Where does Fido go when he dies?
December 13th, 2010
04:29 PM ET

Where does Fido go when he dies?

By Padmananda Rama, CNN

"What happens to animals when they die?" author Ptolemy Tompkins wonders in his new book.

"I looked into that dog's eyes and knew there was something more," says Tompkins, a writer for the Christian magazine Guideposts.

At the age of 12, Tompkins named that dog - a hungry mutt with a “copper-colored spot on her shoulder” - Penny. Decades later, in his latest book, "The Divine Life of Animals," he briefly describes how he adopted Penny during a family vacation to Mexico.

“Penny and I had connected. I had looked into her face and seen something there,” he writes. Later, he concludes, “Penny, then, must have had a soul.”

This intuition leads the author on a far-reaching journey, exploring various faiths and philosophies, and searching for answers to explain the possibilities of our pets’ afterlife.

During his time writing for Guideposts, Tompkins told CNN, he received numerous letters from animal lovers who had asked their parish ministers similar questions after the death of a pet and received less-than-satisfying responses.

“They’re so heartbroken. They go to find out what happened to their poodle … and they say, ‘Am I going to see my dog again in heaven?’ and the pastor sort of scratches his head for a second and says, ‘No, you’re not. There are only people in heaven.’ ”

Tompkins' book is written for animal lovers who are dissatisfied by this response - and who are willing to take a leap of faith along with Tompkins as he searches for clues to animals’ divinity, piecing together spiritual arguments from primitive cultures as well as Christianity.

“If you look a little deeper in the Bible, you can find evidence that writers of the Bible actually did have a deeper respect for the spirituality of animal creation than appears to be on the surface,” Tompkins says.

“There is a spiritual reality to animals,” the author explains. In researching his book, which he described as “one man’s quest to discover whether the souls of animals live on,” Tompkins looks to Christian theories of the concept of the Resurrection.

“Nature is resurrected too ... so if you’re a Christian and you’re interested in this kind of thinking, there's plenty of argument that suggests that all of nature is included in the idea of redemption, which is central to Christianity.”

This holiday season, as you’re checking off your gift list, Tompkins’ book may be a good option for pet lovers in your life who are ready to explore whether their favorite fluffy companion may also have a spiritual side.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief

soundoff (868 Responses)
  1. jf2

    It must be a slow news day,,or sarah Palin is on vacation...

    December 13, 2010 at 7:06 pm |
  2. Trey

    If there is a heaven and hell, dogs go to heaven, and people go to hell. Otherwise, they just rot in the ground like the rest of us. Unless, of course, they are cremated.

    December 13, 2010 at 7:05 pm |
  3. Linda in Los Angeles

    Dogs, animals do not know what love is (most humans don't either). The proof is people who kick their dogs to the curb and the dog goes back to them. Love is based on self sacrifice and good morals etc. And yes, I have owned dogs all my life. Dogs, like other animals have spirits. Once the living are dead, the spirit (and the soul) is released to another demension we do not know and can not begin to guess at. I debate whether or not animals/dogs have souls, as that seems to be a human trait. Since in heaven we will not marry, be given in marriage etc (in other words, it will not be about our desires, but about continuing to serve God as we did on earth), there may not be animals. Then again, there was in Eden and perhaps we come full circle back to what we were created for in the first place: worshipping God and being care takers of the earth.

    December 13, 2010 at 7:04 pm |
    • Trey

      Linda in LA, what's your point? Humans are animals, too, so what makes souls a "human trait"? How do you know if a dog knows what love is? Do you know what is inside a dog's head?

      December 13, 2010 at 7:09 pm |
    • Trey

      By the way, Linda, if God is real, why would he not allow dogs in heaven? Did God not create dogs like he did humans, although humans are animals?

      December 13, 2010 at 7:10 pm |
  4. Pets in Paradise

    "A man will walk into Hell with both eyes open...but even the Devil can't fool a dog."
    ~ from Twlight Zone episode "The Hunt"

    December 13, 2010 at 7:03 pm |
    • Trey

      So true.

      December 13, 2010 at 7:11 pm |
    • Dindy.....

      Dogs are very sensitive. They save human life from danger. Dogs follow their master even to the grave. I think God has a special place for them too.

