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. Laurie

    Whatever... I have had pets in the past. Like all of us (even the ones who don't want to admit it) I was very very close to them. I am very close to the ones I have now. I WANT to believe that I will see them again in heaven. So therefore, I do.

    December 14, 2010 at 8:30 am |
  2. richunix

    Gottahave something to eat once we get there!

    December 14, 2010 at 8:29 am |
  3. Tim

    Jesus told Martha: "I am the resurrection and the life. He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life."(John 11:25) Thus, only those who "exercise faith in" Jesus Christ are guaranteed to " come to life" or be resurrected. Animals cannot "exercise faith" in Jesus Christ, and therefore, once they die, these are as Ecclesiastes 3:19, 20 says: "For 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 ( or life force, like electricity), 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 (same state of non-existence)."

    That there is a distinct difference as regards the hope a human has and a beast, verse 21 says: "Who is there knowing the spirit of the sons of mankind, whether it is ascending upward (with God approving of a resurrection and putting within mankind "spirit" or life force again); and the spirit of the beast, whether it is descending downward to the earth (to again become "dust", with it's "spirit" or life force gone, with no resurrection) ?" Hence, only humans can see life again by means of a resurrection, especially those who "exercise faith", not animals. That there wil be a resurrection of the masses of mankind, Revelation 20:13 says that "the sea (the restless masses of mankind) gave up the dead which were in it; and death (those who died as a result of Adamic sin) and hell (Greek Hades, common grave of mankind) delivered up the dead which were in them."(Rev 20:13, King James Bible)

    December 14, 2010 at 8:22 am |
    • Frank

      Do you mean that book that was based on the tells of Bronze Age goat herders? So you also believe that the Earth is 7,000 years old?

      December 14, 2010 at 8:59 am |
  4. snoopDawg

    People suck. If there are no dogs in heaven, why go?

    December 14, 2010 at 8:21 am |
  5. Is this a joke?

    They just die. Thats it. No heaven, no hell. They just cease to exist. They are animals for cryin outs.

    December 14, 2010 at 8:20 am |
  6. goat

    I think it's sad that this article assumes we are all Christian. Those of us non religious know the correct answer. This is one of the reasons why religion is such a bad guide. People cannot agree on what the bible means, and they use it literally only when it suits them. When the literal meanings of the bible like approval of incest and slavery pop up, people just say "don't take it literally, use it as a guide"!. It also tells us that god would never destroy the earth after noah, and a republican in congress is using that as a reason to continue polluting our earth. Literally, the bible is destroying the earth.

    December 14, 2010 at 8:16 am |
  7. LOLz

    Christianity Defined…the belief that some cosmic Jewish zombie will grant you immortality, if you ‘symbolically’ eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can rid an evil imbedded in mans soul because some rib woman was tricked into eating a magic apple by a talking snake…yeah makes perfect sense...

    December 14, 2010 at 8:13 am |
  8. str

    Read the Bible and specifically the book of Revelation.
    There are creatures in heaven but none of them resemble animals that are here on earth.

    I will not make a blanket statement but the Bible is silent on the subject of animals going to heaven. I do not even remember any occasions where people had pets except farm animals, sheep, pigs, quail, animals for sacrifice, or animals for transportation, fish for food, the great fish for Jonah, Noah and the ark, and the leviathon/monster of some sort, The eagle is mentioned, Jesus talked about the sparrow, etc. There is one instance where God spoke through a Donkey.

    December 14, 2010 at 8:11 am |
  9. Lisa Marie

    "Knowing" comes from the Bible – studying this book in depth and this takes a while to accomplish. Also, I think people can see there pets in heaven if they want to as GOD can do anything! I do not believe there a dog heaven, a cat heaven, a fish heaven, etc. Humans have souls and animals were created to be our companions or to maintain our survival.

    December 14, 2010 at 8:10 am |
  10. Christianity Defined

    Christianity…the belief that some cosmic Jewish zombie will grant you immortality, if you ‘symbolically’ eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can rid an evil imbedded in mans soul because some rib woman was tricked into eating a magic apple by a talking snake…yeah makes perfect sense...

    December 14, 2010 at 8:10 am |
  11. Christianity Defined

    All I have to say...
    Christianity…the belief that some cosmic Jewish zombie will grant you immortality, if you ‘symbolically’ eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can rid an evil imbedded in mans soul because some rib woman was tricked into eating a magic apple by a talking snake…yeah makes perfect sense

    December 14, 2010 at 8:08 am |
  12. Get Real

    Look people religion exists for one reason... it was a control mechanism that kingsand queens used when their loyal servants werent so loyal anymore. The bishops would come out and say people if you rebel against your king a great plague will befall all of you. Then everyone being afraid of the unknown all powerful being quit revolting. People are afraid of the unknown and certain people in mankind realized this and exploited it. I mean seriously he is all loving all knowing but if he doesnt agree with what you do you go to hell ? really that sounds like a dictator to me not an all knowing all powerful all wise being at all. Doesn't sound rational if someone human pulled this they would either be in jail or avoided but because it is unknown and people are afraid of the unknown they listen. Face it folks heaven and hell is here and now, life is what you make of it, the bible was a book written by man not a divine being. So that in itself means it came from someone else's perspective.

    People are afraid of death, yet imagine for a moment the day you were born you were told there was no afterlife, there was no place to be forgiven for your mistakes (no matter how evil) that would make everyon 100% accountable for their actions. Unfortunately the human psyche always needs something to lay blame upon as our reasoning is flawed.

