Sunday, July 15, 2012

Do Dogs Go To Heaven?

Horace - 1982-1999

Yes, I believe they do.

Do I believe in Heaven?  I don't know.  My common sense says there is no such thing as Heaven.  I tend to believe that when you die there is nothing.  A great void.  Black, dark.  Total unawareness.

However, and a big HOWEVER....some years ago I saw a Robin Williams movie called "What Dreams May Come."  The Robin Williams character died in an auto crash in the Holland Tunnel (what a way to go).  He died but he didn't know he died until he "woke up" in a colorful field of flowers in an oil painting.  At first he didn't know where he was.  As he slowly came to consciousness, he heard a dog barking in the distance.  He recognized the bark.  The dog barking was his long deceased dog "Katy".  "I must be in dog Heaven!" says the Robin Williams character.

Katy rushes to him in the field where Robin Williams is lying among the colorful flowers.  Very emotional scene and I get choked up every time I see it.

They embrace one another.  Katy licks his face.  They both walk off towards the beautiful waterfalls in the distance.  That's when Robin Williams realizes that he is in the REAL HEAVEN, not just "doggie Heaven."

Folks, Bill and I have had five dogs (all Pomeranians) during our time together.  Our last dog died in 1998. His name was Horace.  His death was so devastating to us, we haven't had a dog since.  I would get one but Bill couldn't take another loss of one of our pets.

Horace was special to me.  Horace was my "buddy."  Growing up our family had dogs.  Sure they liked me but they were always my father's dogs.  Of the five dogs we've had, four of them took up with Bill.  Sure, they liked me but when push came to shove, Bill was the one they went too.  Horace was the only dog in my life that CHOSE ME.

I don't know exactly why.  Maybe because I rescued him from a pet shop window during my lunch hour one day when he was being overwhelmed by the bigger dogs in the window.  I had no intention of buying a $300 dog from a pet shop in center city Philadelphia on that August day in 1982, believe you me.

The mistake I made was going in the store to inquire about the price of "that doggie in the window."  Of course you know what the pet shop owner did (the sly salesman he was).  He said "Here, I'll get him for you and you can hold him."  Oh oh!  What was I going to say?  What could it harm?

I swathe salesman pick up the little orange fluff that was Horace as a puppy and hold Horace away from him while he sprayed him with something (which I later found out to be a deodorant because Horace stunk when I got him home - puppy mill and all that which I didn't know at the time, naive me).

He hands Horace to me and I hold him to my chest.  He didn't stink when I held him (or at least I didn't smell the stink, that came later when I took him home).

As I cradled Horace to my chest (he fit real good by the way), Horace looks up at me as if to say "Please take me away from here."  Well, it doesn't take a genius to figure out what happened next.  I bought him on the spot!  Oh yeah, I BOUGHT HIM.

Now here was a problem. I had to go back to work and now I have this stinking, three pound orange fur ball in a cardboard box with handles to take back to work with me for the afternoon.  What was I going to do with him?  Good thing my bank operations manager position provided me with a desk back in the corner of the third floor of the Morris Building on Chestnut Street.

I returned to work and put the Box With A Dog In It behind my desk.  Of course several people in my unit asked "What's in the box?"  I forget exactly what I said but I don't remember telling them it was a dog.  I didn't want everyone back there "oohing" and "aching" and creating a distraction.  Just get through the afternoon Ron.

Horace was quiet.  Them there was a whimper.  I put my hand in the box on top of his greasy orange fur.  He stopped whimpering.  I did that every time that afternoon when he whimpered.

Next stop, the commuter train home.  I didn't know if they had a rule about pets on a train but I wasn't going to take any chances.  I wasn't going to go to the train with a dog on a leash.  Horace stays in the box.  So there I go to the train station with my briefcase (the Big Deal Businessman from the Big City) and a cardboard box with handles and three pounds of stink in a box.

I get on the train amongst my fellow commuters.  I find a seat in the back away from most of the other commuters.  An occasional whimper emits from The Box.  My hand automatically goes in the box and the whimpers stop.

After we're on our way for the seventy minute commute to my home in Downingtown, the train conductor ambles by to punch my commuter ticket.  He pauses and looks at me and casts a casual glance at The Box. I'm holding my breath praying that Horace doesn't whimper because I don't want to HAVE TO EXPLAIN WHY I BROUGHT A DOG ON THE TRAIN.  In retrospect me having a dog on the train probably wouldn't have been a problem but I just didn't want to GO THERE.  I had visions of being thrown off the train somewhere near Paoli and having to call Bill to pick me up and then explain to Bill why I was thrown off the train.  Oh no, I still had to think of what I was going to tell Bill when he picked me up at the train station in Downingtown.  He didn't know I BOUGHT A DOG.

