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. Matt M

    Most domesticated pets are cremated or buried upon death. In the case of burial, microbes will break down the deceased animal into it's consistent materials, which will then be reintegrated into the soil, later to be used by foliage as nutrition. In the case of cremation, the carbon in the animal's body will bond with oxygen in the air to create carbon dioxide. That carbon dioxide will then disperse through the air, to later be be absorbed by plants as part of photosynthesis.

    December 13, 2010 at 6:38 pm |
  2. yeahrightthatllhappen

    Seriously. Doesn't anyone know anything about quantum physics? Even if you don't believe in "heaven" or "hell" it's a simple fact that energy never dies, it just changes form. We are made up of nothing but energy. Obviously there is something after death.

    December 13, 2010 at 6:36 pm |
    • superbad79

      Where does the energy go?

      December 13, 2010 at 7:00 pm |
  3. Kevin

    Really, the mojority of people are just so utterly horrible (especially the hypocritical self-righteous "religious" types) that I have no desire whatsoever to go wherever they end up.
    I would much rather go to where the dogs go and spend eternity throwing balls, playing fetch and rubbing tummies. I wouldn't even mind the drool. I'd much rather see happy dogs and wagging tails then a choir of angels and a bunch of sour-faced puritans.

    December 13, 2010 at 6:35 pm |
    • cora

      aw I like that.

      December 14, 2010 at 12:00 am |
  4. Jeff of Peoria

    I read the article but the POSTS were more entertaining. Thank you

    December 13, 2010 at 6:34 pm |
  5. Terre

    What a ridiculous article. There is no heaven or hell, neither for humans nor animals. I certainly love my dog more than I love my neighbor but I don't think I'll see him again whenever the time to part does come.

    December 13, 2010 at 6:33 pm |
  6. Robita

    You goofy Christians sure have less brains than most of the other animals, I guess to make room for the soul. Humans are animals, I don't care what your bible says.

    December 13, 2010 at 6:33 pm |
  7. Logic

    in the ground....just like we do...after our brains stop functioning and the aggregate of electrical and chemical signaling that is our memories and personality ceases to work anymore, we decay and our organic components return to the earth.

    heaven and hell and the afterlife are manmade concepts created to ease the fear of knowing one day you will simply cease to exist

    think of death as what it was like before birth – you are nothing.

    December 13, 2010 at 6:31 pm |
    • Robita

      As much as I disagree with the Christians, you have just as much evidence as they do that your dogma is true. People like you are just as big of fools as the ultra religious.

      December 13, 2010 at 6:37 pm |
    • Logic

      evidence based reasoning =/= dogma

      i think you need to go study neurology/neuroscience, then come back and see if you think otherwise

      December 14, 2010 at 2:04 am |
    • Logic

      I do not have "as much evidence" I have infinitely more evidence since they have none and I have plenty

      I have theological history studies that trace back the concepts of heaven and hell and afterlives through human history. They are all fabrications, all myths. I have extensive neurological science study as I'm a medical student, and have done research in the field. All evidence shows you are your brain, your personality and memories are your brain. when your brain dies, the aggregate of signals that is what we perceive as personality dies. the part of your brain storing memory dies and your memories are gone forever.

      A soul and an afterlife are illogical concepts

      saying there is as much evidence for an afterlife as there is for no afterlife is like saying there's as much evidence to believe unicorns exist as there is to believe unicorns do not exist

      there is no evidence of an afterlife, therefore a logical person would not believe one exists just like a logical person would not believe unicorns exist

      December 14, 2010 at 2:09 am |
    • 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, although I have no empirical evidence to back up such a claim. But if you define 'consciousness' as memories, awareness of self, realization of one's own mortality and so forth, there is neither any evidence to suggest these things do not survive beyond the grave. 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 4:55 am |
  8. MashaSobaka

    If there is an afterlife, then it's going to suck if there aren't any animals in it.

    December 13, 2010 at 6:30 pm |
  9. callsign

    What and unhappy group of people. Most of these comments are sad really. Cold, empty, selfish.

    December 13, 2010 at 6:29 pm |
  10. cora


    December 13, 2010 at 6:28 pm |
  11. GAGirl

    Um nobody said any of you that don't agree with this book had to read it so how about shuting up. You know some of you people make me sick. There are people in this world that treat and love their animals like their children sorry if you don't but for some people in this world their dog or cat is the only thing they have so if them believing that their animal has a soul will make them feel better then oh well that should be ok. Some of you are so selfish that is what is wrong with the world now days.

    December 13, 2010 at 6:27 pm |
  12. Grog

    Mine are going streight to the taxidermist. If I find a really good one, I may be able to delay the talk with the kids about where animals go when they die.

    December 13, 2010 at 6:26 pm |
  13. Artimus

    Why does this appear on the CNN main page like it is actually news?

    December 13, 2010 at 6:26 pm |
  14. Kramer

    Just give it to the Portuguese guy, and he... puts it in the incinerator.

    December 13, 2010 at 6:24 pm |
  15. Jen

    I don't have a clue what happens when we die but it wouldn't be heaven for me without dogs. They are the best.

    December 13, 2010 at 6:24 pm |
  16. the_dude

    Dogs, Christians, and Republicans go to heaven and live eternity in paradise. Liberals, gays, and democrats go to hell to burn and rot for eternity

    December 13, 2010 at 6:24 pm |
    • Barb Alexander

      There is lot wrong with your comment on many levels, but as a gay, Christian, liberal, Democrat I have problem with anyone who calls themselves a Christian and spews that kind of hate. Oh by the way, my dog is a liberal too!

      December 13, 2010 at 6:43 pm |
  17. NGN

    "What happens to animals (and people) when they die?" Good question! Religion has been asking this for millennia. Maybe it is time for SCIENCE to take a crack at it!

    December 13, 2010 at 6:24 pm |
    • David

      That would amuse and intrigue me. Though there have already been random attempts to scientifically study the afterlife... which for the most part is pointless. If it exists, it's outside the realm of standard science anyway.

      December 14, 2010 at 4:32 am |
  18. Petophile

    Here is the surprise: animals have an afterlife but people do not.

    December 13, 2010 at 6:23 pm |
  19. Elise

    God is everything! Hindu Philosophy teaches that all of creation is divine. Like Humans, dogs to back to the one supreme force which is God.

    December 13, 2010 at 6:22 pm |
  20. krozareq

    You're all being trolled. Only manatees will go to heaven.

    December 13, 2010 at 6:21 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.