Do Cats Go To Dog Heaven?

24 Mar

My first-ever dog, who had the somewhat regal name of Judge, was what we refer to in South Africa as a “pavement special”. He was a mixed-breed, and I have no idea what his lineage was. His mother, Kentucky, was a mixed bag herself, and we don’t even know who the father was. This doesn’t speak volumes for Kentucky’s moral values, but I guess this is less of a problem when you’re a dog.

Judge was about the height of a lab retriever but had the relative proportions of a bulldog. His facial features resembled those of Clifford The Big Red Dog, except that Judge was a couple of shades lighter than chocolate brown. He had enormous feet that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a St. Bernard. It was as if God, when He was done creating dogs, assembled all of the leftover dog bits and used them to make Judge.

I was young when we got Judge. So young that I have no memory of him coming into our family. To me, he was always there. According to my parents, however, he and I instantly took a shine to each other and we became inseparable. He was a big dog, especially from my toddler perspective, but he was unfailingly gentle. Although my parents were always vigilant, they never had to worry about whether I was safe with Judge.

My relationship with Judge had to be temporarily put on hold when I six. My Dad’s employers sent him on a three-year secondment to the United States, and we all went with him. We were able to bring our two fox terriers with us, along with our two cats, but Judge and Kentucky had to stay home as long-term residents of a local kennel. It seemed patently unfair to me that I had to leave my dog behind while my brother got to bring his dog, a fox terrier named Bianca, who was affectionately referred to as the Bionic Watermelon. I took some solace from the fact that my Siamese cat, Megan, accompanied us.

Three years later, we returned to South Africa. Me and my brother, our parents, the two dogs, one of the original cats, a new cat named Sarah who had been acquired to help me get over the loss of Megan during our stay, and a stray ginger cat named Ginger Peasley who had adopted us (Ginger Peasley was mean to everybody except my Dad, upon whom he lavished unending affection).

On our return to South Africa, we went to the kennels to claim Judge and Kentucky. I don’t remember much about the reunion, but I do recall that in very short order, Judge and I were best of friends again. My fears that he had forgotten me during our three-year separation were totally unfounded, and Judge and I frolicked happily together for several more years.

One day, shortly after the next-door neighbour’s dog had been run over and killed by the milkman (deliberately, we’re sure of it), Judge got sick. He was fine when he woke up in the morning, but by mid-afternoon he was lying helplessly on his side, breathing shallowly and too weak to even lift his head. By dinnertime, my beloved dog was dead.

We don’t know for sure what happened. We suspect the milkman, who by all appearances, had a toxic hatred for dogs. There was no way to prove anything, of course, but we did stop having our milk delivered after that.

Over the years, we have said goodbye to many dogs and cats. A few have died of old age; most have been euthanazed due to illness. My cat Sarah, who we brought back with us from America, lived to a ripe old age before her hips gave in. Mean old Ginger Peasley had heart trouble, although he did attain a good age. Bianca the Bionic Watermelon developed kidney problems.Kentucky, Judge’s mother, outlived all of the animals of her generation. She lived to a very respectable age and then simply didn’t wake up one morning.

Every time one of these four-legged friends has died, many tears have been shed. Today, one more was added to their number as my Mom made the heartbreaking decision to have her old dog Bella put to sleep. Bella lived a good life, but her body was failing bit by bit and it was clear that her time was up. It is a sad day for my Mom, whose dogs and cats are her companions.

I’d be willing to bet, though, that Bella and Judge and all the rest of them are having a hoot in Dog Heaven. It must be complete chaos there.

My only question is this: Do cats go to Dog Heaven?

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/beeldenzeggenmeer/297619009)

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