      December 14, 2010 at 6:34 pm |
  5. dandifesto

    ah, my mom says that animal doctors use their bodies to learn surgery

    December 13, 2010 at 7:02 pm |
  6. a slozomby

    the seven deadly sins and spot:
    1) Lust
    he humps legs, pillows, other dogs outside of wedlock.
    2) Gluttony
    put a cup of food down and its gone. put 10 cups of food down and its gone.
    3) Greed
    give one dog a bone and not the other. watch the fighting ensue.
    4) Sloth
    depends on the dog. buts some are downright lazy.see hounds, bulldogs,,....
    5) Wrath
    take away his bone and he'll poop on the carpet. seems like wrath to me.
    6) Envy
    give one dog a bone and not the other. watch the fighting ensue.
    7) Pride
    hard to quantify in a dog but praise the dog and watch him perk up.

    so now that we've given examples of dogs breaking all the cardinal sins. its pretty clear they'll go to hell.

    December 13, 2010 at 7:00 pm |
  7. Kelley

    Okay, here's the real facts: Animals all have collective souls, so most animals just belong to that. However, some animals that live with or serve humans are inhabited by an elemental being, also called a nature spirit, who ensouls the animal during the animal's lifetime. This being often will ensoul several pets of the same person over time. It does this in order to spiritually evolve. So, the being you love, who stay with you and loves you, is in fact immortal!

    December 13, 2010 at 6:59 pm |
  8. CuzzyLINY

    Animals go to Heaven. Animals are Innocent, even the Killers. They are just doing what they need to do to Survive.

    Men go to Hell, because we are cursed with Knowledge of our World.

    December 13, 2010 at 6:56 pm |
  9. SJ

    What an incredibly inane article. Even if, by some insane long shot, the Christian notion of heaven is correct, I very much doubt you will care at all whether or not your pets are there – You are experiencing "oneness with God", which is supposedly the most blissful state one can be in. So, really, something as trivial a pet pales in comparison.

    December 13, 2010 at 6:52 pm |
  10. satan


    December 13, 2010 at 6:51 pm |
  11. MikeM

    The rendering plant.

    Interestingly, I also want to go there. "So, what'd you do in your afterlife?"

    "Bar of soap. You?"

    December 13, 2010 at 6:49 pm |
  12. oh please

    this is NOT news.....
    do you guys report news anymore?

    OBVIOUSLY you don't use grammar checkers, spell checkers or ACTUAL editors.....so why use actual NEWS?

    December 13, 2010 at 6:47 pm |
  13. Captain Spaulding

    AMG, this implies that the bible was not created by a bunch of delusional men. Obviously, in any rational person's opinion, when a dog dies, it dies, there is nothing more, and nothing less.

    December 13, 2010 at 6:47 pm |
  14. Deion

    This is the most asinine nonsense I have ever seen. If it is true, then I think there is a serious ethical problem with killing sentient beings with souls because they are delicious while embracing sentient beings with souls because they are "loyal" or "cute." Are we sure a 3rd grader didn't author this?

    December 13, 2010 at 6:47 pm |
  15. Markus

    Is it possible that eternity does not work on an earthly time scale and that whatever is a part of us or that we cognate remains a part of us through interconnectedness? Perhaps when we go beyond construct and actively participate and recognise "phase" we may come to the understanding on how it is we put ourselves into our own personal heavens and hells.

    Any thinking person with a pet might know that, and that is also what we might consider an aspect of free will.

    Have a great day everyone.

    December 13, 2010 at 6:46 pm |
  16. David The Great

    I spent a weekend trying to figure out what happens to animal souls when they die. 12 dead rabbits and a bottle of Night Train later, I concluded that I have too much time on my hands.

    December 13, 2010 at 6:45 pm |
  17. Lenic

    haha only people go to heaven? are you kidding me? talk about the death of nature paradigm! that idiot (the pastor) thinks we're somehow 'above' animals and/or nature is ridiculous. we're a part of it – as to what happens after? who knows... is that even the right question?

    December 13, 2010 at 6:41 pm |
  18. AnimalLvr

    Well, I'm a vegan and have always thought that people underestimate the emotions and cognitive abilities of a lot of our fellow creatures. I also have pets and love them very much.
    However, I just can't believe that souls exist, human or non-human. It seems like such a clear case of wishful thinking. I think that when I die, just like my beloved cats, my body will decompose and the chemicals within it will go into plants and, in turn, the animals who eat the plants. That's my concept of immortality, and simply the facts of nature. Our consciousness doesn't survive death, as it is a product of the brain. It may be sad to accept that when Fido or Fluffy dies (or what about that cow you ate for lunch?), you will never see them again. Same goes for Grandma and Grandpa. But to me, the simple truth of nature's recycling is better than any comforting lie religion has to offer.

    December 13, 2010 at 6:40 pm |
  19. Josh

    God gave man a soul. Man gave dog a soul.

    December 13, 2010 at 6:40 pm |
  20. CuzzyLINY

    Where do pets go when they die? They go to a lake of fire and fry! Won't see 'em again 'til the 4th of July.

    December 13, 2010 at 6:38 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.