I believe there is an afterlife of some sort, a kind of heaven, that is not the province only for those of Christian faith, but for all those who espouse love, kindness and service to others above self, rather than vengeance, self-aggrandizement and intolerance.

No real religious faith is intolerant of others.

As a Christian, I was taught about angels, but I have come to believe that the real angels in our human journey are dogs, and probably other pets, like cats, but my experience is with dogs.

Our human children grow up and leave us to make their own lives, as they should. There is still some feeling of loss and abandonment.

Our canine children are the children who stay with us for their entire lives, their instinctual mission to love us unconditionally, be completely loyal, and even put our lives above their own if necessary.

Do you know any human who would do that, other than a parent — and not all parents?

We lost our beloved Bobby the Dog — so-called because my husband’s name is Bob — suddenly and without warning a week ago.

He was a chocolate Lab/Shar-Pei mix, or I prefer designer dog as a Labra-Pei. He was all love, kindness and devotion, and literally my husband’s soul mate.

Our dogs give us so much more than we could ever give them. How can you pay for forgiving love and loyalty, and their ability to know when we hurt emotionally or physically and come to us to comfort us?

It is so wrong that dogs are considered property. Someone who is devoted to you is a companion, a life partner, not property. I do not believe that there are bad dog breeds, but there are bad dogs made that way by abusive humans. Their human partners should be held to a much higher standard for their care and well-being.

Someone who abandons a dog should have his or her wages garnished to help support the animal in a new home. Shelters that allow dogs held too long to be euthanized (killed) should be eliminated, and if we need to pay higher taxes for this, we should.

I don’t really believe in capital punishment, but I think penalties for dog abuse should be increased greatly, and offenders should do serious time and be advertised as abusers, as are offenders who abuse children sexually.

We are still weeping, afraid to come home to an empty house without our beloved Bobby at the door holding one of his dad’s baseball caps in joy. I can’t pick up his water dishes yet, and his medications are on the counter.

I made him lamb stew as part of his regular diet, and I am not yet able to go to the meat area of our Publix.

When I wake at night, I pat down by my legs to touch him, because he always slept with his head on my ankles. He is not there.

My love and my faith convince me that dogs go to heaven because, if they don’t, why would any of us want to go there?

— Linda Colvard Dorian is a DeLand resident, and a grieving owner of a beloved dog.