She shocked me by what she’d just said.

I was 11 or 12 at the time, in 6th grade at Saint Paul Lutheran School in Mount Prospect. Our class was talking about heaven and things like that, and the teacher had asked us what we were looking forward to seeing in heaven. (Looking back, it was a very morbid conversation!) Classmates were saying things like their grandma or favourite aunt, but I hadn’t had any close family members who had died at that time.

Now, when I was growing up, we had an Irish Setter named Cindy. She would follow me around faithfully. When I got too close to the chain-link fence, two German Shepherds barking and snarling on the other side, Cindy would wedge between me and the fence, pushing me away from danger. I even remember, being very young at the time, staring out of my crib at night, the room dark but the door open, the light in the hallway streaming in across the floor, shining on Cindy lying on the floor, her brown eyes gazing up at me to make sure I fell asleep safe and sound. I only have fond memories of Cindy.

So when this discussion came around, and it was my turn to say who I was looking forward to meeting again in heaven (again I still think this was a morbid conversation for 11 and 12 year olds), I said, “Cindy”.

The teacher was a bit perplexed and asked who Cindy was, so I explained. And, quite flatly, with a scoff and a dismissive air, my teacher proceeded to tell the entire class in a mocking sort of way, “But dogs don’t go to heaven.”

Being the rational-minded person I am, I asked why. Why, if dogs are God’s creations, don’t they go to heaven when they die?

Because, she said, dogs don’t have souls. No animals have souls: only humans.

This greatly upset me and angered me. It rocked my foundations to the core and started me questioning my faith.

Up to that point, whatever teachers had said was the truth; I don’t believe I ever questioned anything up to that point. But her comments I questioned. It started me diverging from the Christianity of the masses to the Christianity I believe in today.

Jenah, as some readers may know, is our big dog. (We do have two Chihuahuas, Levi and Nyota, and I can use examples on all three, but Jenah is the easiest.) She has personality plus. When she found out she wasn’t a human — she looked in the floor to ceiling mirror with Noel and me standing behind her, looking down at her face, then up at us, then down at her own again, then walked away slowly with her head down and her tail down — she was depressed for weeks.

When I cry, she comforts me. She even tries to cheer me up! When I’m happy, we play with her toys or joke around. When she and I are tired, she lays down with me and we fall asleep. She plays games with us. She learns words quickly. She knows peoples’ names and knows when they are coming over. And each person, she treats differently. Noel’s mother for example: Jenah is very attentive, very loving but very careful around her (as she is 90, you know).

Looking into her big brown eyes, there is intelligence and personality in her. She is loving and caring towards all the other animals and us and every person who has walked in our door bar one. Even right now as I type this, she’s staring at me, big smile on her face, with her ears up and her tail wagging.

I love her, and she loves me.

So, with all that in mind, how can she not have a soul?

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