The question of whether dogs (or cats!) go to heaven has been the topic of debates ranging from serious theological arguments to dinner table chats. A cursory search on amazon.com gave me over sixty books on the subject! Animals in Heaven? Catholics Want to Know, Angel Dog : Divine Messengers of Love, I Will See You in Heaven (Cat Lover’s Edition)…
“If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that certain dogs I have known will go to heaven, and very, very few persons” asserted the US cartoonist James Thurber! “If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went” the humorist Will Rogers adjoined.
Saints loved animals, especially dogs. Saint John Bosco is a typical example. Grigio (Gray) was the name of the dog that always appeared when the saint found himself in danger.
In 1854 when Don Bosco was coming home late at night, he noticed that two men were walking steadily behind him, keeping up with his pace. Whenever he hurried, they hurried, whenever he slowed down, they slowed down. The area, Valdocco, had a bad reputation and the saint was afraid. When he crossed to the other side of the road and they did the same, he realized that he was in trouble. And sure enough, suddenly they jumped on him and threw a black cloak over his head. They were attempting to jam a cloth inside his mouth, when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a huge gray, mastiff emerged from the darkness, and came charging at them. He lunged at Don Bosco’s attackers and that was enough to scare them off.
From that day on, Grigio and Don Bosco became friends. Whenever he came home late, Grigio would always accompany him. One day, he realized that another guy was out to get him. Don Bosco tried to outrun him, but the man was swifter and soon caught up with him. A fight ensued when out of the blue several others came out of the bushes where they were hiding. It was a trap and Don Bosco had no chance because he was outnumbered. Once more, at the critical moment, the terrific howl of Grigio was heard. He ran around and around his master, growling and showing his formidable teeth until one by one, the thugs turned and disappeared. Probably they were felons employed by the Waldensian heretics.
Hastening home by himself, some time after the first appearance of the dog, two shots were fired at him by an assassin from behind a tree. Both shots missed their mark, but his assailant then rushed at and grappled with him. At that moment, Grigio appeared and sank his teeth into the flesh of the would-be murderer, who fled away shrieking with pain.
The last time Don Bosco saw his dog was one night in Castelnuovo. He was going from Murialdo to Moncucco. He had to pass some farms and vineyards that were guarded by savage dogs. “I wish I had Grigio here”, he said to himself. The wish suddenly became reality. Grigio appeared wagging his tail and he walked the whole way with him. Don Bosco himself recounted this story.
Well, I suppose, when we go to heaven we are in for a good number of surprises!
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.