Animal-lovers who are also Christians often find the Church doctrine that life after death is reserved for human beings an uncomfortable one. Surely in any Heaven worthy of the name little Snookums will be there, licking his celestial testicles in his transcendental basket?
Such is the central idea of A Carr's little book; a heartfelt, though not altogether coherent, plea for the recognition of the rights of animals in this world as well as that beyond. While his or her argument may sometimes lack logic, who could fail to be swayed by the sentiment of lines such as these?
THE LITTLE BLACK DOG
I wonder if Christ had a little black dog
All curly and woolly like mine;
With two long silk ears and a nose cold and wet,
And two eyes, brown and tender, that shine.
I'm sure if He had, that that little black dog
Knew right from the first, He was God,
That he needed no proof that Christ was divine,
And just worshiped the ground where He trod.
I'm afraid that He hadn't, because I have read
How He prayed in the garden, alone;
For all of His friends and disciples had fled—
Even Peter, the one called a stone.
And, Oh, I am sure that that little black dog,
With a heart so tender and warm,
Would never have left Him to suffer alone,
But, creeping right under His arm,
Would have licked the dear fingers, in agony clasped,
And, counting all favors but loss,
When they took Him away, would have trotted behind
And followed Him quite to the cross.
It's a thought, isn't it? Though, actually, for all we know Jesus might have been more of a cat person, or even a frog fancier. Perhaps He kept a solitary bee. Unlikely as it seems, there is insubstantial evidence to suggest the phrase "fisher of men" may have been a mediaeval mistranslation of "man of fish", meaning that He owned an aquarium.
As well as speculating on the nature of Jesus's relationship with His Hypothetical Hound and the status of animals in the afterlife, Carr addresses the equally controversial topics of vivisection (bad) and vegetarianism (good). Throughout she/he maintains a consistent standard of argument, dragging in material from whatever source supports his/her position, including tales of the Buddha, Native American myths, and the Apocrypha. It does not seem to have occurred to him/her that citing such an admixture of sources, ones that disagree with one another on many fundamentals, hardly makes for a compelling case.
However, I have to say that I do agree with her/him on the central issue: that if after death we persist then so do all the little fluffy bunnies, parasitical worms, poisonous snakes and cute koala bears; giant squid, sardines, penguins, parakeets, boobies and buzzards; wasps, whippets, woodpeckers and whitebait.
What, though, of the other kingdoms of nature? What of mushrooms, maples, ferns, algae and lichen? Are they to be cast out of God's kingdom? May not the lowly hepatitis B virus or E. coli bacterium nestle in Abraham's bosom? Cannot their tiny voices, unheard in this world, at last be lifted in His eternal praise? I tell you, if it's not open to all I shan't be going: I feel so strongly about it, I'll just stay right here instead.