My wife paints pets, one of several ways she finds joy in expressing her considerable artistic talents.

She’s been working for some time on a triptych of large oil paintings depicting women who sit along the crowded alleyways of the Muslim Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem, selling grape leaves used for making dolma. The paintings are carefully done and packed with detail to capture the essential dignity of the women as well as the rustic walls and streets of the neighborhood, but she still has a ways to go before they’re complete.

Grape leaf sellers in the Old City of Jerusalem: works in progress.

Paintings like that require much time and fierce concentration, so every now and then Susan will take a break from her ladies, as she calls them, to knock out a cute portrait of a dog or cat.

When word got out that she liked painting pets, friends and other folk started asking for portraits of their pets, and it turned into a nice little side business.

We noticed that most requests were for beloved pets that had recently died, as people sought ways to remember and honor a dog or cat that had been a faithful companion for many years.

Susan recently connected with an eco-friendly pet crematory serving central North Carolina. Now, people who want to keep their pets’ remains in a box rather than a shallow backyard grave can also commission a portrait of their four-footed friend.

A dog that felt perfectly at home in a Buddhist temple we visited in Luang Prabang, Laos.

The Bible’s biggest cynic, a man name Qoheleth (better known as Ecclesiastes), was puzzled by the difference between humans and animals. At a time when Second-Temple period Jews were beginning to contemplate a growing belief that the faithful went to heaven rather than an underworld place known as Sheol, he wrote “Who knows whether the spirit of humans ascends upward and the spirit of animals goes downward beneath the earth?” (Eccl. 3:21).

Today many people hold tightly to the belief that all dogs go to heaven.

We may not have a definitive answer on the eternal destiny of Rex or Roxie or Peanut, but we can have greater confidence that those who trust in Christ will live on in more than a portrait, however well done.

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