My expectation is that They have animals in heaven because, for one, animals are by definition innocent and incapable of good or evil – carnivore or plant-eater, they are DNA hot-wired to perform a limited role during their lives and I don’t believe they’re given much in the way of free will. And, two, heaven would be pretty boring (and thus by definition really not heaven at all) if it were populated only by humans.
Or so I implied to my youngest the other day, which seemed to begin to lessen the frequency and ferocity of her sobbing, under a squad of stuffed animals on the futon out at the farm.
It all started just before guests were to arrive, while I was showering. My wife burst into the bathroom. “Bosco just killed a cat!” she exclaimed.
This took me so much by surprise, wet and lathered and walled off from everything behind my opaque curtain, that I could not at first speak. My mind had to be retrieved from wherever it was wandering, which took a couple of seconds, then it had to contemplate the possible range of actions that might be required based on the startling information it had just received.
“What?” I asked. “Bosco just killed a cat, well it’s almost dead.” Which was a different kettle of fish altogether, implying an incomplete task, a task falling to me to complete.
I hurried out of the shower and dressed quickly, not wanting to keep the victim animal in pain any longer than necessary. I’d learned while dressing that my youngest had been outside with her mom hanging up the hammock when Bosco discovered the cat hiding beneath a large wooden platform temporarily leaning up against the side of our stone bridge. The cat had a front and back entrance into the space beneath the platform, but instead of exiting the rear when Bosco tried to bull his way in the front, the feline just stayed near the back entrance where it apparently felt safer. It was a bad choice as the dog ran quickly to the rear, pulled the cat out by the tail and then clamped onto the back of its neck.
As most of her life has been lived in a small town, my girl had never seen anything of any size die before. She and mom had tried in vain to get Bosco to back off and leave the cat alone, but it was feral and wild and, to him, the same as any possum or raccoon or other vermin that he might encounter. The Catahoula is basically a big, strong hound-like dog with both hunting and herding instincts. It is protective of its herd, whether bovine or human, and the adrenalin of the hunt can turn it into a fearsome beast.
There was no stopping Bosco and he broke the cat’s neck and left it for dead before my wife could get him away. When I walked into the living room my daughter was a little shocked and pretty inconsolable over the cat killing. I hurried about my business but decided not to use a shotgun for fear of traumatizing the girl, and instead had to go with a wood splitter – basically a sledgehammer with a blunt axehead on one end, which quickly put the cat out of its misery.
My son and a friend of his volunteered to dig a grave, the better to gawk at the dead animal. I went in and told my girl that I believed kitty had gone to cat heaven and did not suffer in death. I also told her that Bosco was only following his instincts and trying to protect her and her mom from rabid or wild critters that might hurt them, and that feral cats will at any opportunity dine on baby rabbits, and thus the local baby bunny population would now be more secure. All of this gradually seemed to make her feel better, and pretty soon she asked if she could go out and help dig the grave, which she did.
A few minutes later all of us held hands in a circle around the final feline resting place and said a little funeral prayer, asking God to remand this cat, one of His innocent creatures, into His eternal care.
Then peace and balance returned to the yard and the woods, and on cue our guests pulled into the drive.