Much has been written about whether there's a spiritual destination for our pets: Do they go to "heaven" when they die? Will we find them waiting when we arrive? I read an email story about a man turned away at the pearly gates because dogs were not allowed, so he and his dog kept traveling down the road, only to find the real heaven where all God's creatures were welcome.
While it was a nice story, it still smacked of God testing us yet again. What's with that? Why do so many of our stories about God deal with testing? Personally I think it says more about us than God.
Malachi was born on Christmas day in 1990. The runt of the litter, born of a calico mom and a black manx dad, he was distinctive from all the other kittens who were either calico or black. He was an odd combination: gray tabby body with gray points and HUGE blue saucer eyes. And half a tail. It was love at first sight. I picked him out and then went home to wait for him to grow big enough to leave home. After a week or so, all the other kittens were thriving except mine; it was a large litter and he just wasn't getting to the food counter in time. The owner took them all to the vet for their baby shots and the vet advised her to put him down. "That cat's never going to be right. He has a birth defect, maybe an undeveloped digestive system." But she knew I would be heartbroken, so against all odds, she took him home and force-fed him from a bottle. He got the hang of it after another week and began to gain weight and play along with the others.
He was not an especially intelligent cat. (Maybe he did have a birth defect.) But he was the most loving cat I ever owned. He came when I called, woke me up in the morning with a kiss on the nose, accompanied me to the bathroom and drank out of the faucet. Every time I moved, he went with me: to New York City in 1995, to Queens in 2000, to Long Island City in 2002, and finally in 2003, when I entered the convent, he went back to Florida to live with my ex-husband. He was not fond of other cats and there was a housefull, so he peed all over the carpet to show his disapproval. I personally would not have put up with that (he never peed on my carpet) but my ex-husband gets along better with animals than people, and he was gracious and forgiving. Malachi finally settled in and made friends, and (mostly) quit peeing on the carpet.
About six months ago Malachi was diagnosed with feline diabetes. Today he drew his last earthly breath, just a month short of celebrating his sixteenth birthday... a pretty long and exciting life for a cat who was judged "never going to be right." He was blessed at St. Bartholomew's Church on St. Francis day for three consecutive years. He had flown on an airplane, ridden the subway, and made a cross-country trip by car. (He liked to move but hated traveling.) And he got to spend his retirement in Florida.
Is he in heaven? You betcha.