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. JimboJenkins

    My dog is not going to heaven. He is an atheist (he told me so).

    I tried to tell him that if he just accepts Jesus as his personal savior he will walk golden streets but it all falls on deaf ears. Poor Sparticus.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:28 pm |
  2. Pedro Alonzo

    Unless a pet specifically states that he/she believes in Jesus Christ then I don't see how they can go to heaven. Jesus says the only way to enter heaven is through him. If that's not true then all the people who live in India and China who never know Jesus can also go to heaven and I just don't know how that can be possible. What would be the point of being a Christian then?

    December 13, 2010 at 5:28 pm |
    • Taliban Jack

      It should be noted that pets who blow themselves up will be given 72 virgins of their own breed when they enter heaven.

      December 13, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
    • Artemis

      And THAT, Mr. Alonzo, is precisely why so many people think that organized religion, especially Christianity and other members of the Big Three, are not worth believing. Sprirtuality itself is not the same as religion, and there are many, many people whose personal experiences fly in the face of what religion tells them. Atheists, agnosics, members of other faiths: all are people with the potential to think and make choices for themselves. That's the beauty about life and its infinite variety: it's SUPPOSED to be different for different people. But the rigid practices of some religions that say "we're right-you're wrong" are truly an insult for people who have experinced lives beyond those narrow interpretations.

      December 13, 2010 at 8:55 pm |
  3. Tim

    Lotta folks here just love missing the point.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:26 pm |
  4. Jack J.

    If anything deserves to get to heaven it's an animal.

    Those poor creatures are at our mercy, and many suffer greatly at the hands of humans.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:26 pm |
    • JimboJenkins

      Tell that to my cousin Eddie who got bitten by a badger in the leg which developed gang green and had to be amputated. You are sick sir.

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

      Maybe your cousin shouldn't be screwing around with badgers!
      Or mushrooms.
      Or snakes.

      December 13, 2010 at 5:54 pm |
    • Rod

      ... and God. How many died a horrible death during that big flood. Yeah God really showed mercy for them there.

      December 13, 2010 at 6:59 pm |
  5. Gary D.

    If dogs don't go to heaven, then when I die, I want to go where they went.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:26 pm |
    • Neil

      I agree!

      December 13, 2010 at 5:32 pm |
  6. Shane Cranford

    Not sure if they have souls or not, but the Bible does say that God gave man dominion over the Earth and all the animals... Since God has dominion over us and we have dominion over them, it would make sense that we should be as good to them as we want God to be to us. (interestingly, when I looked up this quote from Genesis, it said "let US man man in our image..." which I gues is another discussion for another day.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:26 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      The bible is man-man crap about man-made tribal myths with man-made supernatural non-existant beings.

      December 13, 2010 at 6:03 pm |
  7. Chuck

    So if heaven is real, it's going to turn out that it's been conquered by the animals? God is just dog spelt backwards, it's gotta be a sign that everything up in heaven if it is real is backwards.

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

      @Chuck: Four legs good! Two legs bad!

      December 14, 2010 at 10:06 am |
  8. Matt

    Humans and animals were created the same way. We both walk the same earth. When we die we go to the same place. No one knows where that is or what it is but to think that we end up somewhere different is so comical to me. If there is a God im pretty sure he views everything on this earth the same. Humans are of the same importance as animals. This article just proves how blind and selfish we all are

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

      @Matt: I agree with you. But I have to say in many faiths we already go to different places: Heaven or Hell. What is truly poignant is while people are absolutely willing to believe in doggy heaven, they will not embrace the concept of doggy hell. Yet for so many believers, telling a non-believer that they are going to hell is the default message. To me that speaks of how much we are capable and yearning to believe in something that makes us feel better about ourselves no matter how remote, harmful or ridiculous. The concept of heaven and religion is not about veracity, honesty or even kindness for kindness sake which we claim religion is about. It's about the emotions behind it.

      December 14, 2010 at 10:03 am |
  9. Drew

    Dogs go the same place every other animal (including humans) go. Nowhere.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:25 pm |
  10. Michael

    Faith rocks!.......but religion, especially the arrogant and intolerant members of "The Big 3," sucks. I applaud this writer's willingness to think outside of the idiotic Christian box that restricts rewards only to those who belong to their little club. The Native Americans had it right.......there is a spiritual component to all things great and small.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:24 pm |
    • West Coast

      Well said!

      This world would be much better off if everyone gave up on the "big three" and took a closer look at Native American beliefs.

      December 13, 2010 at 5:27 pm |
    • Bob

      The world would be a better place if ideas were based off of reality instead of what someone "feels" is correct.

      December 13, 2010 at 5:51 pm |
  11. Darth Cheney

    God spelled backwards is Dog. But, get this. Dog spelled backwards is God. Amazing!!!

