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. musings

    One way of looking at all creation is that it always exists "somewhere in time". That all of us are multidimensional, and some of our shape is the lifespan we actually have.

    If the Hindu believers are correct, all of nature reincarnates into other forms.

    The dogs live on in our (mortal) memories. But if heaven is a great reward, why would it not include a menagerie of all of our pets? Whatever we enjoy. There are even those who think our pets greet us to conduct us to heaven. A nice thought for someone who related better to pets than to humans.

    The dog-matic (you should pardon the expression) minister who would banish all creatures not human from heaven seems not to have the slightest grasp of paradise, in my opinion. Not only that, when the angels snub us for being too simple, we can always turn for comfort to our pets.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:17 pm |
    • Frogist

      @musings: While that's a comforting thought for each of us humans. It seems like not such a nice idea for animals who must remain in our service even in the forever afterlife. And this is part of what someone else posted earlier on. This idea that humans can only relate to animals as subjects, even in heaven, is a reflection of our egotistical treatment of the world around us. Animals, plants and whatever else we encounter, are means to our own ends. We treat them not as an existence independent of our own needs. But as a resource to be used for our comfort. The question: "Are there animals in heaven?" is answered by most of the people posting as how do we get to keep our place as master of these resources. When instead it should be answered with what the animal's needs should entail. To me that speaks of, how limited the concept of heaven seems to be for most of us.

      December 14, 2010 at 9:43 am |
  2. grist

    When you die, you are dead. Same thing with dogs!

    December 13, 2010 at 5:17 pm |
  3. Nate

    If you believe that people (who agree with your dogma) go to heaven after they die, then why not believe that their pets will be there too. Both ideas are equally ludicrous. BTW, is it only pets?? .. or do food animals go to heaven too .. I had this really great juicy hamburger recently and I felt better thinking that this cow was so tasty it was surely going to heaven.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:17 pm |
  4. Serenade

    They go to the same place as you do. Into eternal nothingness.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:16 pm |
  5. Nick

    This whole topic is bunk. No animals don't go to heaven because heaven doesn't exist. Even if I were to play devil's advocate and assume there was a heaven, there still wouldn't be pets there. To have pets there would be to undermine the whole point of heaven! The more likely view is that when you are in heaven, you wont care where your pets are and you won't need/want them there...unless of course heaven is populated with people full of insecurities and loneliness.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:16 pm |
    • Nick

      I need to write a book just to milk money from these people...a whole series maybe! Will I Have My Golf Clubs in Heaven? Can I bring my Car to Heaven? Is there Pineapple Pizza in Heaven? Latest cutting edge biblical scholarship answers these questions for you!

      December 13, 2010 at 5:19 pm |
    • alex

      Nick, just because you say heaven doesn't exist doesn't make it true.

      Vice versa.. Have you died and experienced it and came back alive to tell us there is no heaven?


      December 13, 2010 at 5:21 pm |
    • Nick

      Alex, why not? The author apparently decided his pet had a soul and he's accepted that as true... same logic no?

      December 13, 2010 at 5:23 pm |
    • Eric

      I just find it amusing that in one sentence you say "Heaven is bunk", then you use the term "playing devil's advocate". doesn't one statement cancel out the other?
      And with that poor sense of basic continuity you want to attempt to write a book?
      Just sayin'.....

      December 13, 2010 at 5:49 pm |
    • Nick

      I guess I believe there may be pets in heaven. Can someone point me to the relevant scripture? After thinking about this some more I'm now wondering why God wouldn't have animals in heaven.

      Back to the Good Book.

      December 13, 2010 at 10:09 pm |
    • Me

      Nick. For those who do believe animals go to heaven, there are several pieces of biblical evidence to back up their claim on a spiritual basis. The one I will mention here is that Christ will come from heaven at the second coming riding on a horse. I don't know enough to talk about other faiths, but the catholic church believes there are animals in heaven.

