Several years ago my little sister’s friend had an indoor cat who (therefore) had never been spayed. One afternoon the cat tore the screen of a second-story window in half, jumped out, and, one can only assume, met up for a romantic interlude with an unspecified ne’er-do-well of a tom. The result was four fantastically cute kittens in need of good homes. My family agreed to take in Terpsichore (rhymes with “hickory”), whom we named for the Greek muse of dance.
Not only was Terpsichore a skilled and creative dancer (she could not be restrained from leaping into the air if she saw people doing it), she also enjoyed gymnastics (my sister used to complain that Terpsichore liked to pounce on her fingers whenever she practiced back handsprings). (“Couldn’t you have named her after the muse of sleep?” my mother once asked after Terpsichore danced all over her bed while she tried to take a nap.) Another favorite pastime, which I liked to call “Loch Ness Monster,” involved standing on her hind legs under the mesh covering draped over our ancient couch, her back paws and tail plainly visible, and swiping dramatically at things on the couch and floor.
Not to imply that Terpsichore was all sweetness, light, and hilarity, though. Although I have no poop stories that can rival fMhLisa’s, Terpsichore did have an unfortunate tendency to temporarily forget her housebreaking when she saw the Christmas tree go up (we’re talking an artificial tree! Surely her animal sensibilities should have clued her in that it was not in need of fertilization?).
But she made up for her faults with this endearing habit of climbing up your pants to lodge herself in your arms on her back, like a human baby. And her proverbial feline curiosity was adorable–night or day, Terpsichore was in the thick of anything that went on in the house. If you opened a bag of flour, Terpsichore would stand on tiptoe to peer inquisitively inside. If you shook the jar of shells on the living room bookshelf, Terpsichore would come dashing in at full speed to find out what was going on. My brother used to call her the Safety Inspection Officer, because every time he came over to fiddle with the computer, Terpsichore would eagerly investigate every move he made.
One blazing Sunday afternoon, shortly before her second birthday, we found Terpsichore dead in the back yard, ants already crawling from her eyes.
At the time, I had a part-time job transcribing television infotainment programs and, by chance, the very next morning I typed a human interest story on whether pets go to heaven. Not possible, maintained every religious leader who was consulted (as tears flooded my eyes); animals lack souls. But, countered owners of dead pets everywhere, there’d be no heaven without Fido or Fluffy.
In the eternal scheme of things, what are animals in Mormon thought? Where did they come from to begin with? Do they live eternally or not? Are they resurrected? Do they continue to progress, the way human spirits are said to? Are they judged? Do they interact with the human dead? Are there housepets in heaven? And can only domesticated species serves as heavenly pets, or can dinosaurs and tigers be adopted?
In some great big menagerie in the sky, are pteradactyls and ground sloths going about their business alongside koalas and mongooses, mosquitoes and gnats? Or do even chimpanzees, with whom we share 98.6% of our DNA,Â simply disappear into oblivion upon death? If not, what fate awaits them?
- 7 November 2006