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. kate928

    dogs go to heaven.

    December 13, 2010 at 8:05 pm |
  2. Bryan

    Y'all are as bad as the Yahoo commentators

    December 13, 2010 at 7:57 pm |
  3. finman84

    This brings to mind a story I once read, and I am paraphrasing of course. A man and his dog were driving along the interstate, got into an accident and both died. The man and his dog approached a formidable gate and the "angel" at the gate reviewed the man's life and said you may pass. The man asked "What about my dog, I can't leave him behind"? The "angel" replied "No pets are allowed in heaven". The man replied "If he can't come with me, then I am not coming in" and turned with his dog to walk down a road that was nearby. A bit farther down the road, he saw this rusty farmgate with an old man sitting in a chair nearby. The old man called him by name and told him "We've been waiting for you". The man replied "I know, you must be Satan and this is hell". The old man replied "You are wrong my son. I am St. Peter and this is the gate to heaven. You made the choice to risk going to hell to avoid being separated from your best friend, and for that you and your pet may enter the Kingdom of God". The man was overjoyed and before he and his dog when through the gate, he asked St. Peter, "If this is heaven and you are St. Peter, what was the first gate I visited and who was that "angel"?
    St. Peter replied "That first gate was the gate to hell and the gatekeeper was Satan".

    For all of you who claim when we die we go nowhere, how do YOU know for sure? How do you know for sure there really is not a heaven? You don't. God gave each of us the gift of free will, to believe or not. It is your choice, albeit a regrettable one that you choose not to believe. I would say for you it is a 50/50 shot, either you believe in nothing after death, in which case you would be right. However, if you are wrong and have to answer to God why you did not believe, you will wish that your first choice of nothing was the one you got, because the alternative is far worse. You can rant all you want, if the latter is true, all your rantings won't save you, but then again, it is your choice. I like my options better- nothing after death, or eternity in paradise. I would wager my 50/50 is better than your 50/50 every single day, and I know where my 50% is going to end up, and it won't be nothing. Finally you base your observations on the fact that we should not have faith on things, concepts or beings that we cannot see. I have faith that in the next 30 minutes, all of us will not be involved in a nuclear war. I have faith that there are people out there who will do the right thing, and they often do. I cannot see them physically- they may live in another city, or another state, but they do the right thing. Whether you choose to admit it or not, you also have that same faith, so it seems you have a problem. You can have faith in the unseen here on earth but not in the Almighty??? Talk about picking and choosing.

    December 13, 2010 at 7:55 pm |
  4. Shrike

    I know both of my dogs are somewhere special. I know there is an after life, because I have seen it. If ever so briefly. And both of my dogs where there to greet me. They ran towards me, then stopped. And,... I came back. I was dead for 6 minutes.

    December 13, 2010 at 7:53 pm |
  5. Lou

    If you do not believe in souls in animals, why pray tell believe in souls in humans, a simply more evolved animal.

    I honestly believe that my golden retriever had more soul in one paw than Bernie Madoff, Dick Cheney and Mamoud Ahmadinejab put all together.

    God or the life essence is in everything that lives and breathes, simply at different levels.
    All the essences linked together make up God.
    He, She or It is not a person – it is the sum total of good in every living thing – even if the piece of good is infinitesimal –

    Every living being has an essence that leaves it when it dies.
    The corpse goes into the ground or the crematorium but the essence, or soul, is non material, intangible and eternal until it reaches a level where it can rejoin the life force itself.

    We are all connected by this thread of existence and the life force that it entails.
    As there are different levels of consciousness (especially in humans), of intelligence and connection, there are different levels of soul.

    Most animals are sentient, as the buddhists say.
    They feel pain, they can learn; some great apes have a vocabulary of over 300 words in sign language, some of which are made up by them. Kale is called "slow lettuce" because it looks like lettuce but is harder to chew.

    If you have had a pet, you have realized at some point that they can empathize with your feelings and read body language.
    (better than a lot of men may I add) – when that happens – as in friendship – your souls touch – albeit briefly –

    Heaven is just being in contact with all the pieces of good.

