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Holli Deal Bragg - I believe all dogs go to Heaven
Col Holli

A recent blog on the Statesboro Herald Web site raised questions about animals. Do they go to Heaven? Is it right to spend so much on our animals when people go hungry? Are service animals considered pets?
      I am an animal lover, a rescuer of any living creature in need, and owner of more felines, equines, and canines than I can easily count. My answers to these questions may not jive with other people's opinions, but I base my opinions on what I've seen and learned in life.
      No, I don't dress my dogs in frilly clothes, although I have put sweaters on them in cold weather and do own some cutesy outfits picked up at a dollar store. Pixie Belle didn't like her Christmas collar with bells and Jade was way too fat for her Santa outfit. But both of them, as well as Dobro and Winchester, love sweaters.
      I don't buy special diets for my dogs, and my cats don't get those little fancy individual cans of food. They get canned food as a treat, unless they go play pitiful for the two neighbors who spoil all the neighborhood dogs with boiled chicken and canned meat.
      My dogs sleep inside at night, usually in the bed with us after we nod off. They know the command "Off the Bed!" very well, but I've feigned sleep just to see how sneaky they can be, easing onto the bed and nudging their ways under the covers. Dachshunds are notorious for being sneaky and loving warm blankets, so I let them play their bedtime games. We have a five-minute play period when I get up in the morning before they are allowed outside.
      The cats don't even pretend to wait until we're asleep. They own us, don't you know? It's their rights to climb onto our pillows or our backs/sides/stomachs and purr us to sleep.
      I've fed people who were hungry. I've never passed up an opportunity to help human beings in need, if I could help. But I can't agree with one blogger's suggestion that it's wrong to care for animals when people go hungry. God said animals are here for us to take care of, and I do all I can.
      But it's not just because it's my duty. I get rewarded for taking care of animals.
      The dogs who gaze adoringly at me - the big ol' blue tick hound who was a bag of bones when we brought her home; the dachshund who spent the first seven months of his life in a small cage; the kitten who almost drowned in a toilet and was brought back to life with a warm bath and blow drying - they love me.
      When I walk into the pasture and am surrounded by horses who equate kind words, love and carrots with the sight of me - that's rewarding. The rescued donkey who comes to me for treats, when once she was terrified of me - that's a reward. The mare rescued from sure slaughter, rejected from a failing PMU (pregnant mare urine) farm in North Dakota - when she took steps towards me recently instead of fleeing in terror, that was a major reward.
      What about service animals - are they pets? The Statesboro Herald had a blind intern whose guide dog was so much more than a tool to be used. He was her companion, her friend. She loved him and he loved her - isn't that what pets and their owners are all about? Mutual love and companionship?
      And, do animals go to Heaven? I can't imagine why not. They are God's creatures, and I believe they have souls. They have emotions, can make decisions (do I sneak onto the bed now or wait?) and feel pain, fear, happiness and discomfort or comfort just like we do.
      I can't imagine Heaven without animals, and can't imagine why anyone would think they won't go to Heaven. Doesn't the Bible talk about God taking care of the smallest sparrows?
      He created Man in His image, but he created animals in so many different forms. He gave us some animals for meat, for clothing, for milk, for companionship. Can you look at a horse and not see that God fashioned it to be ridden? To be of service by pulling? To give pleasure to mankind in its beauty and affectionate spirit?
      Why do dogs love so unconditionally? Why do they attach themselves to their owners, protect them,cling to them on walks or around the home? Why do birds whistle when their owners walk into the room?
      Not all animals do these things, but those who are loved do, indeed. I've seen a friend interact with her birds in a way that proved they loved her. I have a cat who shadows me everywhere I go, inside or out. I've had a dog that even rode my horse with me, and had a horse who got furious whenever I rode another.
      Animals think, they love, they interact with us. I feel it's no sin to care for animals, even if you spoil them. I feel service animals can indeed be pets at the same time. And no one can convince me God doesn't allow our animal companions - all of His creatures - to enter Heaven. Why would He not?

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