At a very young age my Grandfather was given a dog as a pet. It was a pathetic and rather sickly dachshund. But it was his, and he loved it and he nursed it till it was back to some semblance of health. Thereafter his life was never complete without a dachshund as his constant companion. Skipper was one of a series of dachshunds throughout his life. Skipper was his most beloved and was with the Major on the Great Retreat from Burma into India and throughout the War years and his return to Mogok.
In the following excerpt Skipper takes over from the Major and writes a short essay himself, airing his views on the relationship between humans and dogs and ponders the question as to whether dogs go to Heaven.
Do Dogs Go To Heaven?
The other day I heard the Major arguing as to whether dogs can go to Heaven. It is a matter of interest to me, because there are so many places to which dogs are not admitted, which means that we have to be left behind at home where it is very lonely till the Master comes back. We are not allowed in offices, which means that Caesar and I in Delhi are bored to death in the Major’s room till the bus brings him back, and his shrill whistle sends us scuttling down to welcome him. Then dogs are not allowed in theaters and hotels, though if by chance we enter, everyone seems very glad to see us. Often we are refused admittance to ships and airplanes, and this has resulted in some terrible tragedies when, in war time, there may be no other means of conveyance. I once saw a dog deserted on a wharf to the infinite distress of himself and his master, just because the ship would not take him. Of course there are rules, but the Major thinks that sometimes they are made by people who have no imagination, and certainly no sympathy for dogs. Such people are incapable of understanding the affection that may exist between man and his dog, but why should their ignorance be allowed to inflict so much pain? All rules, so the Major says, are made to be broken on special occasions, but the trouble is that some men have not the sense, nor the guts, to take the initiative on those special occasions. I remember once that the Major had to travel by plane, and he said beforehand that if I could not go, neither would he. Luckily it was an American plane, and no objection was raised at all. I must say the Americans are much more humane in such matters than are the British.
But concerning the particular argument as to whether dogs can go to Heaven, it seems that some people hold strongly that they may not. I know in some places the regulations are very strict, and I was rather apprehensive about it till I heard the Major declare quite definitely that if I could not go to Heaven, neither would he. After all, that is all that concerns me, because I am only happy when I am with him, and he is only happy when he is with me.
The fact is that the relationship between a dog and his Master is quite peculiar because the character of a dog can only be developed to the full through a human agency. The humblest village cur can be brought to a perfection of loyalty if, by rare chance, he comes under the proper influence of an understanding human being.
The Major says a poet has written of dogs as man’s first friend, and of a spirit in them that answers his every mood. If the Master wants to go for a walk, the dog too wants that very thing, or he will be happy or sad in complete and immediate response to the Master’s mood.
But that does not mean that in general dogs are not critical of men. They have their own standard of judgment based, not on laws of justice, but upon the elementary feeling of sympathy. A good man is one who likes dogs. A bad man is one who dislikes them. Actually, I think, we have an extra sense which warns us in these matters—which informs us in some strange way of things like death and danger, which are beyond the range of those senses which we share with human beings.
Yes, I sense, even without his telling me, that the Major will never consent to go to Heaven unless he can take me with him. That knowledge makes me a very happy dachshund.