    I'd rather believe that my dog will go back to the life force and Madoff, Cheney and Ahmadinejab play darts with the devil.

    Where there is life, thought and emotion, there is more than a beating heart.

    December 13, 2010 at 7:53 pm |
  6. S M

    "What happens to animals when they die?" Duh? They end up wherever you buried them?

    December 13, 2010 at 7:52 pm |
  7. T. Lee

    Eccl. 3:19-21: “There is an eventuality as respects the sons of mankind and an eventuality as respects the beast, and they have the same eventuality. As the one dies, so the other dies; and they all have but one spirit, so that there is no superiority of the man over the beast, for everything is vanity. All are going to one place. They have all come to be from the dust, and they are all returning to the dust ”

    Man has the hope of a resurrection – but there is nothing to indicate either way that an a animal will not or can not be returned to an owner by the grace of God and his Son.

    December 13, 2010 at 7:51 pm |
  8. hotweel@sbcglobal.net

    The same thing that happens to us.....nothing.

    December 13, 2010 at 7:49 pm |
  9. Brian Wauters

    Into my oven and on to my plate, duh! J/k, seriously they go where ever the owner wants them to go.

    December 13, 2010 at 7:44 pm |
  10. John Chastain

    My opinion is that other animals have just as much "soul" and "afterlife" as we humans do: none. And whether or not they know that this life is all they have, they struggle to avoid death just like we do.

    December 13, 2010 at 7:42 pm |
  11. Reality

    Korean dog chow, Yum! Yum!!!!!

    December 13, 2010 at 7:42 pm |
  12. k

    that dog kind of resembles my dog, damn do I miss him

    December 13, 2010 at 7:41 pm |
  13. Greg G.

    Where do animals go when they die?
    THE SAME PLACE WE DO. And that's true whether you believe in an afterlife, where Fido can play gleefully with you on fluffy clouds complete with wings, or if you understand that both you and Fido will rot in the ground / burn up in a crematorium / get mummified, etc etc. The same fate awaits ALL living things; a permanent state of no longer being that way.

    December 13, 2010 at 7:39 pm |
  14. Peter Skiley

    I have never heard such hateful comments in my life... you people blindly stating heaven doesn't exist. Hello- it's called the Bible. You should try cracking one some time. Jesus is lord.

    December 13, 2010 at 7:38 pm |
    • SJ

      wow. great. you've changed my mind. the bible, holy crap where can I find one of those? and who is this jesus fellow?

      December 14, 2010 at 2:49 am |
  15. Bill

    I like to eat animals, they go into my belly.

    December 13, 2010 at 7:36 pm |
  16. Horiba Jobin Yvon

    Where does my iPad go after death? Will it still be loaded with apps?

    December 13, 2010 at 7:36 pm |
  17. Dr. B. Good...

    Did you hear about the insomniac agnostic with dyslexia? He lays awake all night wondering if there is a Dog!

    December 13, 2010 at 7:33 pm |
  18. E. Mid

    Reminds me of the old man and his dog on a Twilight Zone episode after he and his dog Rip died in a lake. They came across a man at the gate whom he thought was St. Peter. But, when his dog growled and the gentleman told him that dogs were not allowed he said; "If Rip isn't welcome – what kind of Heaven is that. Turned out that it wasn't heaven but Hell. So they kept walking until he found the real St. Peter who welcomed them both into Heaven. That's the way I feel, as what kind of heaven doesn't allow dogs???? or cats?? – No thanks

    December 13, 2010 at 7:32 pm |
  19. JP0

    Your pet is going to go the same place you are. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust.

    December 13, 2010 at 7:32 pm |
  20. usnavy1992

    I had to put my 14 Yr old Lab down last Sept.. He had a every bit of a soul. How could something love you so much and not have a soul. And in my heart I know I will see him again someday.
    Now as far as my wife having a soul, thats a diff. story, because she wont let me have another.

    December 13, 2010 at 7:31 pm |
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About this blog

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.