Hounds in Heaven

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By: Jessica O’Connor

Are there dogs in Heaven? I think there must be. I can’t imagine that God would give me something here on Earth that I love this much only to withhold it from me on the other side of the pearly gates.

I had a sobering thought recently as I was going about my daily chores at the kennels. My dogs tend to live between 10-15 years. I will be 37 this year. In accordance with some rough averages and best case scenarios, there is a good chance that I will only get to experience 3-4 more “generations” of hounds in my lifetime.

The realization hit me like a ton of bricks, and I subsequently spent a good ten minutes hugging my two favorite foxhounds while I had a bit of a meltdown. Life seems very short when you look at it in that way.

In an effort to reframe the thoughts in a more positive manner, I told myself this simply means I’ll continue to do my best to ensure that every generation is at least a little better in some way than the last. That they will be part of the legacy I leave when one day I’m only here in spirit. Hopefully when my dog hunting friends that are left behind glimpse Poison Whiskey on a set of papers they’ll smile and think to themselves that I made the breed (and the sport) a little better as well.

When it’s time to tell me goodbye (many many years down the road I pray!), I hope the people that care about me will turn my hounds loose one more time. I hope when they hear my best dog strike and the rest of the pack fall in on a fox race they’ll cast my ashes to the wind and let them shimmer across the breaking dawn to settle in the place I loved best. There’ll be no need for sadness, because I know in my heart I’ll be watching with a big black and white Treeing Walker and two tri-colored foxhound brothers at my side. And without a doubt one heck of a pack that’s been waiting patiently for me to get there and turn them loose again will be barking at their own set of pearly gates. We’ll set out to hunt for all of eternity, where the standers never miss and the dogs always come back safely.

A dog (wo)man never really dies. I’ll still be here. In the fog rising over a winter morning cutover a pack of good deer dogs has been cut loose in. In the sunrise peeking through the trees over a wily fox race. In the eye of an old hoot owl turning toward a coon dog throwing a locate on a neighboring tree, and in the sound waves of a steady chop mouth guiding his handler to his quarry. Maybe there’ll even be a little bit of me in the smile of my niece and nephew’s children and grandchildren when a hound puppy touches their heart for the first time. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll gaze at their aunt’s photos, flip through smudged photo albums adorned with images of me with the dogs I cherished, run their fingers across my name in a magazine by-line or old hunt results and decide they want to be a part of this world too.

So, are there dogs in Heaven? I choose to continue believing that yes, there are, because these hounds have spent years showing me a glimpse of Heaven here on Earth.

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