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. dave


    December 13, 2010 at 6:06 pm |
    • Kathy

      but you......read......it!

      December 14, 2010 at 8:50 am |
    • Frogist

      @Kathy: That's how you find out whether it's awful or not.

      December 14, 2010 at 11:33 am |
  2. Kristopher Mellon

    People, please remember that when you look in the mirror you are just an animal also! Just because we have a higher thinking brain than most other animals does not mean we are anything else. Whether you believe in a god or a religion or have any kind of faith or absolutely none at all does not give any one the right no matter who you are, to tell anyone else how to think or feel about life or death or your pets afterlife with what happens to them. If you have a pet for instance a dog since this is the animal of subject, it is all how you feel that day when your dog is at his or her most scariest moment of their short life and they here your voice telling them that it will be all-right that you love them and they will be better where they are going and trying to say all this in front of an upset spouse and children that are crying and don't understand why your Dog their friend , your friend is going to die and you nor them will ever see them again is a pretty tough pill for the most toughest of men and women to ever have to swallow. When you have to look someone in the eye that you love and tell them that someone else you and they love is or has died that will shake you to your core and make you believe in something that you might never have thought of believing in before.

    December 13, 2010 at 6:05 pm |
  3. Loren

    If dogs go to heaven, Michael Vick needs to be very scared.

    December 13, 2010 at 6:04 pm |
  4. Debbie

    It's interesting the way religion evolves (no pun intended): If you don't like something about it, find a way to justify what you want to believe, then make it true. Cafeteria Christianity at its best. I believe we all go to the same place, which is nowhere.

    December 13, 2010 at 6:04 pm |


    December 13, 2010 at 6:03 pm |
  6. paulymath

    Srs academic discussions up in hurr. So, suppose all animals have souls... I guess the believers have to be vegetarians now? Wait, do plants have souls? Please, someone make a new pronouncement on how what they wish was true _is actually true_ to free us of these hard questions.

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

    What's the point of heaven if dogs aren't there with us? My dog- like most dogs- is an exemplary giver of unconditional love, grace, forgiveness, and compassion. I wish I could be as consistent in those qualities as she is. If most people lived up to her example, this world would be a much better place!

    December 13, 2010 at 6:03 pm |
  8. Karen

    Read the "Blue Dog" by George Rodrigue. He explains where doggy soul's go. It's a difficult losing a pet.

    December 13, 2010 at 6:02 pm |
  9. DaveL

    I help out at my church periodically, and after the service about five years ago as the pastor and I were shaking hands as the congregation left, an elderly widower approached us with tears in his clear blue eyes. He asked the pastor, "do dogs go to heaven?" Now, it was obvious what had just happened- his only remaining companion had just died. That man needed comfort in his grief, not theology. Sadly, the pastor failed to recognize this and launched into a namby-pamby discussion of whether animals have souls, etc., etc. The man, already grieving, was devastated. For once in my life, I thought quickly enough to disagree and tell him that as far as I was concerned, of course they do.

    Frankly, if dogs don't go to heaven, I'm not sure I want to go there. Blow that out of your theological horn.

    December 13, 2010 at 6:02 pm |
    • DogLoverToo

      You GO Dave. Thanks for stepping in and helping that gentleman out.

      December 13, 2010 at 8:56 pm |
    • Frogist

      @DaveL: Good for you. A little white lie but I'm sure it made all the difference to him. And it wasn't because of what's true or not, what's correct or not. It was seeing that someone else understood he was hurting enough to provide a little kindness and comfort that hurt no one.

      December 14, 2010 at 11:28 am |
  10. Craig Greenwood

    This is a sticky wicket, isn't it? IF animals go to heaven, then how small does said animal have to be? Hamster? Spider? Amoeba? Bacterium? Is heaven full of every iota of life ever on the history of the planet? You're not going to draw lines and say that cats and dogs DO go the heaven but not turtles and goldfish, are you? An even stickier question is, if animals go to heaven, (won't even entertain what an animal has to do to deserve hell, so we'll just assume they all go to heaven), and if there are feasts in heaven, and if there is no death in heaven...are we talking eternal vegetarianism? Or is there a heavenly ranch that allows animals to wander around, donate some meat, and then go heal so the following year they can contribute more meat? I hope my dog will be in heaven, panting as he awaits my arrival. But I have my doubts.

    December 13, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
  11. Pete

    Cows go to Chick-Fil-A when they die.

    December 13, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
  12. Iheartyou

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

    December 13, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
  13. Anthony

    I think the probability of animals going to heaven is statistically equal to humans going to heaven. 0%

    December 13, 2010 at 5:59 pm |
  14. Bob the Second

    For me, this is very simple. All good things will be present in heaven. Dogs are good things. Dogs will be present in heaven.

    That is admittedly a statement of faith, something that I can not empirically prove. If I could, it wouldn't be called faith.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:59 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Bob the Second: "All good things will be present in heaven."
      So does that mean Martha Stewart will be in heaven?

      December 14, 2010 at 11:13 am |

    another tired book about spirtuality, when you're dead you're very very dead, same goes for dogs

    December 13, 2010 at 5:58 pm |
  16. Trevor, Austin, TX

    CNN please remove this ridiculous "Beliefs" system from your website. Will you see your dog in heaven? First of all, there is no such thing as Heaven. “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 anti-scientific balderdash is part of the reason America is becoming the laughing stock of the developed world.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:58 pm |
    • thebuzzardman

      Probably more like the complete non tolerance, to the point of venom, for any set of beliefs other than your own, and that goes for Republican, Democrats and every other political stripe, to the God worhshipping to the atheists. Whatever fading tolerance and sense of community we had for fellow man's opinions must certainly have been washed away by the internet, where people can run free with angry opinions consequence free. Losing our so called lead on Science – sure, but our socitiety seems to have a more fundamental problem.

      December 20, 2010 at 11:05 am |
  17. TK

    Not sure. But when I kill my boyfriend's dog then I will know

    December 13, 2010 at 5:58 pm |
  18. deuce


    December 13, 2010 at 5:57 pm |
  19. JimboJenkins

    Pets can't go to heaven unless they accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior... everybody knows this.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:56 pm |
  20. Tina

    As soon as I saw the headline I knew it would bring out all of those with no faith in God. Best wishes to all of you. Personally, I really hope my pets go to heaven so I can spend more time with them after I die.

    December 13, 2010 at 5:56 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.