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May 14, 2017

Family Room by Michelle Martin

Meet the new dog

There is a time and season for everything, and this week, for us, was time for a new dog.

We had to put our old dog, Polly, to sleep after more than 11 years with us. By the next day, Teresa and Frank were looking at the websites for local animal shelters, scouting out likely prospects. Within a week, we went to a shelter, met one of the dogs they’d had their eye on, and brought her home.

To some people, it might seem like we’re just trying to replace the dog we had, and there is some truth to that. Home just doesn’t feel as homey to me without a dog there.

But it’s not like the two dogs are interchangeable. Both are (or were) female dogs, adopted from a shelter at about a year old. I suppose you could say both have four legs and a tail as well. But Polly was white with tan spots.

By the time we adopted her, she had been adopted and returned to the shelter — twice — because she had too much energy for some families. She maintained that until the end, even when she was sick, with people sometimes mistaking her for a puppy when she was past her 10th birthday. She had no use for rawhide chew toys, and turned up her nose at Milk-Bones. She loved getting a bowl of scrambled eggs after Sunday breakfast.

The new dog — Elly — is black with a white belly and white on her paws. She’s shorter and broader than Polly, and while she’s happy to chase a toy in the backyard, she seems just as happy to curl up in any convenient soft spot and go to sleep. She chewed a rawhide bone down to a nub in one sitting, and she’ll sit or lie down for a Milk-Bone. She also likes scrambled eggs on Sunday.

As much as I’m enjoying getting to know her, I still miss Polly. When Teresa cried over her death, I told her it was OK to be sad and OK to cry, but it’s important to remember the gift we were given in having her in our lives.

Church teaching is clear that animals don’t have immortal souls, at least not in the same way humans do, but it stops short of declaring that we won’t see our pets in heaven. In fact, Pope Paul VI is reported to have consoled a boy grieving his dog by telling him, “One day we will see our animals in the eternity of Christ.”

If all things are possible with God, it doesn’t seem too far a stretch to hold out hope that all dogs indeed go to heaven.

But in the meantime, we had room in our home and in our hearts for another dog that was in need of a family. So welcome home, Elly.