Do you think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you they will be there long before us.
Robert Louis Stevenson
In March 1992, close relatives in California gave my sister and brother-in-law, Christine and Dick, a miniature schnauzer puppy. Dick and Christine named him Hans, and we all fell madly in love with the cute little boy.
In January 2005, I spent some time after Christmas break with Christine and Dick at their home in Webster, New York. Hans was getting old now, but he wasn’t too old to be a miniature schnauzer yet.
He had had some minor physical problems. Or at least we thought they were minor. So Christine made an appointment with Hans’s vet for minor surgery. On a cold gray January morning, she and I took him to his date. He was always nervous when he knew he was going to the vet’s office. As soon as we got to the office, he headed straight for the door. “Let me get out of here!” is what I’m sure was going through his little mind.
Since he was a puppy thirteen years earlier, Hans never liked being hugged. He was loving and caring, but he was definitely not a “lap dog.” I was so scared that morning at the vet’s office that I instinctively picked him up while Christine filled out the paperwork. She snuggled close to me, tucking into my heavy winter coat. In all his life, he had never allowed me to hold him.
That was the first and last time it happened.
Later that day, while Christine, Dick, and I were having lunch, the phone rang. Christine answered the call and then began to sob. It was the vet. Dick and I knew without knowing it: Hans was gone. The surgery was normally minor, but Hans’s heart stopped in the middle of it. And they couldn’t revive it.
Later that afternoon, the three of us went to the vet’s office to pay our last respects to this beloved creature who had become as precious to us as our children.
The ladies on staff put Hans on a table in one of the back rooms. It looked so peaceful and beautiful. Christine, Dick and I said goodbye to Hans separately.
When it was my turn, I leaned over his body, put my hand on his head, and kissed him. “Bye, Hans,” was all I could say. Then tears ran down my face, I took one last look at him and walked out.
The ride home was silent. The day was cold and gray, and it matched our mood.
That night at dinner we toasted our beloved Hans.
The following October 15, Dick died. He had been ill with lung disease for years and his death was not unexpected. So I made the long, sad trip back to New York from my home in Wyoming. I spent almost three months there with Christine and the rest of our family, doing what I could to help her through her own difficult transition.
Two days before heading back to Wyoming, I woke up at 4:30 a.m. on January 10. As I lay there, deciding whether to get up or go back to sleep, I heard a car slam at a nearby neighbor’s house. Then I heard Hans’s loud, familiar bark from the living room directly below my bedroom.
Oh well, I thought, he’s just barking because he also heard the car door slam shut.
Then I did a mental double take. It was almost exactly one year ago, on January 17, 2005, Hans had died! The memory of that day is forever etched in my memory.
But I knew his bark and I felt his energy in the house. What was happening here?
The next morning I said to Christine, “Something strange happened last night. Hans was here.”
I spent a lot of time thinking about everything that had happened. I believe that our animal family lives beyond the veil of death, just as we humans do. And I believe that those who love us, human or animal, never abandon us. They often have a desire, from beyond the grave, to help us and let us know that they are still alive, that they still love us.
About a week after Hans’s death, I received a message that I can only describe as coming from the spirit world. Here it is:
If there is an important lesson that your pets should teach you, it is this: live in the moment! And this: Love unconditionally.
Your pets find joy, passion, and pleasure in every moment of their physical life. Even when they appear to be suffering from a physical illness or injury.
Pets, and all animals, in fact, do not fear disease or death. And, most importantly, they are not afraid of life. Hence they immerse themselves in all the pleasures of physical existence. And they do it without hesitation and without guilt.
They are fully alive at all times. Not a bad role model for you to follow!
Animals do not live with the same “agendas” as humans. They have no desire to control or manipulate their fellow man, human or animal. His intention is simply to live freely and happily. They see little difference between life and death.
No matter how terrible (or peaceful) their transition from life to death seems to you, those transitions are always easy and effortless for them.
And when they get to “the other side,” they continue their joyous, exuberant and happy life, frolicking and playing with abandon.
They often come back to visit you. Like your human loved ones. But most of you are not open, at least not completely open, to that happening to you. When you don’t believe, you can’t see. He often says, “When I see it, I’ll believe it.” But it is always the other way around: when you create it, you will see it.
You never lose your loved ones. If you remain open to them, “alive” or “dead”, they will always comfort you. You will feel their presence, their energy.
And you will know that you are loved.
Hans really was here. Visiting from the sky I guess.