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I'll Be Doggone

Dogs are nurtured. Dogs are adored. Some become legendary. Some are abhorred. But, at the end of the day, in the human world we are still dogs.

Fantastic loyal companions, yes; fast friends, yes; amazingly intuitive and loving, yes; but, we are still just dogs.

Last Christmas when Daisy, Lisa Tipton's dog (A White Christmas For All), died on Christmas day after giving birth to my valued friend, Cinders, I heard Lisa Tipton say that she would see her old friend (and beloved pet) later in Heaven. Dogs in Heaven? Well, here goes -- this time I will probably end up offending conservatives, liberals, and dog lovers everywhere. . .

I am just not religious. I just don't think in those terms. Isabel and Micah are the only two humans that I know who believe in, and truly abide by, the teachings of the Bible. That doesn't mean that dogs don't innately believe in a supreme being, but we tend to be considerably more spiritual than religious.

We dogs believe in the sun, the moon, wind, weather, and the land. These are tangible things that we can physically feel, touch and smell; elements much more important to us animals than to humans. Actually, when it comes right down to it, we generally fall back on our canine instincts, tempered, of course, by our long-evolved relationship with mankind.

Isabel and Micah are my two best friends on the planet, and I know that they both believe that they will end up in Heaven. I certainly hope that they will. I have no big problem with this, but what are the chances they will meet up with their favorite pet in Heaven? C'mon, folks!

I don't think that the Rev. Calvin Payne's beloved male Malamute, Yukon, is going to make the cut, so why should any other "beloved" mutt go to the 'promised land?' I hate to break it to you, but I just don't believe that there is a Doggie Heaven. We are not saved by mere association; otherwise, I would spend my spare time hanging out on the steps of a church. By the way, did you know that no animals of any kind (caged or not) are allowed inside the Vatican? The last Pope known to have had an animal (a small white dog) was Pope Leo, in the early part of the 19th century. Long time; the dog must have been a biter.

Isabel and Micah both steadfastly believe in Heaven as a destination for the human soul, but Isabel at least shares my pragmatic view that there is no such destination for God's lesser creatures. So, with Micah, it might not be wise to bring up the subject of the stock yards of Kansas City or Chicago.

Let's, for argument's sake, assume that there is actually a Heaven for dogs. If there is a Heaven for dogs, is there a Heaven for all other animals as well? Did our maker not breathe life into all of us? Do gnats and mosquitos make the cut? Where is the cutoff point for inclusion; vertebrates, maybe?

Heaven, to me, is the discovery of two winsome female Labs in the yard (while in estrus), or a round-roast of beef that has accidentally rolled onto the kitchen floor and exceeded the "five second rule" exercised by many of your not-so-famous chefs and cooks. Heaven, to me, is having one of my favorite human companions spend twenty minutes scratching those parts of me that itch (damn that eczema!) while talking to me quietly.

The probable fact that there is no Heaven or afterlife for us dogs doesn't mean that we don't deserve the love and respect due any companion that you have come to love and cherish as a living component of your life.

Dogs observe no specific laws. We operate under the varying (sometimes crazy) standards and edicts of our owners. In fact, we dogs generally adopt and reflect the attitudes and temperment of our owners. An open, friendly, and gregarius owner will generally yield a friendly and gregarius pet. Conversely? Well -- you know the drill.

In general you would discover that we operate under your "do unto others" principle, and in some cases "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." We rapidly become products of our environments because we try to adapt, and it is our desire to please and even emulate our masters. If you know Isabel Whitlow, you can immediately understand why I am such a fine dog!

Yes, we are 'loose cannons.' Because we don't observe any of man's laws, we are technically unpredictable. In a typical day's activities, we (if judged by man's laws) are, undeniably, thieves, adulterers, gluttons, coveters, liars, and worshipers of food. For us there is no Hell; our Hell and Heaven are ours for the making -- right here on Earth.

The only man-made law that has been enacted to protect us and our owners is the One-Bite Rule; a law in 20 of our 50 states. I guess that there was never a One Hump Rule; (pity).

One Bite Rule: A rule that says that the owner of a domesticated animal (e.g., a dog) will be held strictly liable for injuries caused by the animal only if the owner knew or should have known about the animal's dangerous or vicious propensities, which have been manifested in the past. The burden of proof is on the injured party to show that the animal owner possessed this knowledge. The "one-bite" rule originated in common law and has been rejected or modified by most states, either by statute or by case law, with regard to dogs.

One strike and you're out, and Tinker just didn't understand the game. Let me explain.

Last summer, when Mildred Hembree's beloved, yappy little dog Tinker got too close to their bush hog, it was almost three months before she stopped mourning the death of old Tinker. Tinker had earned the reputation as a crotchety, stubborn dog, and he bit most everyone who ventured onto the property. With her husband deceased and her two sons in college, Tinker was all Mildred had left to keep her company, so she steadfastly defended and held on to Tinker despite his overprotective stance and overblown response. When Tinker finally met his demise amid those churning blades, UPS delivery people, Mildred's family minister, and law enforcement officials around Fannin County breathed a little bit easier. Later, I remember Mildred telling Isabel that Tinker was probably "having a good time up there in Heaven." Isabel just rolled her eyes, sighed politely, and continued to listen intently. All I could think of at the time was Killer Cavanaugh (On Rottweilers) and his propensity for biting. Isabel later shocked me as she mused aloud as to whether Tinker had made the trip to Doggie Hell. Doggie Hell? What was she thinking? Tinker was just being a dog, for Heaven's sake (excuse the pun).

No, dogs and other pets just don't function under the auspices of the cultural or religious laws of man. Just think about the lack of complexity of the lives we dogs live. We don't indulge in drugs, alcohol, armed robberies, murder, or mayhem of any kind. Since we have no hidden agenda, our 'crimes' are rarely premeditated; just crimes of opportunity, and we are much more likely to make love than war.

Maybe, because we are fortunate enough to be truly without sin, we are therefore spared the consequences of Heaven or Hell. We make our earthly beds, and then we lie in them. We live, we enjoy, and then we die. Perfect circle, eh?

© 2010-2011 David Johnson, All Rights Reserved