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. zaphod2000

    Everyone knows that animals go to the Rainbow Bridge. Since christians say that there are no dogs in heaven that is where I want to go. I rather spend eternity with my ex-dogs/cats than with certain people.

    December 13, 2010 at 10:22 pm |
  2. Jessicathecat

    It's really simple: if there is a heaven and I land there, and I hope there is, my pets will be there waiting for me. If they aren't, I am not in heaven.

    I could not regard any place without those furry little guys I loved so much with me.

    December 13, 2010 at 10:20 pm |
  3. Tom

    To the nearest Korean restaurant.

    December 13, 2010 at 10:19 pm |
  4. TobeesMom

    @MIKEfromWV......"LIKE". Well said....very well said! To those who are trashing this author's book. Geez....you don't HAVE to read it!! If you don't like his content...then don't read the damn book. It's that easy!

    December 13, 2010 at 10:16 pm |
  5. Camrow

    We get it. You don't believe in God. Some of us do and don't necessarily think that you do. There is no reason for anyone to cram their beliefs or lack thereof down anyone's throat. Faith (or not) is a very personal thing, and whatever your opinion or belief may be, it is usually based on a deeply personal experience akin to describing salt. You can't really do it if you haven't tasted it. Just share what you believe, but there is no reason to be condescending, doing so only gives others a reason to believe the opposite of you. Personally, I believe that there is a God and that He created all things spiritually before He created them physically. I believe that animals have a purpose as man does, albeit a different purpose. I don't know how it works, but I believe God will save all of His creations, because He makes everything with a purpose and wastes nothing.

    December 13, 2010 at 10:16 pm |
  6. mrhumphries

    More hard hitting news from CNN

    December 13, 2010 at 10:15 pm |
  7. HawaiiGal

    The fascinating thing about being around Christians is that each individual will argue vociferously for their own private interpretation of the bible. I once listened in on two sisters, both went to the same Christian bible school and both married other students who became preachers who insist on the literalness of the bible. And yet both argued adamantly opposite views on whether pets went to heaven or not. One finally ended it with "well, dogs are in MY heaven". This endeared her to me forever.

    December 13, 2010 at 10:14 pm |
  8. Walt

    All dogs go to heaven.

    December 13, 2010 at 10:13 pm |
  9. revloc

    Not long after our dog died my wife felt her on her leg and then watched her ghost walk down the hall away from her and disappear. Who knows. The odds are there is no afterlife, but if there is, maybe all living things get one.

    December 13, 2010 at 10:12 pm |
  10. Haltse

    You're a news channel ? Seriously?

    December 13, 2010 at 10:12 pm |
  11. TheBox

    All we know has been past down through the ages. 100 years ago someone couldnt imagine that we could use electromagnetic waves to heat something. People long ago thought the earth was flat. In reality, no one knows much and can't begin to comprehend this world we live in. Just look at the universe and its vastness. Stating that we rot in the ground after death just shows ignorance.

    December 13, 2010 at 10:12 pm |
    • Frogist

      @The Box: No, it is not ignorance. it is provable fact that we, as in our bodies do exactly that. Rot in the ground. Our consciousness? Who knows? No one... yet.

      December 15, 2010 at 12:07 pm |
  12. Sandra

    I believe we're all made up of minerals - stardust. After we die our bodies revert to stardust. You can choose to be cremated, buried, or turned into a diamond. So from dust to dust. BUT somehow, there must be a way that our animals will be a part of us in some way - I for one, have a closer bond with my animals than I do with any of the people in my life and that includes my huge family and circle of friends. An animal is a soul mate, and I don't believe that even death can break that bond or separate it. When I die, who do I want to envision joining me on my journey? Boomerang, Trixie, Boney, Tony, Ralph, Boozy, Lucy, Maxwell, and Booboo. That would complete my circle of life.

    December 13, 2010 at 10:11 pm |
  13. TobeesMom

    @O. Brother. I find your comment on "well try not feeding them for a week or two..." insulting to loving animals everywhere! I was watching an episode of animal rescue with the ASPCA police in NYC. They found a poor medium sized dog that had been tethered, starved and near death. He was nothing but skin and bones.....literally! And when they reached this sweet boy, the first thing he tried to do was raise his head to lick the officer's hand. And miraculously....he was wagging his tail!!! Unfortunately, he died within minutes of his rescue. That is true, unconditional love!!! I'm not sure if animals go to heaven or not...but I can only hope and pray that they have some sort of reward for the life they've lived on this earth. And for those of you who don't believe in God......I am saddened that there are so many of you! What an eye opener for me. I thought the vast majority of us DID believe. How do you cope and live your life without faith?? (rhetorical question...you don't have to answer....)

