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Dog Heaven
Photo: Joelle Yamada
I’m going to have to put her to sleep soon.

For twelve years, she has been the most consistent and faithful friend I have. I’ve only been married for five years and my children are under two. So Nala, my beautiful dog, has been loved by me (and has loved in return) for longer than even my dear family. And as I write this with tears in my eyes, I’m having a difficult time imagining my life without her.

I brought her home the summer before I began my first teaching job at the age of 23. During those first few years I survived having Nala eat all my favorite shoes, chew the binders off my hardback books, dig what seemed like hundreds of holes in the back yard and master the ability to take up most of the space on my bed at night. In that same time, I learned to live on my own, dated unsuccessfully repeatedly, dealt with my parents’ marriage breaking up, overcommitted myself to work, and finally burned out completely. During all of that, the only being in my life who was always happy to see me, who greeted me each day with a wagging tail and wet kisses, was Nala.

During the second half of Nala’s life, a lot changed for us. I fell in love and moved her to Hawai’i where she was one of the bridesmaids in my wedding (complete with beaded collar & veil!). Since I had married a man in the military, we were lucky enough to move to England where she ran free on a farm for three years. Next we packed her in to a gigantic kennel and flew her to Japan where we live now. I don’t know many people who’ve travelled as much and experienced as much as my dog.

Pets in Heaven?

Sometime in elementary school I remember being told that pets won’t be in heaven. Now, I’m sure there is some sort of theological theory behind a statement like that, but as I sit here today it just seems plain mean to say something like that to young kids… and maybe to adults as well. What is heaven all about? To me, it’s the place where sorrow and pain, where hatred and anger, where insecurity and lack of love no longer exist. I can’t think of a place Nala would fit in better.

The world seems to become a darker place every day, but it’s clear to me that the Lord has placed within the world some truly beautiful things to bring us joy, love and moments of light. In James 1:17, we’re told that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (NIV). Our pets are just one of the examples of these gifts we’re given.

I don’t know whether I will see Nala again in heaven, but I do know that the sadness I will feel at her death will actually be shared by my Father in heaven. “Not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it” (Matthew 10:29 NLT).

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of Nala that you gave to me for all these years. I’m going to miss you, my Pumpkin girl.

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By Joelle Yamada. Copyright © 2010 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture take from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ® and the New Living Translation © 1996.

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