Man, I was watching the evening news yesterday and saw this story. It played all evening. Pope Francis comforts a little child who was grieving the death of its pet with the promise that our pets would be with us in Heaven: "Paradise is open to all creatures." Social media took to the story and suddenly it's everywhere.
One of those cutesy, make-you-feel-warm-and-fuzzy-all-over stories the media loves. Okay, so do a lot of us love them too after a steady diet of sensationalistic bad news. Alas, like a lot of things that sound to good to be true, this is a hoax. David Gibson supplies the details over at Religion News Service.
Gibson points out: "The story had so much going for it: Francis took his papal name from St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of environmentalism who famously greeted animals as brothers and sisters." Among other things.
Mitzi was the first dog I ever personally owned. She was a tan and chocolate Chihuahua, and I loved her dearly. I was eleven years old, and remember well I when I first got her (she was found by some young adults who couldn't keep her and so gave her to my mom, who promptly gave her to me) how when I cradled her in my arms (which was often), she would hide her face and eyes in the crook of my elbow.
For a year or more she was my constant companion and bestest friend. She died when I was 12, after becoming impregnated by my parent's Chihuahua. We came home one day and found her in great distress. Mom took Mitzi to the emergency animal hospital. Later that evening the veterinarian called to tell us he had cut out thirteen puppies - far more than she could handle. The next day he called to let us know she died overnight. And just like that my best friend was gone. I still have collar in my possessions today, over forty years later. I could never forget Mitzi.
She did leave me a gift, though. Before her tragic pregnancy, she had gifted me with two little female puppies (the third, a male, died soon after birth). Runt and Sweet Thang, I named them. Runt looked quite a bit like her, but was much lighter in color. These little friends stayed with me until I was well into my twenties.
I never owned another dog. Losing my little friends was just too painful. I had second thoughts about getting Toonces, my cat. I had befriend scores of neighborhood cats over the years, who left me one by one. But there was always a bit of distance between us. Toonces sleeps on my bed. Spends time in my lap. When I am home she stays in her little bed, just feet from where I sit at my computer desk. She does keep me company during the long hours I am otherwise alone. To keep me humble, she still hisses, swats, and bites me on occasion. But those occasions are rare now. She has made her way into my heart.
She also reminded me of the first cat I ever personally owned, Mittens. Solid black she was, except for white "mittens" on her paws. She was an affectionate cat who would let me hold her and carry her around endlessly (but never hissed, swatted, or bit me). I had her when I was 8. I had her for a couple of years. And then one sunny summer evening some wild teenagers drove down my street and purposely ran her down. I thought my world would end.
Now frankly, I'm not convinced that people go to Heaven when they die. I hope so, but I just don't know. My pets have been such a treasured part of my life, I can see the comfort that sharing Heaven with them could be. However, the Rainbow Bridge must remain only a comforting thought for now.
If nothing else this faux story took me on a bittersweet journey down memory lane. My life has been greatly enriched by the pets I and my family have owned down through the years.
In fact, as I'm writing this I have my front door open, just letting the sun shine in through the storm door. And there is Toonces, rolling around on her back on the carpet, just sunning herself. I think I'm going to wrap this up and get down there with her.