Saying Goodbye to Wilfred

Wednesday, Jun 27th, 2012

               Folks have different ways of grieving; I tend to write.  I said goodbye to a faithful friend yesterday, my thirteen year-old schnauzer, Wilfred.  He has been a constant companion since a wee pup, walking through good times and bad in our household; he accompanied the grading of papers, made every step with me in the care of my late husband, and always attended seminary gatherings at our home.

               WildredNamed for a Benedictine monk at St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, MN, and one of the rancorous colleagues of Martin Luther, he embodied both the stability of WIlfred and the feistiness of Amsdorf.  He ran away from home only once--to the seminary library (when we lived a block from the school.)  It was a grand joke among faculty and students.  "Other people's dogs dig into trash bins, Molly's runs to the library," observed a faculty colleague.
               Christian theologians have given long reflection to the resurrection of humans, and some have mused about the possibility of after-life for beloved dogs (less speculation about cats. . . ).  John Wesley wrote in the 18th century of the restoration of the "whole brute creation," by which he meant the animal world.  It was the great Karl Barth who made reference to animal life in his writings on salvation, and most conclude he was favorably disposed toward dogs going to heaven.  (What do you expect from a guy who titled his many volumes "Dogmatics?!")  Popular Christian writer C.S. Lewis struggled with the possibility of animals having a place in heaven, a difficult matter addressed only indirectly in Scripture.  In The Great Divorce he explores heaven and hell and suggests that pets might actually enter the realm of heaven because of their relationship to humans.
              If one follows recent theological thinking about the life to come, there may be good reason to conclude that God's purpose is the renewal of all creation, bringing together the heavens and the earth in ultimate redemption. So argues N.T. Wright, leading New Testament scholar. Such thinking acknowledges that humans are not the sole focus of salvation; God cares for "all creatures great and small."  Perhaps it is appropriate to trust that i will encounter my theologically attentive schnauzer once again.
               Before a compassionate vet put Wilfred to sleep, I thanked him for his life.  I thanked him for his many expressions of grace and joie de vivre.  I thanked him for his empathy and capacity simply to be present in my life.  I entrust him to the care of God who is making all things new.
Molly T. Marshall