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. Pitt Cairn

    Anyone who REALLY knows about death ain't posting here!

    December 14, 2010 at 9:53 am |
  2. Luke2343

    Longtime dog and cat owner, so I know how great it is to have a pet, and that its possible to love them.
    But its very important to remember that God made humans distinct from animals. We were created in God's image, which means we have an aspect of the divine – a soul and a spirit. Animals do not.
    However, from the book of Revelation, we also know that one day the lion will lie down with the lamb, which means that nature and animals will indeed be present in the New Earth.
    We should also note that it was us that committed the original sin, plunging all of creation into the curse of physical death. Nature and animals were actually innocent victims of the consequences of human sin. God created them first, and we essentially messed things up, so its apparent he is creative and cares about his creation, including pets.
    It does appear that there will be animals in eternity, but our current pets? That's hard to say.

    December 14, 2010 at 9:44 am |
  3. Jon

    I'd be interested in any secular articles and readings dealing with the afterlife of pets. Does this mean that because I'm not a Christian I'm not permitted to think about the long lost pets in my life being with my lost loved ones? Christ. Just because in America you're allowed to protest at the funeral of a fallen soldier it doesn't mean you could deny people the right to believe what they want to believe.

    December 14, 2010 at 9:41 am |
    • Jake

      You won't find any secular articles relating to the after life. I didn't understand the rest of your post.

      December 14, 2010 at 3:19 pm |
  4. dammit


    Cat tastes like pork.

    December 14, 2010 at 9:41 am |
  5. Queen Lattice

    I believe in animal heaven. No people heaven!-but some people can get into animal heaven. That's where I'll go someday. To pet and play with puppies and kitties for eternity. See? doesn't that sound nice?

    December 14, 2010 at 9:40 am |
  6. dammit

    Hey SG what about all the veggies you eat er I mean murder?
    Do they go to heaven?

    December 14, 2010 at 9:36 am |
  7. Colin in Florida

    Like the rest of us, they die. dead is dead.

    December 14, 2010 at 9:34 am |
  8. anonymous


    You said: "I don't understand the cruelty of people commenting here only to ridicule one of the deepest hopes that many people have – that we will see our precious animal friends again in the next life. If you don't believe, fine. But have the basic human decency not to laugh at the grieving."

    I agree Lily. There's some cruel people in this world. I'm agnostic but I have decency to respect other people's beliefs.

    December 14, 2010 at 9:34 am |
  9. michiganbluegirl

    We don't even know what happens to us, we cannot start guessing what happens to animals. For my sake, I hope my pets are with me!

    December 14, 2010 at 9:32 am |
  10. Bill Henderson

    Your departed pet goes exactly where it's finally placed... grave, crematory, side-of-the-road... wherever.

    December 14, 2010 at 9:29 am |
  11. Jake

    "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.”- wow so why even study Calculus.

    December 14, 2010 at 9:28 am |
  12. Annabelle's Dad

    When a pet is killed or mamed, it goes to a lush green field next to a stream. The animal is made young again or in case of injury, the injuries are healed. The field has plenty of food and water and the sun always shines. Their are many pets there and they play together constantly. There is a beautiful bridge that crosses the stream into heaven. Sometimes called the Rainbow Bridge and this synopsis is taken from a poem by the same name. When you die, you cross the field and the pets that you have been the special person for in life, suddenly see you, you recognize each other, and you cross the Rainbow Bridge into heaven..

    December 14, 2010 at 9:27 am |
  13. johnnie

    penny was really a sewer rat with rabies

    December 14, 2010 at 9:27 am |
  14. Patrick

    I lost my dear cat some time ago. My sister lost her dog unexpectedly the next year. After a few months she asked me what I though happened to pets when they die. Many narrow minded religious types had told her that pets don't go to haven. I looked her in the eye and told her in no uncertain terms that nobody knows what happens to us when we die. All living things on this earth are made from the same energy in the same way. What happens to one thing happens to the next and she will see her beloved pup again if there was any type of afterlife.

    December 14, 2010 at 9:27 am |
  15. Catharsis

    When they say where do dogs go when they die...I thought they were going to talk about what is done to the bodies afterwords. You know, like if they are buried, cremated or turned into dog food.

    December 14, 2010 at 9:25 am |
  16. Pete

    I like slaughtered cow. And chicken nuggets too!
    If you want to cook your dog
    I'll give it a quick taste too:

    December 14, 2010 at 9:25 am |
  17. David Johnson

    People who are whining that their pets go to Heaven are looking at things from a Western point of view. We spend way too much money on feeding and caring for our pets. There are children starving, while some people buy organic food for their dog. Do you think Jesus would approve of this... if He wasn't dead?

    Dog and cat meat is currently consumed in a variety of countries such as China, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Korea.


    December 14, 2010 at 9:13 am |
  18. C.S

    I'm sorry, but why is this garbage on a major news site? Seriously CNN?
    For Real and unbiased news: http://english.aljazeera.net/

    December 14, 2010 at 9:11 am |
  19. Dbags ahoy

    Half you a holes that are posting on here I can bet are not going to heaven. My dog will def beat you there LOL

    December 14, 2010 at 9:10 am |
  20. jj

    I always thought of a belief in heaven as a crutch for the weak. Death too tough to handle? Let's imagine a perfect place and say they go there. Mind you – this comes from someone who has lost friends in High School, roommate in college, and a sister in her 20s – not to mention the aged relatives and lifelong pets.

    Just like when people die, pets turn into nutrients to feed the earth so new things can grow and live. That sounds far more beautiful to me than some magically mythical heaven.

    December 14, 2010 at 9:09 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.