      December 14, 2010 at 8:47 am |
    • Frogist

      @Me: Jesus needs a horse to ride around, so there are horses in heaven... Meaning in heaven, animals will still be servants to people's needs? Doesn't much sound like heaven for the horse.

      December 14, 2010 at 9:32 am |
  6. Pat

    Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

    When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable. All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

    They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

    You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

    Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

    Author unknown...

    December 13, 2010 at 5:16 pm |
    • musings

      Love it.

      December 13, 2010 at 5:18 pm |
    • Pat

      It seems there's two of us posting under the same name 🙂 I have read about Rainbow Bridge before and have sent it to friends who have lost a beloved pet. I'm sorry for people that are so bitter and hopeless about life in all it's forms. None of us know for sure what happens when we leave this life. I like to believe things will be better 🙂 Merry Christmas!

      December 13, 2010 at 5:24 pm |
    • Pat (the rainbow bridge poster)

      I send this little poem to everyone who loses a beloved fur friend. It gives them comfort as it has me.

      December 13, 2010 at 5:30 pm |
    • Shirley

      Thank you. Very comforting. I will remember this when my pet dies.

      December 13, 2010 at 5:33 pm |
    • Truth

      That made my cry. I was thinking of my dog that passed away at the age of 17. I got her when I was 10 years old and we were always together. Thank you for posting this.

      December 13, 2010 at 7:36 pm |
    • Bob

      Thanks for posting the Rainbow Bridge. I have been consoled by the poem, and have passed it to many friends in their time of need. It's like a breath of fresh air, with all of the negative posters here....

      December 13, 2010 at 10:30 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Pat: That seems to me a awfully selfish view of doggy heaven. Why would you assume that an animal would want you in their heaven? That's a colorful but very egotistical point of view. It seems these ideas of animal heaven are all based on what humans want, but not on what the animal would want. And that's not heaven at all for them. What if doggy heaven is the place where Fido gets to pee on the rug over and over again, chase the cat to his heart's content, and eat every shoe in the house? That's certainly not what a human might like, but your dog might. Let's face it. That "Rainbow Bridge" is only a man-made self-serving concept for us to feel better. Much like every other concept of of heaven. If it was really a heaven for the animals, we might not have any part in it.

      December 14, 2010 at 9:28 am |
  7. Biology101

    After death, their corpses putrify and are digested by other animals, bacteria and fungi like everything else. Stop with the hocus-pocus.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:16 pm |
  8. darth lapin

    That would mean that you would also meet in heaven every animal you ever ate ! That would be akward

    December 13, 2010 at 5:16 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      And every bacteria that made you butt itch.

      December 13, 2010 at 5:19 pm |
  9. Cliff

    Like Will Rogers said "I don't know if dogs go to heaven or not but when I die I want to go where they go". You know I look at church and undoubtedly there are a lot of people there that are going to heaven. But some of them I don’t really enjoy their company. So I am going to have to spend eternity sitting next to Deacon Smith? Is that hell or heaven?

    December 13, 2010 at 5:16 pm |
    • Dr. B. Good...

      Yea, even as a child, I felt that the descriptions of Heaven sounded dreadful. Oh, God, do we have to sing these miserable Psalms again! The only thing that compelled my Christian faith as a child was the fear of Hell, not a desire to be in Heaven. Since then I've found freedom from fear, and I understand Heaven and Hell as states of being. Some people are already living in Heaven, and some people are already living in Hell. The look on my dogs faces and the wag in their tails ,when I arrive home, tells me that they already live in Heaven. They are beings of pure love. To those that don't believe in Heaven, it is because they choose to live in Hell.

      December 13, 2010 at 7:18 pm |
  10. Shawn Larson

    Great piece. I actually wrote a blog on this very issue that goes into a little more detail. Check it out. Would love to have your imput. http://petstopsites.com/articles/misc/do-all-dogs-really-go-to-heaven.html

    December 13, 2010 at 5:15 pm |
  11. Alex

    If you accept the premise that humans are part of the animal kingdom, then it is not too far fetched that all animals have a soul, which either dies and goes to heaven, or reincarnates into some new form of life. Buddhism is a bit more open-minded towards such concepts than Christianity. (I am Catholic but I question more than half the things my church tells me.)