    December 13, 2010 at 5:22 pm |
    • Tim

      Ooooh... such a clever little boy.

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

      What if D O G actually spelled Cat?

      December 13, 2010 at 6:30 pm |
  12. SCF

    If I am married several times, which one will be my wife in heaven or do I have to sit there will all of the wives and all of their new husbands and their ex wives and their new husbands. This could get really complicated...

    December 13, 2010 at 5:22 pm |
    • Nick

      If I were married several times, I would look forward to a heaven of bachelorhood!

      December 13, 2010 at 5:25 pm |
    • Dr. B. Good...

      If you are married several times, then it sounds like you've already been to Hell more than once!

      December 13, 2010 at 7:29 pm |
    • Micah

      There are no marriages in heaven. Read Matthew 22:24-30 with special emphasis on verses 28-30.

      December 14, 2010 at 9:36 am |
    • Frogist

      @SCF: That's not really an issue so long as you're Mormon.

      December 14, 2010 at 9:52 am |
  13. Grog

    To the local chinese restaurant?

    December 13, 2010 at 5:21 pm |
  14. Randall

    The bible gives the answer at Ecclesiastes 3:19,20

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

      Don't forget to read the entire passage. A common failure of part-time Bible enthusiasts. Read only one more verse and your answer is quite different. I wont quote, because more people really should open up the Bible on their own. Or you can google it. Again, the Bible isnt optional based on our tingly feeling in our figurative hearts. Reading only what is convenient to make your case and moving on. Eccl 3:21. God had a plan, we can't change that. And in the original plan, animals were for service and burden only, and returned to the dust (downward) while man went upward. Not pets or replacements for children. Because we were supposed to propogate the species, not have pets for replacements of God's Will. Love them all you want. Just don't rewrite religion for your own self-interest

      December 14, 2010 at 2:23 am |
  15. Dave

    OMG are you kidding me! Where do deer, pigs, chickens and cows go just after we slaughter them for food! Same place as dogs, cats, birds or dinosaur! They return to the earth from which they were made! Not sure I've seen an episode on Ghost Hunters where a dog or TRex was a haunting spirit!

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

      Mmmmmmm.... I love Dog soup in China. I hope they don't come back with me. That will be a little strange.. Or, Wait! I will get a chance to re-eat them.

      December 13, 2010 at 5:24 pm |
    • Tony

      Howdy Dave, Just a question Bud, You seem vehemently certain there are NO animals in Heaven, Yet you believe in "Ghost Busters" ? Hows that workin out for ya ?

      December 13, 2010 at 6:17 pm |
    • Normon

      Mmmm.... leftovers.

      December 15, 2010 at 2:14 pm |
  16. John

    It seems to me that the correct answer to questions of what comes after death is simply: I don't know. Seeing as how nobody I know has come back across death's divide in the reverse direction to discuss what's on the other side, it's kind of unknowable– for people as well as pets. So, ironically, the atheist and the hard-core believer share a close commonality in their confidence about what comes next! I personally agree with HollyBanana and others who express that belief is okay–as long as it doesn't cause pain to others. The atheist says: "you're going to oblivion!" The fundamentalist says: "youi're going to hell if you don't believe as I do!" I say: "I hope I see you all and your beloved pets on the flip side!"

    December 13, 2010 at 5:21 pm |
    • Dr. B. Good...

      Amen, "I don't know" is the only true answer to the question.

      December 13, 2010 at 7:53 pm |
    • riverrunner

      the default answer is you die and do not exist. its not just some flip of the coin. saying we or pets go to 'heaven' and that there is even a heaven is a spectacular claim. saying we just die is plausible.

      December 13, 2010 at 11:32 pm |
  17. biff

    Chinese Restaurants.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:20 pm |
    • bob searcy

      your right you know.. the rest of these guys entertain delusions..

      December 14, 2010 at 12:40 am |
  18. near death experiences are cool


    December 13, 2010 at 5:20 pm |
  19. pops

    Bob, I bet you were once a civil servant that is now a defense contractor. Just a guess....

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

      Nope, I design databases that help cancer research. 🙂

      December 13, 2010 at 5:23 pm |
  20. dennis chavez

    Talk about bitter cynical butt heads. If you dont like the article why read it. If people want to believe that their beloved pets go to another place in the after life so be it. Doesnt bother me that you havent had the joy of loving your pet as a family life. It Just confirms you lack of heart. If there is one.

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

      um...you can't tell if you like the article until after you've read it.

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

      Nick: 1
      Dennis Chavez: 0

      December 13, 2010 at 5:24 pm |
    • Nick

      Thanks Bob, this is really indicative of the whole Right Wing way of experiencing things. Most of them don't like the theory of evolution...and why take the time to learn what it is if you don't like it, right? HA ha.

      December 13, 2010 at 5:26 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.