Last updated on November 11th, 2023 at 06:22 pm
You may or may not believe in heaven or that dogs go to heaven. But if you are reading this post, you were intrigued by the title and are curious to learn more. Many dog owners believe in an afterlife often hold onto the hope that they will see their little furry friends again at some point.
Human life is much longer than the average life of a canine. Therefore many of us have had several pets throughout our lifetime. We are always sad to see them go, despite our joyful memories. But many owners feel comforted in their belief, that they will see their beloved pets again.
Pet Afterlife Beliefs Vary
In the tapestry of spiritual beliefs and cherished companionship, the question of whether our beloved pets, especially dogs, find a place in heaven has been a topic of heartfelt contemplation. Various religious doctrines and influential thinkers like St. Francis and C.S. Lewis have contributed to this dialogue, leaving pet owners, dog lovers, and those who find solace in the company of animals pondering the ultimate fate of their furry friends.
Certainly, not all worldwide religions agree on the concept of an afterlife. Even in the Christian tradition, which does include the concept of heaven, it was historically viewed as a place for humans. The sacred writings that made it into the Bible did not value animal life as much as human life. Humankind lorded over the animal world.
Many spiritual traditions emphasize the interconnectedness of all living things, seeing each creature as a reflection of the divine. Pope Francis, a figure revered by millions, has spoken about the moral responsibility humans have towards God’s creatures, emphasizing the intrinsic value of all life forms. The idea that animals, as part of God’s creation, have immortal souls, resonates with the belief in eternal life, offering a glimmer of hope to those who have lost a cherished family pet.
Beliefs of Two Classic Christian Theologians — St. Francis and C.S. Lewis
St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, recognized the beauty of God’s creatures and viewed them as companions on our spiritual journey. His teachings emphasized the interconnectedness of all living beings, reflecting the divine image in every living thing.
C.S. Lewis, the renowned author, touched on the concept of immortal souls in his works, acknowledging the profound bond between humans and animals. He beautifully articulated that our pets, especially dogs, might indeed find a place in the divine plan, given their unconditional love and loyalty.
Yet, today, thanks to St. Francis of Assisi, many Protestant and Catholic churches now celebrate the “Blessing of the Pets” each year in early October. St. Francis, who establish an order of monks in the 1200s, loved and respected the natural environment and regarded animals as sacred beings.
Historical Practices and Views from a Psychologist
Indeed, many people with various religious backgrounds, seem to believe that their dog will have an afterlife. Stanley Coren PhD., DSc, FRSC wrote a great article about this topic in a Psychology Today post on April 25, 2019 (see entire article here). Coren begins with the Egyptian practice of an ancient Pharaoh who buried his beloved dog with sacred objects to help him enter paradise. This practice was consistent with human burials at the time.
Coren also included a charming interview he had with a pastor in Kentucky on a lazy afternoon. The pastor fervently loved his dog and believed he would go to heaven. He points to the innate goodness of dogs, “If a dog is good and keeps the faith the way a dog should by doing what a dog is supposed to do, is there any reason why he should not be in heaven? “
Later in the interview the pastor balked at the idea of a dog not getting into heaven. “No sir—if there are no dogs in heaven then I don’t want to be there. I tell you, dogs are a blessing, and since heaven is for the blessed, there certainly must be a whole lot more dogs than people on the inside of those pearly gates.”
Do Dogs Have Souls?
The question of what it means to have a soul takes me back to my days as a hospice chaplain when someone once asked me, “So, what is the difference between the soul and the spirit?”
I struggled to answer. I admitted that these two words were often used interchangeably. In my mind, our soul was the essence of our being, beyond our physical body. Our spirit was our connection to God, a Higher Power, or the greater universe depending upon one’s beliefs. One who was in the “spirit” referred to a state of being pointing toward our existence in the afterlife.
I continued to think about this conversation for many years. Sometime later, I came to learn that this whole topic was the subject of much, heated, theological debate. And eventually, I discovered that a similar debate existed regarding pets and animals. The word animal comes from the Latin root anima meaning soul.
What can be more spiritual than living in the moment as dogs typically do? And what can be more soulful than those big brown eyes pleading with you for more cuddling and playtime?
The Rainbow Bridge and the Present Moment
The concept of the Rainbow Bridge, a mythical place where deceased pets wait for their owners, has brought solace to countless grieving hearts. This bridge symbolizes the reunion between pet owners and their furry friends in the afterlife, offering hope that the love shared transcends death.
In the present moment, as we cherish our pets, we find a glimpse of the divine in their innocent eyes and boundless affection, reminding us of the goodness inherent in all living creatures.
The Essence of a Good Dog
In the eyes of dog lovers, every wag of a tail, every warm nuzzle, and every joyful bark is a testament to the goodness of our canine companions. Dogs, often referred to as “humankind’s best friend,” embody loyalty, love, and unwavering companionship. As sentient beings capable of forming deep emotional connections, they evoke feelings of warmth and happiness, demonstrating the beauty of God’s creation.
A Definitive Answer?
Despite centuries of theological contemplation, there is no definitive answer to whether dogs go to heaven. The mystery of the afterlife remains, inviting believers to trust in the divine plan and the unconditional love of a benevolent creator. While passages of scripture and influential figures offer insights, the final conclusion eludes us, leaving room for faith, hope, and the belief that our furry friends, our beloved dogs, may indeed have a special place in the new heavens and the new earth.
In the grand tapestry of existence, where human souls and the essence of good dogs intertwine, there exists a profound connection that surpasses the boundaries of mortality. Whether through the lens of religious teachings, the words of spiritual leaders, or the enduring love shared with our pets, the possibility of heavenly bliss for our animal friends remains an enduring beacon of hope, offering comfort to those who have bid their final goodbyes to their beloved companions.
Deanna Euritt is a dedicated dog enthusiast with over three decades of experience in raising and training a diverse range of dogs, including many rescue pups. Her practical expertise is rooted in real-life experiences, where she has successfully navigated the challenges of nurturing rescue dogs into confident, well-adjusted companions. Residing in Northern California, Deanna’s days are filled with adventures along trails and beaches with her beloved dogs, Charlotte and Georgia. In her writing, she offers insightful, compassionate advice to fellow dog lovers, leveraging her extensive personal journey in the world of dog care and training. See About Us.