The crises pasts with the train conductor and me moves on.  Another thirty minutes or so left on my commute.  I kept my hand in the box the whole time remaining.

Horace a few days after his arrival at our home
We arrive in Downingtown.  I disembark from the train, looking to see where Bill parked his Jeep Wrangler.  I see him.  He sees me.  He sees I have a package.  I knows I'm a shopaholic.  With some bemusement he asks "Well, what did you buy this time?" 

As I'm placing the Box With a Dog in the back seat I nonchalantly tell him "A puppy."  Hey, I'm not one for beating around the bush.  Just get out the news and deal with it.

Bill says "What did you say?"  I said "A puppy."  He turns around and looks at me to see if I'm serious and says "You have GOT TO BE KIDDING?"  That's when I turned around and took the Box With a Dog off the back seat and put it on my lap.  I pull out the Stinkball that is Horace.

Bill's eye just about popped out like the Roadrunner's when he sees the "BEEP-BEEP" bird.  Bill couldn't believe it.

The rest of the ride home Bill bemoaned and groaned and said "You'll have to take him back!" I knew that wasn't going to happen once I let Bill hold him.

Bill was a goner.  We had a new dog in the house.

Now as I said before, we've had dogs before.  In fact, we had just lost another dog (also orange like Horace) a few months before.  Bill at that time said "Never again!"  As I said before, Bill just can't take the loss.

Well, once he held Baby Horace (which is what he called him at that time - the name "Horace" is a subject for another whole blog posting), he (Bill that is) was a goner.  Horace now had a new home.  '

Horace - at home

Bill with one of our other dogs - Sparky - they always choose him
Now here is the interesting part.  Horace had "picked me."  Horace had bonded with me.  All dogs we had before always bonded with Bill.  We got two dogs since Horace and they also bonded with Bill.  But Horace "picked me."  I was Horace's sun, moon and reason for being.  I think what did it was me putting my hand in the box that afternoon and on the train.

From that first day in the house Horace wouldn't let me out of his sight.  When I went to work Horace had stay in my bedroom (Bill and I sleep in different bedrooms) and spent the day lying on the clothes I wore when I was home.  He wanted to be near my scent.

For the next sixteen years (which is a long life for a Pomeranian toy dog), Horace was my "buddy."  He loved to go for rides with me.
You never saw a more pitiful expression on a dog's face if I left for someplace in a car and didn't take Horace with me.  He LOVED riding with me.  I would often visit my Mom.  Horace would have to go.  At my Mom's I would open the car door and Horace would jump out.  I never had to use a leash with Horace, he always kept me in his sight.  Here is Horace with my brother Isaac and my Mother.  Notice how he is keeping me in his line of vision.

From 1982 to 1998, friends and family rarely saw me without Horace.  It was always "Ron and Horace."  We were inseparable.

Me and the older Horace during one of his last rides

Then Horace got hold. He muzzle turned white.  He started to lose his mental facilities.  He started to wet the floor overnight.  He always acted so ashamed when I came down in the morning and saw the wet floor.  I didn't mind, I cleaned it up.
Horace's favorite spot - my lap

Even though his bodily functions both mental and physical were beginning to fail him he still knew who I was.  He still looked to the door in anticipation of "a ride" whenever I headed towards the door.  He knew.

Then came the day (and it's hard to write about this even now, so many years later) that he couldn't get up. I came down to take him out.  He was still in his basket.  His eyes were open and he was breathing.  I waited for him to get out of his basket.  He couldn't move.  He had a blank star in his eyes.

I lifted him up. He was as limp as a rag doll. His head dangled down from my arms instead of resting in them like they had for the last sixteen years.  It was Time.
Me and Horace, Christmas 1984 - totally bonded - inseparable we two

I made the hard decision then and there that I had to end his suffering.  The last few months I noticed that he was rapidly going downhill but that morning his body finally gave out.  Horace had spent the last sixteen years as my devoted friend.  Now was the time for me to do the right thing.

Old Horace - closer to the End
I called my vet and told him what happened.  He told me to come down right away.  I took Horace for his last ride.  He rode in my lap instead of having his front paws on the driver's window like he always did.  He seemed to know that this ride was different (so hard for me to write this now).

