I grieved hard for my Latte, who was the dog equivalent of St. Francis of Assisi — a little hairy mammal (Latte, not Francis) who radiated universal benevolence. She was a consoling, healing presence during the worst of my struggles against depression and cancer. In a very real sense, Latte was a better person than I am — a daily practitioner of the hardest parts of the Sermon on the Mount. She was meek, merciful (except to those godless squirrels), peaceable and pure of heart. At her departure, I was the one who mourned.
I can still feel the ache at night. Not long ago, my wife told me I had been crying in my sleep. I don’t usually recall my dreams. But in this case I remembered dreaming about the last time I saw Latte, after she was taken out of my arms to be euthanized at the veterinary hospital. She lifted her head and looked back me with her large, sad eyes. And then one of the most steadfast, lavish, uncomplicated sources of affection in my life was gone. (Even now I can hardly write the words.) She died, aptly, of an enlarged heart.
The 18th-century evangelist John Wesley gave a sermon, “The General Deliverance,” on the survival of animals in the afterlife — a very English line of theological argument. (Many Brits regard the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show as a preview of heaven.) The Creator, said Wesley, “saw, with unspeakable pleasure, the order, the beauty, the harmony, of all the creatures.” Wesley believed that during the end-time renewal of the world (a basic Christian doctrine), the “whole brute creation will then, undoubtedly, be restored, not only to the vigour, strength and swiftness which they had at their creation, but to a far higher degree of each than they ever enjoyed.”