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. Richard Wolford, PhD

    The same place as humans and all other animals: nowhere. This is a loaded question because it assumes that there is a place to go. Unfortunately, there just isn't. This life is all you have, don't blow it.

    December 13, 2010 at 7:29 pm |
  2. mike

    Now, you see, this very issue should be the springboard for any rational human being to finally realize how utterly stupid religion is. But, instead, some try to bend their religion to work with it. Typical.

    December 13, 2010 at 7:29 pm |
  3. Angus

    Hmmm...I wonder how broadly we can apply this priciple. Are there dozens of long lost houseplants waiting for me in the afterlife? Do pet fish get to go to a special under-water heaven? What about the bacteria I killed with mouthwash this morning...

    December 13, 2010 at 7:26 pm |
  4. TheRationale

    The more human an animal (or anything) looks, the more human-like attributes people give them, such as souls. Souls, of course, do not exist, nor does the afterlife, but it is interesting to see how people are so predictable at this stuff.

    December 13, 2010 at 7:25 pm |
    • Frogist

      @The Rationale: It's called anthropomorphism. And that's exactly what so many people are posting about. How dogs are good. How they give love. How the author knew the dog has a soul. It's all us projecting our characteristics and morality on them. And then extending that to whether or not they get to heaven. Granted some animals show "moral" behaviour as in behaviour that aidds them in their societies. But to say that animals have our same morals of unconditional love, sacrifice or honesty as we know these things to be, is to assume knowledge of their minds that we don't have.

      December 14, 2010 at 12:16 pm |
    • Let Us Prey

      @ Frogist

      You just don't get it... I can only hope that you're young enough that your embitterment hasn't become a permanent condition. It would seem that most any dog is able to show emotion than you and your ilk are capable of mustering.

      December 14, 2010 at 12:42 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Let Us Prey:
      "It would seem that most any dog is able to show emotion than you and your ilk are capable of mustering."
      It would seem capable to show emotion according to your interpretation. My Mom would look at my cat and think it's crying when it rubs it's eye and fluid leaks out. But actually that means your cat has herpes. You can take pictures of your dog "smiling" but it's really growling in an aggressive position. Hey, I don't count out the possibility that animals may have emotions, but to think that the avg joe who mistakenly thinks his dog wagging his tail is all about being happy instead of as a show of agitation, tells me that what you assume esp without rigorous scientific testing is not to be trusted.
      Also, seeing as you do not know me, it's rather presumptive to speak of my emotional responses, or those of my ilk (whatever that means), based on my post. You read bitter, I read level-headed. I suppose the interpretation is in the eye of the beholder. But one might ask if you can get a human's emotional state wrong, how can you hope to be so sure about an animal's?

      December 15, 2010 at 11:48 am |
    • Let Us Prey

      @ Frogist

      " I suppose the interpretation is in the eye of the beholder. "

      Yep. Truer words were never written, and could serve to reasonably concluded about 99% of the conversations on 'controversial' topics that CNN posts here. But we all seem to cherish the process of debate nonetheless.

      December 15, 2010 at 10:32 pm |
  5. Lola

    All animal spirits go to the same place people's spirits go, we all go back to GOD when we die. We were all made by GOD's love and when He is ready for us to return to Him we shed our bodies and go back to him. Everything that GOD made will return to HIm when it's body dies. He does the judging to see who gets to stay with HIm. He made the spirits of animals for man's pleasure here on earth, and He takes them back when He is ready for them to come back. Of course they go back to GOD, why wouldn't they?

    December 13, 2010 at 7:24 pm |
  6. abby

    All creatures great and small are a part of God's kingdom. As for my pets, when my pets have died I have had them cremated and have kept their ashes; the one I have now will be cremated and all their remains interred with my ashes. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

    December 13, 2010 at 7:24 pm |
  7. cm

    Just my cat and those other furry kids I have loved throughout my life....will greet me when I am done here. God loved them first.

