What I Learned From a Pit Bull

Let me start by saying that I am unapologetically a carnivore.  If you are a vegetarian for reasons you feel strongly about, that is your right.  But I refuse to debate it with you.  I love my chicken fried steak, regular steak, and lots more chicken these days; and will continue to enjoy them all as long as I still have teeth.

Cheza-01Something else I won’t debate with you about is the question of whether we will see our pets in heaven.  I am quite familiar with Genesis 1-26: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”   And I understand that we have an eternal soul and are a higher life form than other animals.  There are a lot of convincing commentaries explaining why you should not expect to see Fido there.  And I have been reluctant in times past to tell my grandchildren otherwise when asked that question.  I now have several problems with that.

  1. For every scripture citation you give me that leads you to believe otherwise, I can point you to a website with dozens more that convince me that there are likely to be plenty of animals in Heaven, and I’m not just talking about horses taking Elijah in a whirlwind to heaven (2 Kings 2:9-12).  I don’t pretend to know exactly what that means, but I am sure (and hope sincerely) that it does not include cockroaches.  I fear I would still stomp on them without regret.
  2. However strong your convictions are on the subject, you do not have the slightest idea what heaven is going to be like in the first place, much less what the rest of us should expect to see there.   So get over it.  Nobody’s salvation will ever depend on whether or not they believe their pets are going to be in heaven.   Yes Virginia, I do believe Fido will be there.
  3. God gave Job a sampling of the many ways that he cares for his animals (part of which is in Job 38:39-41).  You can rest assured that whatever He decides their fate will be, He in His wisdom will make sure that it is “good.”  “Good” is how He started this world out, and “very good” is surely the way that everything will be when we cross over to be with our Lord.

A few years ago, one of my daughter’s friends died suddenly and quite unexpectedly.  She left behind a big white pit bull with brown markings.  When those entrusted to care for her failed to do so properly, my daughter took the dog in.  But a small apartment was no place for a big dog like that, so my wife and I reluctantly decided she had to stay with us.  OK, I was the reluctant one.  I mean, we are talking about a pit bull after all.  They can turn vicious without warning, right?  And we have small grandchildren (one actually not yet even born at the time).   And she came with baggage.  She had cancer.  Some tumors had already been removed, but the estimate was that she would only live another year or so.

Five years later, she had become the darling of our family.  The only trouble we ever had with her was keeping her out of the pool in the summer time.  How she loved to swim!  The minute our backs were turned, we would hear a splash and know that it was her again.  As for turning vicious, the closest she ever came to that was when (at my wife’s command) she encouraged a young man to quickly scale our fence when he came into our back yard looking for something to steal.

Cheza-02She shared our home with two Miniature Schnauzers who she was content to allow the illusion that they were the ones in charge.  Made no difference to her.  She just wanted to be accepted as one of them.  In her mind’s eye, that was all she was – just another little Schnauzer.  And my wife allowed this baby girl the illusion that she was just another lap dog.  Spoiled rotten?  Perhaps so.  But she was that lovable, and she (as man’s best friend is so often inclined) asked for nothing but to be loved.   As for the grandchildren, she and our 12-year-old had become adoring friends, the younger ones – even our one year old got in her face most annoyingly at times, but she never so much as growled.

But alas, a tumor grew that was inoperable.  It was in the joint of her shoulder and underarm, growing to massive size almost overnight, and was spreading internally as well.  Steroids beat it back for a while, but it came back even bigger, and soon the steroids simply were making her more overweight than was good for her.  But her time had not yet come, so my wife kept this leaky tumor bandaged and changed (it was now large enough to put a sock around it), washed her bedding several times daily, and mopped up the blood droplets that leaked from the wound.  She was still happy and so very loving, and we had pain medicine for her that helped.

Today she took a turn decidedly for the worse, and she “told us” that it was time.  This gentle giant that I never wanted in the first place had stolen our hearts, and now letting her go has broken them.  Knowing that it was the right thing to do is little consolation.

So what else did I learn from this pit bull?  For one thing, I learned that I should not be so quick to judge others.   In truth, I am not so different from that pit bull.    I am a very quiet, most often bashful, man with what some describe as a very dry sense of humor (I’m not sure what a wet sense of humor is, but I do get it – other people just sometimes don’t know how to “take me”).  Add to that the fact that I am not an outgoing person, and I have no doubt that I am often perceived much differently than I would like to be.  How often have I misjudged someone else?  Now, whenever I encounter someone that I think of as a “pit bull”, I am more inclined to consider that they have a different perception of themselves, and that they are worth giving an opportunity to prove my perception wrong.  “Love your neighbor”… hmmm…sounds so familiar…

As for heaven, will I be surprised if I am greeted by a white and brown pit bull, with tail wagging as she looks up at me with devotion in her eyes?  Not really.


/Bob’s boy
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

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