Horace about a year before he died - 1997 - old but still with it
I took him into the vet's office and was ushered in right away to a side room.  Dr. Pollack (the vet) came out of a side room with his equipment.  He asked me "Do you want to be with him?"  Of course I said "Yes."  I got Horace when he was just a young pup and I would be with him now, at the end of his life.  That was the least I could do.  I would not leave him now. (So hard folks, these memories, tears in my eyes).

The end was quick and painless.  I left with Horace's limp now dead body wrapped in his afghan blanket that he always slept on.  Bill was waiting for me in the car.  He was crying (Bill can't handle these situations).

Bill drove home, I had Horace in my lap.  At home we placed Horace's body in a freezer chest (we bury all out dogs in an air tight freezer chest).  Bill dug a hole out in the flower garden where our other two dogs were buried.  Horace had outlived them all.  One was "T" who was a blonde Pom and Bill's devoted dog.  The other was their puppy "Babydoll", the offspring of "T" and "Horace".  Horace and T only had two pups.  One we sold (which we always regretted, that's why we never raised any more Pom pups).

All right, I've been through five tissues so far in writing this blog.  I don't know what's the matter with me but I get more emotional over a loss of a pet than I do people.

The pain of the loss of Horace, the only animal friend who "chose" me, was almost unbearable.  When I went to work the next week every time I would think about Horace I would choke up and the tears would flow.  Thank goodness I wasn't crying out loud.  I don't think I've ever had a loud cry in my life, I usually just tear up real bad and choke up.  I'm telling you folks, it took me MONTHS to get to the point where I could even think about Horace without choking up.

These days when I'm looking at The End for myself I often think, will I wake up in a field of flowers (I love fields of flowers) in Heaven one day and hear Horace barking and running towards me?  Now folks, that truly would be Heaven.

Me and my Buddy for Life (and in the Hereafter) - Horace


Bob said...

Having had many many pets through the years, and having some need to be put down because of illness, and having others die while we held them of old age, all pets go to Heaven.
If Heaven exists, it's filled with animals, the only true innocents on the planet.

PS Thanks for the offer of the book, but I have it downloaded on my Kindle for vacation reading!

Raybeard said...

Ron, if you don't meet Horace in this mythical place called 'Heaven' you'd surely and rightly feel short-changed. I too wouldn't care about going there (if they let me in, that is) if I knew for certain that it didn't contain any animals, particularly the ones I've loved, but animals generally in any case. What sort of a Creator would allow ANY vulnerable beings with emotions to be snuffed out forever as if they were merely expendable? Not one that I would or want to respect.
Your emotional feelings recalling the loss of your beloved Horace is perfectly understandable. For me also, the loss of a pet presses a different set of buttons as the loss of a human being. Not necessarily greater in intensity (though, yes, it CAN be), but certainly different in quality, and I think that's nothing at all to be ashamed of. Your moving telling of Horace's final journey really got to me too.
I'm misting over myself as I write this, with Noodles sleeping right here beside me, so before I'm tipped over the edge completely I'd better stop now.
Btw: I've seen your acknowledgement of my comment on your previous blog (for which I thank you) - and this new comment of mine nicely covers what you said there too.

anne marie in philly said...

(sniff) what a cutie pup!

Ron said...

Anne Marie,
Everyone loved Horace. He was a sweetheart. I never heard him growl once in his entire life. Now my two female dogs, lots of growling. I wish you could have met him.

Ron said...


Other than my Mother, no death has ever affected me as much as the death of our pets. I truly think there is something behind our pet's souls. I do believe they have one. Maybe they are people reincarnated. I know that sounds crazy to some but it makes sense to me. I am a believer in how someone treats animals is a measure of their value as a human being. I'm glad you're once who appreciates animals.


Ron said...


You will enjoy reading Any Cohen's book. He has the same irreverent sense of humor that you do. I truly think you are a talent that has gone unnoticed too long. I'll say it again, I am so impressed with your blog.


wcs said...

Yup, the dogs are wonderful. Callie is my third, our second. She came to live with us a year after our Collette died. I'm already talking about the possibility of another later on, after Callie. A glutton...

Ron said...

I would love to have another little buddy sitting right next to me now. Maybe someday in the future.

Ur-spo said...

I like to think dogs - and anything with Love - is immortal and without past.