Sunday, July 08, 2007

From Tilly to Eternity: The Death of the Family Dog

Tilly O'Toole, May 2007, photo by Therese O'TooleTilly O'Toole, a yellow labrador retriever of extraordinary character, departed from our clan last week at the age of 10-1/2. A lover of beauty and truth as well as table scraps (sometimes before they were officially declared to be so) Tilly will sorely be missed by not only Jeanette and myself, our children, John, Gary, Patrick and Therese, but also by our cats, Mango, Hubey and Fat Tony and our turtle, Squirtle.

When a lab hits the tenuous age of ten and its hips, eyes and bodily functions are starting to fail, you know the time is near. You also know all the answers; that while pets are precious they are NOT human beings, and that while one should be happy with their companionship, you also should not grieve them as a child when they are gone. And yet, until the day her heart gave out, Tilly was licking our hands, chasing down squirrels and excavating meat scraps and bread ends from the garbage (an act immortalized in John O'Toole's YouTube cult classic "Tilly is Hungry") for her favorite late-night snack. And though you are a devout Catholic and know dogs don't have souls, when you see your pup lying on the operating table trying to muster enough energy to wag its tail for its master one last time, you too begin to cry, asking our Lord, "Why do dogs have to die?"

Out of all God's creatures, dogs are no doubt the best at teaching us loyalty, being faithful to their masters through both the good times and the bad. Indeed, if we could always be as supportive of each other as our hounds are to us, earth would be a lot more like heaven. Which of course begs us to once again ask that eternal question, the same one the little girl asked St. Thomas Aquinas, as to whether pets join us in eternity.

"Because animals do not have souls," began the angelic doctor, "as far as I can see, they do not go to heaven." But then, no doubt looking into the little one's own puppy dog eyes, he added, "but there is no harm in believing that they do." And as much as I tend to agree with my namesake saint, at times of loss, believing a dog such as Fighting Irish Tilly will someday rush out from heaven's gates to greet her grateful human friend even does a soul some good.


Pristinus Sapienter said...

Tilly, my friends, will be waiting, tail-a-wagging, when you get through those gates. (Most likely, steak-in-mouth - God ain't as cheap as we are.)

Why? Because in and of this life, she and you gave loyalty and love to each other. Your salvation is Tilly's salvation. God wouldn't think of resurrecting even a one of you without the glorious(-ly hungry) Tilly there, too.

Take this discount-house prophet's word for it. I got it from the much-more-reliable prophet with whom I once shared Matrimony.

JimAroo said...

Holy Mother, the Church, herself teaches us that after the general judgment that there will be a new earth and our glorified bodies will inhabit this PLACE(!). To me that sounds like both a physical and spiritual reality. Scripture tells us the lion will then lie down with the lamb. Lions and lambs but no dogs? Give the JimAroo a break!

And no pedantic theologian is telling me any different. Nuff said!

[Mrs.] Fighting Irish Thomas said...

Pristinus and JimAroo ... I can't tell you how much I appreciate your comments ... I miss Tilly so much; you guys are the best ...

Tom O'Toole said...

JimAroo - They say every dog has (her) day, and Tilly's might still be coming. (I'd love her to meet St. Bosco's hound!)

zenith15 said...

There is a great book written by a Catholic Friar called "Will I See my Dog in Heaven?" that I highly recommend:

I read it standing in the aisle at the Catholic bookstore following the loss of our beloved Catahoula dog in June and it gave me great comfort.

The night she died, my son and I went outside for a moment and as we walked out we saw a shooting star. We could not help but feel it was Zenith telling us she was ok, free from pain, and that she loved us.