    December 13, 2010 at 10:08 pm |
    • Frogist

      @TobeesMom: Any question in your mind that the dog licked the officer's hand cuz it was hungry? Wagged it's tail cuz it was agitated or being defensive? A lick is not a kiss. A wag is not a smile. A dog has it's own methods of communication that so many of us interpret wrong. Unless your name is Doolittle, you cannot know with any certainty what that dog meant or felt or understood. To take from its actions this concept of "unconditional love" is human vanity. I'd venture a more cruel version of human vanity is what got that dog starved and neglected too.
      Nobody copes without faith. Faith in what is a different matter.

      December 15, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
  14. Angeleyes82

    Thank God and Jesus that I am a Christian and under grace. I have no worries about the afterlife unlike alot of the posters here. I know where I am going when I die and yes, my pets will all be with me. It amazes me how some of the posters on here actually think they know more than God! Seriously, take a moment and crack open a Bible. Start by reading the Gospel of John, all of the answers that you seek are there and more...

    December 13, 2010 at 10:07 pm |
  15. Claire

    Don't know what happens for sure, but expect to someday. Had a dream where I awoke in bed and saw my adopted stray cat in my bedroom; she was an outdoor cat. As I struggled to sit up, I woke up fully. No cat. Went downstairs and outside to discover that she had died in her sleep. She only wanted a home for her final months, which I gave her. I had no indication that she was going to die, other than I knew she was old. Your guess as to why this happened. I feel like she was saying good bye and thank you. I do believe that animals have spirits.

    December 13, 2010 at 10:06 pm |
  16. greenbird

    (on a more serious note, I truly believe that we can meet our pets in Heaven. I have 8 cats, who are my darlings, and I'm sure–if I make it there–I'll see them.)

    December 13, 2010 at 9:51 pm |
  17. greenbird

    when blind dogs die, they go to a place with no furniture...

    December 13, 2010 at 9:50 pm |
  18. Nuno

    In my a$$, where else? Just like where all the dead humans go.

    December 13, 2010 at 9:43 pm |
  19. Locobil

    Anyone ever heard of' " Rainbow Bridge". If not, I'll explain. Many, many years ago, I asked my grandfather this same question, and this was his reply. "When a pet who was loved and cared for dies, they go to an area outside heavens gate called "Rainbow Bridge". Here, there is room to romp and play with other animals who were also loved very much, plenty of sunshine, food and water. However, they cannot cross the bridge without their masters who cared for them. When the master passes and reaches heavens gate, they can then choose the pets to go with them into heaven: thus the loving relationship they had together on earth can continue thru eternity." Only pets who were loved may go into heaven. They wait patiently for us at heavens door as they did here on earth. I'm a believer and my grand father would never lie to me. Hope this story brings some peace of mind to some folks: it did me.

    December 13, 2010 at 9:38 pm |
    • Bob

      Thanks for the reminder of the Rainbow Bridge.......

      December 13, 2010 at 10:37 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Locobil: And the animals that were not loved? Where do they go? The abused ones or the neglected ones? They go to hell? Pass into oblivion? And what about all the animals you encounter that you do not choose to go with you? They just wait forever? Why wouldn't you bring all of them with you into heaven? Can you truly not see the cruelty of this story?

      December 15, 2010 at 11:57 am |
  20. Davidbnky

    In Islam, the view of whether animals and pets are resurrected is mixed. The best clue is found in Qu'ran, Surah 6:38: "All the creatures on earth, and all the birds that fly with wings, are communities like you. We did not leave anything out of this book. To their Lord, all these creatures will be summoned. " Surah 22:18 says that all of creation, including animals, worship Allah, though in a different manner than mankind: "Do you not realize that to God prostrates everyone in the heavens and the earth, and the sun, and the moon, and the stars, and the mountains, and the trees, and the animals, and many people?" I pray that Allah admits me to Paradise, and also my dogs.

    December 13, 2010 at 9:36 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.