    December 13, 2010 at 5:15 pm |
  12. HeyJude

    After reading all these replies, it's no wonder the world is in the shape it's in. Seems nobody wants to believe in anything good anymore.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:15 pm |
    • Bob

      Animals going to heaven is good now? On what subjective (ie, bullship) thought process have you concluded this?

      December 13, 2010 at 5:25 pm |
    • Truth


      December 13, 2010 at 7:31 pm |
  13. T3chsupport

    I'm LMAOing at all of the atheists who storm the religion blog to tell everyone they're wrong.
    And the ones saying this isn't news, yet they are reading... the religion blog....

    Thanks guys. Free entertainment at its best.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:15 pm |
    • Bob

      I'm not telling you're wrong for believing it. I'm telling you it's silly to believe it.

      As for my own personal motivations, you only need to look to faith inspiried laws, which are based on nonsense, that affect my day to day life.

      I can't buy booze on Sunday because of idiotic beliefs. I'm more likely to catch aids because of irrational ideas about condoms. My gay friend cannot get married and be happy because people have faith that it's the wrong thing to do.

      I can understand rational ideas, but when you're impinging on my life simply because of what you choose to believe, you're damn right that I'll fight back and try to change minds. 🙂

      December 13, 2010 at 5:21 pm |
    • T3chsupport

      You assume that I'm a believer.
      I'm agnostic.
      You don't want others infringing upon your rights with their faith, yet those who may not have anything at all to do with you or laws or anything, so you try to make them feel inferior, silly? How does that make sense?

      December 13, 2010 at 5:51 pm |
  14. JohnQuest

    Well of course they go to doggie heaven, where else would a dog go? People go to people heaven dogs go to doggie heaven, cats go to, you get my meaning (there are as many heavens as there species of life). Or once a living thing dies, we become part of the circle of life, feeding the next generation of life on our amazing, beautiful planet.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:15 pm |
  15. LC B

    Just as some folks 'believe' there to be a human afterlife – which helps assuage their fears of mortal death, and the pains associated with loss(es) – so too, a belief in critter afterlife should accomplish the same goals. Can anyone prove (or disprove) the reality of either? Interesting that someone has finally attempted to address a question that even the dogmatic doctrines apparently do not! and shall make a few bucks doing so . . .

    December 13, 2010 at 5:14 pm |
    • Bob

      You cannot disprove the existence of vampires or werewolves, but I don't see many people wearing garlic around their neck or carrying guns with silver bullets now do I?

      December 13, 2010 at 5:18 pm |
  16. Caesar in Atlanta

    To the same place where humans go when they die...nowhere...Did you think they also get 72 virgins too? Or go to some wonderful place with angels and other mythological fantasies. The biggest problem with humanity is when people give up on logic and blindly put their faith on myth over science as if ancient ignorant people were wiser and knew more.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:14 pm |
  17. Gonzoaster11

    I admit I have some eccentric views on this, but here goes:
    I am of the opinion that the Soul is something we have evolved, and has been similarly evolved by a wide range of creatures. Perhaps the easiest way I can think of to explain this concept, is if you equate the Soul with your Conscience. In effect, the Soul gives us Free Will. We are not simply responding to an event based on some programmed (instinctual) response, but we can use Reason. Any organism capable of using reason, to me, has a Soul. As for what happens after death, that to me is still a puzzle, but I am currently of the belief that our Conscience is preserved in some manner. Thus, all beings with a Soul have a Conscience, and all beings with Conscience will go on. Feel free to disagree. It's faith and belief. The point is it is supposed to be your own.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:14 pm |
    • Bob

      So, let me summarize. To you a soul = the ability to reason exclusively. Then why bother to use the term soul? Why not just say the ability to reason? Because soul is so different to so many, what's the purpose in using it?

