I never thought of myself as much of a dog person. I grew up with cats, disagreeable ones at that. But several years ago one of my wife’s colleagues gave us a small Yorkshire terrier that she had named Luigi. Yorkshire terriers, as any owner can tell you, are notoriously co–dependent. They crave human companionship and physical touch. Our dog was no exception. He hated being alone. It was not enough for him to be in the same room with us. He wanted to be as close as possible, preferably on someone’s lap. When my wife Jane sat on the couch, Luigi was right there with her, his head on her lap as he gazed worshipfully into her eyes.
This trait endeared him to my wife, the person Luigi correctly identified as the true Alpha human in the house. Jane was the center of his universe. He followed her when she was home and pined for her when she was away. If she left the house, he stationed himself near the door so that he could watch for her return. I would do in a pinch. But only in an emergency. Jane was the real love of his life, as she is in mine.
This dynamic, as you can imagine, was a recipe for a love triangle that would be the envy of any soap opera. And my dog knew he had me at a disadvantage. True, between the two of us, I was the one with the larger brain, a fact that my wife may sometimes have doubted. But I am less portable and not nearly as cute. What is more, I am more easily distracted, given to alternating fits of work and television.
In the evening when our little dog was snuggled next to my wife, I sometimes caught him watching me out of the corner of his eye, as if he were plotting my demise. But as soon as my wife left the room, Luigi would make his way over to my side of the couch and plop down with a sigh. Content as Lazarus when the Angels laid him in the bosom of Abraham.
Over the years, my dog’s capacity for canine devotion captured my heart too. Watching him age and become infirm was difficult. I found myself drawing uncomfortable parallels to my own journey through mid–life and pondering the kind of theological questions one usually hears from small children. Do dogs go to heaven? I knew the correct answer and did not like it.
If I find it hard to imagine a heaven without my dog, it is even harder to picture a heaven in which I am not married to my wife Jane. We have enjoyed so many things on earth together it only seems natural that we would explore the undiscovered country hand in hand. It disturbs me to read Matthew 22:30, where Jesus says, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”
Perhaps this is why I found my dog’s descent into old age so disconcerting. Like a sudden chill at dusk, it seemed to herald the coming night and an unwelcome separation. But Jesus’ words were meant to be positive not negative, displaying the power of God. In heaven our earthly relationships are changed, not eliminated. If the love we experience in heaven transcends the greatest love we have known on earth, then heaven must be a wonderful place indeed.