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An Ode to Jake

“Heaven goes by favor; if it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.” ~ Mark Twain I’ve heard theologians and preachers say that dogs and other animals don’t go to Heaven. The reasoning is that dogs and animals don’t have souls nor do they have the ability to make moral choices. This reasoning seems to be on sound theological ground—with some exceptions. “And the armies which were in heaven followed him [Jesus] upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.” ~ Revelation 19:14 There are, without a doubt, horses in Heaven. Then there’s the verses in Isaiah 11 that speak of the wolf and lamb dwelling together and a little child leading animals. Perhaps this is referring specifically to Christ’s thousand year reign and can be dispensated out of the question. But then there’s this verse which has always filled my imagination with all kinds of possibilities: “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” ~ I Corinthians 2:9 So here’s how I cipher all this: Since there aren’t any specific verses (at least that I know of) that say with absolute clarity that dogs don’t go to Heaven, I’m going to at least leave open the possibility. At Paul noted above, Heaven will be full of good surprises. Who am I to say dogs in Heaven won’t be one of them? So with all that being said, if ever a dog entered Heaven by merit, then old Jake is enjoying the streets of Glory as I write this. Jake was a black lab mix. I think he had some hound in him, which speaks to his benefit and good character. Jake belonged to my neighbors: Neighbors who just happen to be my daughter, son in law and five grandchildren. Jake came to their home about the same time one of their daughters, Jolie, came into the world. You could say Jolie and Jake grew up together. All the kids loved Jake. And Jake loved them. Oh, how he loved them. Jolie would attempt to ride him like a horse; and with some success. Jake didn’t mind at all. I think he liked it. Old Jake would run and frolic with those kids through the summer sun, the fall leaves, the winter snows and the five springs of new life he lived to enjoy. He was a good-natured, tail wagging, lick-you-all-over kinda dog but extremely protective of my grandchildren. I found this out one day when I was walking a couple of my granddaughters home from my house. Jake was right there in the mix, following along and wagging his tail. I took off my hat and playfully swatted Emme on the head. Jake immediately jumped into action putting himself in between me and Emme; growling, teeth showing, partially crouched ready to jump on me if I were to try that again. I did not try that again. They were his charge and he would protect them against all aggressors. Despite that incident, Jake and I enjoyed a good friendship. Soon after Jake was old enough to eat cooked meat and gnaw on bones, I stepped out on our porch one evening and whistled for him. My wife and I had just finished some nice t-bones and I wanted to share the bones and leftover fat with my good friend next door. It took me several whistles and “Here Jake’s!” to get him to come that first time. But from then on, all I had to do was give one low whistle and he’d come running. After that, he always greeted me with tail wagging and a big dog smile on his face when I walked next door. Jake loved to chase squirrels. I don’t know that he ever caught one, but he loved the sport and thrill of the chase. He was good at keeping bears away at night as well. I recall one summer night a couple of years ago when there was a lot of commotion outside. My son in law and I went out there to find Jake standing toe to toe with a big black bear. A few weeks ago Jake started acting and looking rather poorly. A trip to the vet and it was discovered that his bilirubin levels were very high. The whites of his eyes were yellow and he wouldn’t eat. Despite medicines and different therapies, he never fully recovered. Jake passed on to his reward last night just before midnight, on my Dad’s birthday; rather fitting since my Dad was a dog lover himself. As Jake lay there in the family room breathing his last, with two of my granddaughters holding him and softly crying, he nuzzled closer to Emme—not for his own comfort, but to comfort her. His final act of merit. . . . and a little child shall lead them.

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