by Father Mark Goldasich
Their names are etched in my heart. They were the most faithful companions: Touché (no idea why I chose this name), Ranger (because I loved stories of the Texas Rangers — the lawmen, not the ballclub), Geraldine (after one of comedian Flip Wilson’s characters), Mačka (meaning “cat” in Croatian) and Shadow (the name already given to the kitten by the child who gave it to me).
Being an only child, pets were ever-present friends for me. In addition to the joy they brought, they also taught me many lessons: responsibility, patience, loyalty. One of the hardest lessons, though, came when the pet died. Part of me, it seemed, went with them.
That situation is dealt with beautifully in the following true story (several versions of it are on the internet), which dates from mid-August 2006 in San Antonio:
Abbey, a 14-year-old dog, died. Meredith, a 4-year-old girl, was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey. She asked her mother to help her write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would recognize her. Here are the words Meredith dictated:
Will you please take care of my dog? Abbey died yesterday and is with you in heaven. I miss her very much. I’m happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick. I hope you will play with her. She likes to swim and play with balls.
I am sending a picture of her so when you see her you will know that she is my dog. I really miss her.
The letter, with a picture of Abbey and Meredith, was addressed to “God/Heaven.” Meredith’s return address was on the envelope along with several stamps because it had to go all the way to heaven. The little girl then dropped it off at the post office.
After a few days, a package wrapped in gold paper arrived on the front porch addressed “To Mer.” Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers titled “When a Pet Dies.” Taped to its inside front cover was Meredith’s letter in its opened envelope. On the opposite page was the picture of Meredith and Abbey and this note:
Abbey arrived safely in heaven. Having the picture was a big help and I recognized her right away. Abbey isn’t sick anymore. Her spirit is here with me just like it stays in your heart. Abbey loved being your dog.
I don’t have any pockets to keep your picture in so I’m sending it back to you in this little book for you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by.
Thank you for the beautiful letter and thank your mother for helping you to write it. What a wonderful mother you have. I picked her especially for you.
I send my blessings every day. Remember that I love you very much. By the way, I’m easy to find. I am wherever there is love.
As we approach Oct. 4, the feast day of Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, bless the pets that are a part of your life. Here is a brief prayer, adapted from the Catholic Rural Life website:
“Blessed are you, Lord our God, for you have given us innocent companions on our life journey, animals wild and tame. They are wonderful in all their variety of shapes, sizes and abilities. We marvel at their beauty, which draws us closer to you who made them.
Keep them thriving and able to carry out what your law intends for them. . . . Bless these animals with us now and all the creatures throughout your good earth. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen!”