Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Odie's First Day in Heaven

We have always had a menagerie of animals around our house. Kids growing up in the country collected everything from salamanders to stray cats, and 4-H kept us up to our ears in pigs, chickens, lambs, calves, horses, and even a goat. Of course dogs were ever present. I took backstage to all the animals, allowing the kids to claim and care for them all...until of course the kids grow up and the animals stay...and stay...and stay. We have had dogs last as long as 19 years (Huckleberry) and I still care for Stephanie's first cat who is now reaching the ripe old age of 22. Of all these animals gone and present, I lay claim to only one - our big black lab, Odie.  This was the only pet that I picked out as a pup and brought home. Of course, he soon became Chris's but silently...he was mine too. He was with us a wonderful 13 years, and we lost him to cancer a of couple years before Chris died. I had a chance to honor this sweet, lovable animal in a poem, thinking of all the things he could no longer do on earth and maybe fulfilling those dreams in heaven.

He welcomes the morning sunlight
Which shimmers golden through the patio window.
And his bones feel limber and strong and his supple
Muscles quiver for action,
Not pain.
A shining sparkle of diamonds coat the snowbanks
Built during night's gentle late spring snowfall.
He runs and chases high-pitched, falling
Invisible snowballs mixed
Showers of shoveled snow sprinkle
A stardust coating on his glistening black fur.

At noon, he settles his lumbering body onto
The warm lambskin rug and patiently awaits
For his dish to be set before him.
After a cozy nap in the warming sun,
He bounds through the muddy melting snow
To the lake.
He submerges his heavy torso into the soothing
Lapping waves
While his Huckleberry friend
Takes head-bobbing bounces
Through the bull rushes
Avoiding water at all costs.

The evening is filled with tireless luxurious long
Gentle strokes across his black
Velvet face and ears.
An occasional chocolate candy delights his senses,
And the sweet moves through his body free
Of danger or threat.
He curls his thunderous thighs and barrel chest
Into a ball on an unforbidden couch
To dream of rabbit races.
His body twitching in miniature moves
With each twist and turn of the imaginary hills
And muffled woof's reveal his victorious tale.


  1. Suzanne, How do you know? This week I had to put my Tortoise Shell cat to sleep. She was my true companion, unlike our contintious but sweet Orange Tabby. I didn't have pets I bonded with until I was in my 40's. I found cats very soothing and spiritual. You talk about Odie - your very own - and Chris's. Our dear, little cat was for all to see the friend of our son, who has an inoperable brain tumor. Like you, silently she was mine, too. She never claimed my company until our son was asleep. Like Odie, over the years I knew every type of move, knewt every patch of her coat and remember how she liked to petted and combed. Torties are notoriously sensitive to too much petting. I'll miss her sleeping by me and spooner her. Shouldn't admit cats sleep on the bed! I will miss the shoulder shaking crying and trying to hide it from our other cat. I once heard that Labs are so friendly and playful - that if the house were broken into, they wouldn't be upset - that they would show the prowler to the refrigerator and offer a snack! A wonderful story is Rainbow Bridge - on line, but you probably already know about it. Your pieces are uncanny. Thank you for this blog. Elise

  2. Elise,
    Our connection is so delightfully surprising to us both now. I so enjoy your input and look forward to hearing what you have to say. The uncanny thing about this post was that it was a last minute replacement for the one I intended to post. Divine intervention? Whatever the case, I love how it works. I'll be thinking about you as you work through this recent loss.

  3. Oh Mrs. English Teacher, I just realized that my post was full of misspellings and broken sentences, etc. I guess it was an emotional post. After I wrote it, I went out and stopped at the veterinarian’s office to pick up cat food. One of the technicians came out and had our girl’s ashes. I’m not quite sure what to do with them but it seemed awful to leave her there with no plan last week. I was so appreciative to be with her when she went to sleep. If it hadn’t been for the assistants, I would have been lost. They are like angels and seem to cherish everyone’s animals. Even at the emergency clinic a few days before, folks were beyond kind. Odie must have had quite a presence. Wouldn’t we all like to be as free and fun as Odie? I like the thought of him chasing rabbits. Our Callie Cat ran like a rabbit – never like a cat. Maybe Odie is looking after a menagerie. As pets pass on, I’ve done a lot of reading about the afterlife of animals. Frankly, all the great religions believe that animals certainly have a place in our future. But, we knew that, right? Take care. Elise

  4. First, never worry about grammar on this blog, Elise. It gets in the way of true feelings and I will never think or comment about that at all.
    I'd rather talk about precious pet ashes. My daughter a PURE and TRUE cat woman, and one of those wonderful vet techs who comforts those of us in loss, has now in her room 2 of her own kitties' ashes. Until she is settled more permanently, she does not want to bury them. My youngest son has Huckleberry's. Odie, we had buried on our land. Sam and Steph both find great comfort keeping the ashes near them. A picture, poem, or leash adorn the box. Pets are so much a part of our lives, they deserve that kind of reverence and remembrance. I hope you find a special place for your Tortie.

  5. Oh my gosh - a dog who loves chocolate. That really is heaven. Maybe, Odie will save a bunch for you, after a long and healthy life!

  6. Odie sounds like he was a great pal and loved the good life. I've never had a dog but I've had a grand-dog - a German Shepherd. He belonged to my daughter. She was very strict with him. One day though, when visiting her, we came back from shopping and found Grizzly sprawled across the dining room table, asleep! The look on his face was priceless, not to mention ours.

  7. Oh Suzanne - Thank God for Odie and for folks who know animals are people, too. Within a week's time, I had to put my second cat to sleep. She was 15. She literally saved a loved one's life many years ago. I've lost many people, places and things in life - more than some, much less than others. I've also had a life more full of blessings than I see in most around me. Just the fact that I have a husband, as you've said of yours, who is totally human, obtuse at times, dear and when all the world is crazy, you still have that safe place, is also my greatest gift. You talk about Odie with such understanding and poignancy. My young son who is ill is the one who handles everything the best and is wise. In my work with people with addictions, a common unifying element is the loss of a pet. It brings out a person's feelings when other things can't - and everyone understands, even those without pets. The expression of the loss is a starting point for re-entering the world of relationships. The vet's assistant has had many Labs and I could hear that Lab people are special. Thank you for sharing about Odie and believing that if we keep our skirts clean that we'll see them again. Of course, God's unconditional love for us and our salvation opens up a whole other topic, eh? Elise

  8. "If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went." ~Will Rogers

    "... what we have enjoyed, we can never lose ... all that we love deeply becomes a part of us." ~Helen Keller

  9. Happy day, if you have ever seen a big dog with snow on it's back running and playing. God Bless Odie!

  10. Wow what comments! I wish Blogger would let me address each one. So many thoughts and feelings! Yes Odie was a chocolate lover. It almost did him in when he got into a Christmas package of my MILs homemade fudge. Oh, he was so sick! Love the quotes and the image of Grizzly on the table! And Elise, my heart goes out to you this week as you have to deal with this second loss.
    Blessings! Suzanne

  11. Does Blogger limit your responses if people take up too many characters in their responses to your initial posting?


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