    Can you think of any other person or thing in this world that is going to forgive you for commiting a heinous crime as long as you swear your allegience (telepathically) to an all powerful cosmic being ? Nope..

    December 14, 2010 at 8:06 am |
  13. Andrew

    Why would a pet go to a different place than a human? Many people love their pets as much as, if not more than humans. I also know that dogs love unconditionally and are far more innocent than the big ego's preaching today's favorite religions. Any preacher who tells a person that their pet won't be in heaven deserves a little taste of hell. Maybe that's why they molest children.

    December 14, 2010 at 8:05 am |
  14. ThoughtSpy

    From "365 Laws of the Universe" by ThoughtSpy:

    People are supposed to use their passion , not power, to fulfill their dreams. Wthether we love an animal or not, and whether we are animals or not, all animals – and all of nature- use only their power – not their passions.

    Heaven is where dreams upon dreams come true ...and the ability to pursue and create more dreams exist without the "evils" of judgment, limits to abundance and other unGodly beliefs.

    Dogs do not have dreams. They have power – only power…and see us as having power too. They have love but they do not create from their passion…from a dream.

    We have passion.
    We have dreams.
    We can copy power because we see it in nature.
    Power is destructive though.
    Passion is creative and like God

    We are supposed to use our passion to live the happiest, the fullest, the completion of all our dreams…which will make for us Heaven.

    By the way, the church sought power rather than teach faith in one's passions and dreams.
    That's why it has all the elements of control and destruction…which represent its failings.
    It taught that to believe in struggle and accept poverty and lack is best.

    It also judged all its sisters and members rather than teaching them how to live the way of heaven on earth.

    The truth is that struggle is a lie. It stems from a "power"…an unwise, isolated source that comes without any passion or imagination.
    It is a false belief that has nothing to do with faith or dreams.

    The church should have endorsed that magination is a blessing that was given to us in order to give us freedom and together with our passion, .make all our dreams possible.

    You know you are blessed when you have choice.
    That means : liberate your imagination…and your passion will be like your steed to the fulfilment of your dreams of heaven on earth. If you really want, you can bring Fido to heaven with you too.

    – ThoughtSpy is on keen dot com

    See "365 Laws of the Universe" by ThoughtSpy

    December 14, 2010 at 8:05 am |
  15. Jon Coolidge

    The question is only an issue for those who consider humans somehow divinely separate from other animals. Those of us who recognize and honor our genetic heritage rather than deny it don't have this philosophical problem. Our fates and theirs are the same, whatever it may be, as we are more the same than different.

    December 14, 2010 at 7:55 am |
  16. michael

    check out our song called "pets in heaven" on the CD simple town (amazon, itunes); free download at reverbnation.com/michaelketover

    December 14, 2010 at 7:53 am |
  17. JG

    "Yes we have souls, but they are made of neurons." -Dan Dennett

    There is no reason at all to suppose that there is something besides what we know of the bio-mechanical soul.

    December 14, 2010 at 7:50 am |
  18. Tman127

    So, does this apply to just pets, or all animals? Why would pets live on and other animals not?

    I'm also a bit confused – people don't get the answer from their pastor that they like, so b/c they don't like it, they just turn somewhere else? Why would an answer that makes one happier be more true. This is just deluding one's self.

    December 14, 2010 at 7:48 am |
  19. bwydeman

    Pets go back to the dust. "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." Genesis 2:7. God made us from dust in the beginning. "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it." Ecclesiastes 12:7. The body turns to dust again, and the spirit goes back to God, who gave it. The spirit of every person who dies–whether righteous or wicked–returns to God at death. What is the "spirit" that returns to God at death?"The body without the spirit ." James 2:26. "The spirit of God is in my nostrils." Job 27:3. The spirit that returns to God at death is the breath of life. Nowhere in all of God's book does the "spirit" have any life, wisdom, or feeling after a person dies. It is the "breath of life" and nothing more.
    What is a "soul"?"And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." Genesis 2:7. A soul is a living being. A soul is always a combination of two things: body plus breath. A soul cannot exist unless body and breath are combined. God's Word teaches that we are souls.
    Do souls die?"The soul that sinneth, it shall die." Ezekiel 18:20. "Every living soul died in the sea." Revelation 16:3. According to God's Word, souls do die! We are souls, and souls die. Man is mortal (Job 4:17). Only God is immortal (1 Timothy 6:15, 16). The concept of an undying, immortal soul goes against the Bible, which teaches that souls are subject to death. Body(dust) – Breath(spirit)= Death(No soul). Check this bible study guide on what happens when we die the site is http://www.amazingfacts.org/FreeStuff/BibleStudies/StudyGuides/tabid/105/ctl/ViewMedia/mid/453/IID/2-10/LNG/en/SC/R/Default.aspx?7=Are-The-Dead-Really-Dead?

    December 14, 2010 at 7:36 am |
  20. JD

    There is a God and I'm not him. I do not know why I exist but having a dog that loves me no matter how imperfect I am is the best evidence I have for a God. Everything else is so much hot air for there is no religion or book on the planet that can encompass a God who created everything. An infinite God may well have a place for pets and we may not be aware of it because it is a contract between God and the animals. It is none of our business. You may as well argue how many angels can dance on the head of a pin as worry this bone to death. If you are lonely and soul sick seek out a shelter and bring home a lifelong friend and concern yourself with living your life instead of wasting your time worrying about the after-life. All of us including our pets will eventually get the answerer to the question "what's next?" Do you read the end of a mystery novel first? Live laugh and enjoy. You will find a dog is an excellent example of how to do it.

    December 14, 2010 at 7:33 am |
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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.