dogs four collage

Death and Dogs

Death is a part of life. As cliché as the cliché is, it’s true.

Since neither energy nor matter can be destroyed, reincarnation makes the most sense to me to explain what happens when we die.

Our bodies are matter, and when they break down after death, they don’t disappear. They just change. Our atoms go into the air or the soil, becoming something new. The atoms making up your body right now came from the stars and might have been William Shakespeare at one time. They will continue on after you.

Whatever makes us “us” is energy, called a soul or by any other name. It also continues on, changed, but not destroyed.

In Buddhism, this transformation takes the shape of an endless cycle of rebirth. In the cycle, everyone was once someone to everyone. There is no real death, just appearance and disappearance. From each incarnation, we learn something. Not like a I-was-Cleopatra-in-a-past-life-and-I-remember-the-Nile kind of way, but lessons about human nature and compassion.

Only the best people were dogs in their past existences. Think about it. What better form is there to learn about loyalty, compassion, love, humor, empathy, and faith than a dog? Look into their eyes, and you’ll see it.

Consider your nemesis, the one person you could never love much less tolerate. Wouldn’t they benefit from living a lifetime through a dog’s eyes?

Death is a part of life, but it is not the end. That doesn’t mean death is not sad.

For mourning, I like the following better than The Rainbow Bridge:

by Barbara Crooker

If “Heaven is a lovely lake of beer” as St. Bridget wrote,
then dog heaven must be this tub of kibble, where you can push
your muzzle all day long without getting bloat or bellyache,
Where every toilet seat is raised, at the right level
for slurping and fire hydrant and saplings tell you, “Here.
Relieve yourself on us.” And the sun and moon
fall at your feet, celestial frisbees flinging themselves
in shining arcs for your soft mouth to retrieve. Rumi says,
“Personality is a small dog trying to get the soul to play,”
but you are a big dog, with an even larger heart, and you
have redeemed our better selves. Forgive us for the times
we walked away, wanted to do taxes or wash dishes
instead of playing fetch or tugger. ln the green field
of heaven, there are no collars, no leashes, no delivery trucks
with bad brakes, and all the dogs run free. Barking is allowed,
and every pocket holds a treat. Sit. Stay. Good dog.

Barbara Crooker, “Retriever” from Selected Poems. Published by FutureCycle Press. © 2015 Barbara Crooker. (buy now)