    December 13, 2010 at 7:22 pm |
  8. MattoSensei

    let's grow up

    December 13, 2010 at 7:22 pm |
  9. Truthurts

    We might as well accept that all humans are intrinsically agnostic. We can believe, have faith in, speculate all we want for as long as we'd like, but until an actual human being (or a pet) actually verifiably dies and verifiably returns to life then all this talk of an afterlife is simply talk. What needs to happen is for someone who we can all establish to be deceased beyond a shadow of a doubt to come back and tell of of his or her experiences on the other side. I am not talking about near-death experiences either, but rather someone who has been killed (like they say Jesus was) and for that person to return in the flesh or in whatever form returnees from the afterlife come back in.

    December 13, 2010 at 7:21 pm |
  10. Old Fool

    My late dog lives right here, with me. For the past six weeks her ashes have sat, in a box, on the 7th step from the bottom, where she would wait for me EVERY day, so that as I walked through the door we would make eye contact, and the joy would begin. I dont know about your dog, but my dog had a soul. It lives on in me, till the day I die.

    December 13, 2010 at 7:20 pm |
    • DogLoverToo

      Both you and your dog were lucky to have each other here and you have already been reunited in spirit. Take good care of yourself during this difficult time.

      December 13, 2010 at 8:41 pm |
  11. Brian

    If there is a heaven and there's an actual requirement to be "good" to get in, I'd say there's a lot more dogs than humans.

    December 13, 2010 at 7:20 pm |
  12. Brian

    Does this mean that I will get to see Jesus ride his pet velociraptor one day? It's good to know that all the dinosaurs will be there, too.

    December 13, 2010 at 7:18 pm |
  13. Jay

    "I LOVED that logic too. So with that in mind...I was looking at the stars the other night and thought they looked like diamonds...diamonds on the bracelet of Monkookikoo the Monkey God! Silly humans."

    Awesome. I'm sure the believers on this board will dismiss this profound interstellar insight as false, but turn around and call you 'close minded" for not believing that fido is going to doggie heaven. "Faith" for them does not apply to belief in Monkookikoo the Monkey God. They're in trouble, because Monkookikoo HATES double standards. I predict they will be tortured with an eternity of being targeted with intergalactic simian feces.

    December 13, 2010 at 7:17 pm |
  14. LD

    I love how every person commenting on this page absolutely knows the answers to everything.

    December 13, 2010 at 7:17 pm |
  15. Bob

    This is proof that the publishing industry sees idiots as marketable.

    December 13, 2010 at 7:15 pm |
  16. brummige

    They go in to the ground and back in to the pool of resources to be used up (food ect) by still living or about to be living things..
    They sure don't go to some mythical after life.. Oh this goes for you to my fellow human beings.

    December 13, 2010 at 7:13 pm |
  17. Bob Fotoples

    I read enough of the posts to see that most of these people have never had a pet. Pets go to heaven, just like their people. I consider all of my pets my children, as much as the 2 human children I have. I have anguished over my pets' health, and their deaths when it was time to let them go. I have cried, and I got real angry with God when my black Lab was taken abruptly. Then I figured out, (eventually) that she died because so that we could find our next black Lab 3 days later, who has been a wonderful mentor to the other two dogs we have. As my signature says, If dogs don't go to heaven I want to go where they do. I am looking forward to seeing ALL my pets when I get to heaven. They are one of the wonderful things that makes heaven-HEAVEN!

    December 13, 2010 at 7:13 pm |
  18. jf2

    it must be a slow news day, or sarah palin is on vacation

    December 13, 2010 at 7:08 pm |
  19. DVD

    All living things have souls, it's just that most humans are too narcissistic to admit it. It's all about us, after all. Even God created us in his own image, right? So we look just like God! Wow. Isn't God lucky to look like us?

    December 13, 2010 at 7:07 pm |
  20. bobb

    Worm fodder just like us. And that is where it ends. Heaven and Hell are ideas made up by man. No proof no one has ever come back to verify.

    December 13, 2010 at 7:06 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.