“Do dogs go to heaven?” The 5-year old girl asked me earnestly as her bright blue eyes dimmed a little. “I want to know if God will take care of Buster.”

In more than 20 years of being a veterinarian, this is perhaps the hardest question I’ve ever been asked. The little girl was asking because it was time to say goodbye to the only pet she’d ever known.

Questions like this are tough, well, because I don’t know the answer. I can’t quote a scientific study or relay my personal experience in the matter. I can only offer what I believe to be true.

“Yes, Becky, I believe Buster will go to heaven. I also believe God will take very good care of her,” I replied, trying hard to hide the tremble in my voice.

“What do dogs do in heaven?” She asked.

“Well, I believe God made animals to play with us, help take care of us and to remind us that love is a very special thing. I know you loved Buster very much and I’m sure she loved you even more.” By now I could barely see through the tears welling in my eyes. Two beings, one animal and an innocent child, were reminding me what life was truly about.

“I love Buster so much. Do you think God can talk to her and make her happy? Will God make her all better?” She pressed.

Buster had been battling bone cancer for several months. It hadn’t always been pleasant, between surgery and the side effects of her medications.

“Becky, God can talk to all animals and every person. In fact, when I close my eyes and listen very carefully, I think I hear God talking to me and telling me everything will be just fine. When Buster gets to heaven, I bet the first thing she’ll do is find a squirrel to chase!”

The tiny child turned away and sat down beside her best friend. She laid her head on Buster’s neck and began to whisper.

“Buster, you’re going to heaven now. I don’t want you to be scared because God is going to take good care of you. Thanks for playing with me and never getting mad, even when I hurt your leg that time. You’re the best friend in the whole world. I’m going to miss you.”

And with that she kissed Buster lightly, stood up and went to her mother.

I do believe dogs and cats go to heaven, despite the lack of scientific evidence. I know that the sacred bond we share with animals is something to be treasured. Few relationships in life give so much while asking so little. I find it hard to believe that something so special as love would be wasted in the cold, unfeeling universe.

If God is love, then heaven is where that love goes. And if love is in heaven, that’s where we’ll find Buster.

Mar 21, 2014

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