      December 13, 2010 at 5:17 pm |
    • THW

      What's the purpose of the brain again? And why would brain injuries (or drugs) affect our souls?

      December 13, 2010 at 5:42 pm |
    • Gonzoaster11

      @Bob As you said, the term soul is different to so many people. I thought I made it clear I was simply stating my opinion of what a Soul is. I don't really understand your argument/question.

      @THW Those are more meta-physical questions that would deal with the soul leaving the body. For the sake of argument, do you or do you not lose you inhibitions when you drink or do drugs? If you do, I would argue that means you are becoming a more 'instinctual' being. Continuing my argument, if you no longer care for the consequences (foregoing reason), you are reacting to a situation. Now getting into the meta-physics, it would mean your soul and body are not in-sync during those times. I would hesitate to call these times "out-of-body" experiences, but that term is reasonable for illustrating the effect. Perhaps, semi-out-of-body might work better. Or we could go with music: your soul and body would be in two different, less-than-harmonious keys.

      December 13, 2010 at 10:45 pm |
  18. mary doe

    Leave it be. You don't have to make bad comments. Let people have hope.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:13 pm |
    • T3chsupport

      People with no hope don't want other to have hope, because then they feel even more hopeless that they're hopeless. Misery loves company!

      December 13, 2010 at 5:14 pm |
    • Bob

      Please do not excercise your right to free speech because some people really like to believe in silly things.

      December 13, 2010 at 5:15 pm |
    • StephanieInATX

      YES! Yes yes yes. Comfort, hope, faith, good karma, grace, blessings... whatever they want to call it... LIVE AND LET LIVE! I like your thinking.

      December 13, 2010 at 5:16 pm |
    • svscnn

      Whatever gets you through the day, I guess.

      December 13, 2010 at 5:21 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Mary Doe

      What is the point in letting people believe in something, simply because it is comforting/gives them hope?

      If you have children or if you had children, would you let them believe in Santa Claus, when they are about to go off to college? Why not? Because it is not good to have false hope. People need to face reality.


      December 14, 2010 at 8:33 am |
  19. svscnn

    Umm... mine went into a hole in the back yard, like 99% of everyone else's.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:13 pm |
    • Oodoodanoo

      99% of everyone else's pets went to a hole in your back yard? That must be a huge hole! And it must stink to high heaven.

      Why did they only give you 99%? Did they want to keep a piece of the tail for good luck or something?

      December 13, 2010 at 10:35 pm |
  20. Pat

    This is not news. If you want to sell books, Padmananda Rama, go work for Amazon.com. This (supposedly) is a website designed to inform people of significant current events.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:13 pm |
    • T3chsupport

      No it's not. It's the religion blog.

      December 13, 2010 at 5:13 pm |
    • Pat

      It's linked to the homepage of the website. If they want to have fluff pieces on non-topical subjects, they shouldn't put it on the front page.

      December 13, 2010 at 5:16 pm |
    • T3chsupport

      Much like any news paper, not everything in it is going to be considered 'news'.
      You can read, right? You can see the top of the page, the URL that says 'religion.blogs' in it? Were you forced to read the article because it was on the front page?

      December 13, 2010 at 5:23 pm |
    • Pat

      First of all, I think there's no need for CNN to have a blog on any subject. Secondly, all the other "religious" stories are related to recent events: wikileaks and Pope, Palin to Haiti w/ religious group, Pastor with crazy beard who likes to burn Korans goes to England....

      What about this book warrants attention from CNN?

      December 13, 2010 at 5:30 pm |
    • T3chsupport

      For the same reason they report every time Taylor Swift has coffee for someone. Do you read those and complain about them, too?

      December 13, 2010 at 5:48 pm |
    • Pat


      December 13, 2010 at 6:05 pm |
    • kati


      If you don't like it, don't comment on it and give it attention. Really, I mean, this is not a hard concept.

      Also... do you seriously believe that most (if any) of the "news" these days IS actually newsworthy? What "news" are you reading?!?!?!

      December 14, 2010 at 5:47 am |
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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.