All Dogs Go to Heaven

All Dogs Go to Heaven

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened. “

—Anatole France

I lost one of my beloved dogs this weekend.

Her name was Neli (short for Cyberia’s Nelidova), she was a red Siberian Husky, she was 11 years old, and she was my sweetheart.

She and her son, Bobo, have been through quite a lot with me. She was born when my wife, Janice, was still alive and well. Neli and her husband Kijé “accidentally” had their son Bobo, with four other puppies, when she was two. Janice got sick that very year, and died in 2003. Neli, Kijé and Bobo were my only companions until Kijé got hit by a car several years later.

Since then it has just been the three of us. Neli was the leader of the pack, and was very conscious of her duties. Although usually aloof she would always know when I was not feeling well, physically or emotionally, and would be within arms reach. She and Bo were inseparable, and Bo had to know where Neli was at all times.

I miss her, terribly.

What is it that forms that bond and deep connection so many of us have for our animals? The psychologists might say it is anthropomorphic to cast on an animal human features and feelings. We then might expect them to feel the same way we do, to love the same way, and to empathize the same way as humans.

Anyone who loves an animal knows this isn’t entirely something we make up. We may not fully understand, or correctly understand, the way a beloved pet thinks or feels, but we do know there is some sort of very deep and profound connection between them and us that is quite real.

Some say that we can more easily see the divine nature of love within an animal—that somehow their soul and connection with God and the unified nature of the universe is clearer through their innocence and unconditional nature of their love for us. Maybe they act as a mirror for our own perfect soul that resides beneath the products of fear and separation in our own psyches.

I find myself wishing very painfully that Neli was laying out in the backyard scanning the trees for squirrels, or resting in the shade on a bed of cool black earth.

She didn’t do much, she didn’t buy me presents, or write me poetry, or take me out to dinner, but she did somehow create a spark of profound love within me. She was my friend, a listener, and an appreciative soul during the long dark hours of my loneliness.

I want to honor her life. I don’t want her to pass unnoticed. I want to take her ashes to one of her favorite spots and say a prayer for her with her son Bobo by my side. If she were watching me do this I am sure she wouldn’t be the least bit interested, but somewhere beyond relatively feeble dog intelligence, beyond comprehension, there is an awareness of love, appreciation, and acts of recognition. Neli is aware of my love, she may not describe it as I do, but she is aware I love her in some ineffable way.

How aware are we of the love around us? I think animals we love bring us to a place of realization where love does not require great acts of doing, giving, or pleasing. Love just is. In fact, I believe that love is the foundation of all relationships we have with anything. Sure, that relationship gets distorted with all kinds of things, but the underlying truth about relating to something is finding sameness somewhere in it, seeing the connection, seeing the fact that we are all made of the same stuff. I don’t mean quantum particles, I mean the intention to love and be loved, to acknowledge the fact that we are indeed all one, that we all know one another, and every animal, plant, and thing, as us.

Maybe my chattering brain is making it up. But I do feel something very real. I feel this connection to love with Neli and it seems more fascinating to me to feel it so profoundly with a dog because there isn’t much reason beyond my love for her to feel it. Like I said, dogs don’t do much.

So farewell little red dog. I miss you, and will always miss you. Thank you for being in my life. I hope to see you again one day. And I hope the squirrels aren’t too mad at you in heaven.

About the Author:

Todd Hayen is a psychotherapist with a private practice in Aurora, Ontario. He is also an author of books, articles and blog posts and frequents his own website writing blogs there...

10 Comments

  1. Carol-Ann September 14, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    Todd, I’m so sorry for your loss. Your tribute is beautiful and touching. May you continue to notice and enjoy the blessings of love around you. With peace, Carol-Ann

  2. Cindy September 14, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    Neli was a wonderful dog and faithful companion. I will miss her too. You enriched her life as she did yours. Peace Neli. It was lovely knowing you!

  3. Tish September 14, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    Todd, this is beautiful, as was Neli — and as are you.

  4. Todd Hayen September 14, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    Thank you Carol-Ann, Cindy, and Tish. It means a lot to me that you have responded this way. I know each of you know what I speak of here. Bless you!

  5. Kim September 14, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    Your words about Neli are beautiful and so eloquently put. I am so saddened and sorry to hear about her and will miss her! She had such an amazing and strong personality that I was blessed to experience the few years I was able to work for you.

  6. Dolly September 15, 2010 at 10:25 am

    So beautiful and so true Todd. They ask nothing of us, yet they give so much. You framed it perfectly. Thank you for speaking your heart outloud. God bless~

  7. Tara September 17, 2010 at 9:38 am

    Yes, dear buff-colored companion of yours, RIP, sweet Neli. Beautiful tribute.

  8. Greg September 28, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    A more loving elegy I have never read…Surely she was a piece of your soul, and you will carry around some of her always! I’m sure the squirrels will miss her also, in their own way…everything connected.

  9. Tim Heintzman October 31, 2010 at 11:49 am

    Hi Todd,
    Thanks for your comments about Custer. There is an undefinable love that exists between dogs and their human parents. I have come to understand what love “is” from a book you may have read by Scott Peck, The Road Less Travelled. Love is the willingness to commit and God knows how much commitment a dog takes if we are to help them have a happy life. So as freely as they love usI think we too freely love them. If only the relationship were so simple with humans.

    Blessings,

    Tim

    • Todd Hayen October 31, 2010 at 12:10 pm

      Thanks Tim…I think you have a really good point there…that sort of unconditional commitment is indeed a huge reason why we love them so much. It is interesting then to think that the act of giving is the key to a deep love experienced. And yes, that is a reason why with humans it can be, and is, much more complicated! Blessings to you too…

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