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. Mark Silvers

    They die, just as we do. No trumpets of horns. No angels to lead them on. They die/we die. End.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:41 pm |
    • Rudence

      No trumpets? What is that about? I want my money back.

      December 14, 2010 at 1:19 am |
  2. Dave

    I don't really believe in religion. But if I'm wrong and I still end up in heaven my Nikki girl will be there at the Pearly Gates wagging her tail with that look like, "Where have you been? Oh I love you, love you!! Come here so I can lick your face!!" She's so wonderful and sweet that I can see where the author of the story gets the idea. Dogs are the best!!

    December 13, 2010 at 5:41 pm |
  3. Charlie

    The fact that adults are debating whether or not Lassie will have eternal life is indicative of how primitive our minds still are. I hope we give ourselves enough time on this planet to evolve beyond these mythologies, but my guess is this planet will be seared by the sun long before humanity ditches these juvenile and dangerous religious beliefs.

    Grow up.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:41 pm |
  4. Mark Silvers

    they die, just like us. No trumpets of angels, nothing. End of existence. Oblivion.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:40 pm |
  5. dina

    some people are just sad lonely people. if you can't even love an animal then you obviously are missing something in your life.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:40 pm |
  6. Bob

    There is a lot about animals behavior, that tells the story, IF people could only pay attention, then there would be no doubt
    at all, that Animals have a soul, and they imitate Jesus, far better than WE ever could,

    So, when the lion slaughters the deer he's acting as Jesus instructed? What about when the mother lion wounds a baby gizelle so that her cubs can play with it? How about when the hippo kills another hippo "just because". Are they acting as Jesus would?

    I usually save this for special occasions, but you geniunely deserve it.

    Mr. Madison, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:38 pm |
  7. john

    When dogs die, they become soylent green. Since I am a Frisbeterian, when I die, my soul goes up on the roof and no one can get it down.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:37 pm |
  8. damn what happened to my CNN default name - DryHump

    the same place humans and every other living organism goes, the ground.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:37 pm |
  9. victim of democrat hypocrisy

    There are no gods nor goddesses. Religion is an invention of man to control the masses.
    Fortunately, you live in a country where you can believe any silly thing you want re: religion.
    Many animals are semi-intelligent; that's what you see in their eyes, not a "soul".

    December 13, 2010 at 5:37 pm |
  10. Hairygoateeguy

    My dog tried to get into heaven but a republican told him it was only for dogs that made 250K or more.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:37 pm |
    • Barbara

      OMG!!! That is too funny!!! This post is so ridiculous. Thanks for the laugh.
      YOU ROCK!

      December 14, 2010 at 8:55 am |
  11. JP

    This is how new denomitation comes into place. That person came to the conclusion that the animal has a soul because he stared at the animals eyes? They don't like something from the Bible so they discard it and then just search and start taking verses out of context to prove their point. I wouldn't have any problem with this. Except that the way he is reading the Bible is with a predetermined thought (Animals have souls) and then looking for a verse that might support it in an out of context way. If he was reading the Bible and read a verse that said "Animal have souls" then fine but don't put in the Bible what you want it to say when it doesn't say it. God bless him and may He lead him to the truth.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:36 pm |
    • Schmit

      amen. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

      December 13, 2010 at 5:42 pm |
  12. Matt


    December 13, 2010 at 5:36 pm |
  13. CSnord

    They go to the same place people do - oblivion. At the end, it is just lights out. There was a long period of time before you were born when you did not exist. There will be an even longer period of time after you die that you also will not exist. Same with pets.

    We have dogs. Always between three and five. They all have great personalities and "souls" if you will because they are like little people in fur coats without all the rancor and ambition. We are absolutely devoted to our dogs, but, in the end, when they die, they just die and get cremated. It hurts for a while, then we get another dog from the pound and start all over again. The cycle of life.

    Still, in the highly unlikely event of an afterlife, if dogs do not go to heaven, I want to go where they go. I could handle eternity with dogs, but not with people.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:36 pm |
    • Swami Salami

      Quite certain? I challenge you to adequately and incontrovertibly define the essence of what it means to 'exist' before you summarily dismiss the idea of consciousness surviving beyond the cessation of biological functions. I personally don't believe that the mechanism of consciousness is entirely a neurological one. The physicist David Chalmers once asked, "How can something as immaterial as consciousness arise from something as unconscious as matter?" Good question. Answer the question and you will answer the question of the existence or non-existence of God. Since all the matter that was present at the beginning of the universe is present now and will be forevermore, the fact is we did exist, albeit in another form, long before our incarnation as human beings. In the final analysis, existence, consciousness and the universe (all matter and everything in between) may be intimately entangled to such a degree that they are indistinguishable.

      December 14, 2010 at 4:42 am |
  14. Frogist

    So he just knew his dog had a soul, because he looked in his eyes... ooookayy. Do plants go to heaven, even if they don't have eyes?
    But here's my question: Dogs go to heaven. And animals go to heaven. But I have to jump through hoops and declare my love of Jesus exclusively, keep the sabbath, and all the other arbitrary rules for me to get to heaven? And gays, are automatically sinners, who if they are out and proud are going to hell while Penny here gets to jump the fence? Or is there a doggy hell? A doggy 10 commandments? Absolute hogwash.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:36 pm |
    • Dr. B. Good...

      The wag of a dog's tail is more divine than the fork in your tongue.

      December 13, 2010 at 7:59 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Dr B Good: Was that a proposition? Did you want me to lick you?

      December 14, 2010 at 8:52 am |
  15. Jon

    "If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went." -Will Rogers

    December 13, 2010 at 5:35 pm |
  16. Carrie

    Heaven would not be heaven without the animals.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:35 pm |
    • Mike

      In Revalations, it details Jesus' second coming on a white horse. If animals are not in heaven, where did the horse come from?

      December 13, 2010 at 6:33 pm |
  17. Jason

    Where do we go when we die?

    December 13, 2010 at 5:35 pm |
    • Schmit

      your choice... with God or not. Some don't believe.. that's their choice.

      December 13, 2010 at 5:39 pm |
  18. Grog

    The other night one of my cats committed a act of Jihad on my leg. I imagine that wherever he goes, he's going to get his 7 virgin cats. It's a shame he's neutered.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:35 pm |
  19. southpolenor

    These days all animal souls are landing in lady gaga's hair.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:35 pm |
  20. edmundburkeson

    At death, pets become the god of the people that worship them.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:34 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25
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.