’ country boy and good ol’ country boys love their dogs. If you’re Southern, you’ve seen it. They have a unique bond. Sam was like a third child to Dad. He sat in the yard and looked at the road every day as he waited for Dad to come home from work. He stayed by Dad’s side all the time. Dad built him a large doghouse, which he stuffed with fluffy blankets and a warming light to keep Sam warm during the winter. And on the hot days, he would sneak Sam a Push Up orange ice cream every now and then.

Dad has a storage building across from our home. It’s like his man cave. He and Sam used to spend entire weekends out there, probably have deep conversations. Dad always took Sam for rides in his truck. Dad lowered the tailgate and Sam shot into the bed of the truck like a bullet, his tail always wagging with excitement.

Two weeks ago, my mother was in the greeting card aisle of a store trying to find a Christmas card for her friend. She grabbed a card from the shelf and as she pulled it out of the slot, another card slipped out of the one in her hand and nose-dived to the floor.

My mom bent over and picked up the card. On the front was a picture of a white bulldog looking up. He looked a lot like Sam. Mom then opened the card. It said, “Just wanted to look in on you and see what you were doing.”

My mom brought the card home and showed it to my dad. In his standard stoic nature, he read it and said, “Mm hm.” But past his imperturbable pout, something inside him must have shifted. I know something inside of me did when Mom told me the story and showed me the card. She teared up as she handed it to me.

I wasn’t sure what to think. Was it a friendly bark from beyond or just a coincidence? It’s not like my mother scanned the various cards and found the one that reminded her of Sam. The card fell out of a completely different card she picked up. The card found her.

Maybe there’s something to it. Maybe there’s not. But I don’t need a card to tell me that, if there is a heaven, he is there. He was the kindest, sweetest, warmest dog we’ve ever had as a part of the family. He was a great guard dog, always letting us know when a visitor had pulled into our driveway. He loved to jump into people’s arms and give them a lick. He wanted nothing more from people than a little attention and a big belly rub.

And one day, when a pregnant stray cat set up shop at our home, Sam did not chase her away but opened up his dog house to her and her kitten.

I loved his pink belly and his brown eyes and crooked teeth. And he had a long, quality life. It wasn’t cut short by a speeding car like so many of our other pets had been. And although he was older when he passed, he still had a childlike quality to him and I always saw him as a big, silly puppy. I take some comfort in knowing he had a long, good run of it and that overall, the quality of his life was quite high. I just hope we made him as happy as he made us.

Maybe, even now, he’s still sitting, his nub of a tail wagging with happiness, looking out and waiting for my dad to come home.

alt textA picture of Sam I took a few years ago.

alt textThe card that found Mom.


alt textThe inside of the card.

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