Do all dogs go to heaven?
In some households, a dog's life could be considered
paradise on Earth, with an indulgent baby-boomer generation creating such
institutions as doggie day care, doggie spas and doggie vacations.
And the connection doesn't stop there — witness the growth
in pet cemeteries and sympathy cards for grieving animal owners.
But what about the next life?
As houses of worship respond by offering more services,
such as the blessing of animals, speculation has increased on the
afterlife of pets.
Several books, Web sites and religious services keep alive
the memory of pets and offer hope to owners that death will not separate
them from their canine loved ones.
In an animal-memorial service at the Cleveland Buddhist
Temple, Arlene Rosenberg joined other grieving owners in a ceremony
celebrating their pets' lives. She placed a picture of her pooch, Golda,
on the altar and talked about "the tremendous joy, empathy and compassion"
the dog brought to her family.
Still fresh in her grief from her pet's death three weeks
earlier, the Jewish woman from University Heights, Ohio, said she found
the Buddhist service comforting.
LYNN ISCHAY / RELIGION NEWS SERVICE
Louise Foresman of Cleveland mourns the death of her dog,
Laughter, at a recent memorial service for animals at the Cleveland
"There's no doubt in my mind (Golda) has an incredibly
beautiful soul," she said. "I feel very strongly that I will be reunited
with her one day."
Dog owners need the reassurance that they will be reunited
with their pets in the next life in much the same way that religious
people cope with the death of a loved one with the belief they will meet
again in heaven, some observers say.
"It gives more than comfort," said Mary Buddemeyer-Porter,
author of "Will I See Fido in Heaven?" "Until they actually believe their
pets are in heaven, they can't have any comfort."
Though speculation by academics on animal afterlife is
limited, and there are no direct biblical texts on the subject, several
trends have led to a serious interest in the issue. The trends include the
gradual historical shift from animals as servants of an agricultural
society to the modern pet culture.
Several theories have emerged.
Some say cats and dogs are immune from both heaven and
hell because they do
not have the mental capacity to make choices affecting
Others say that, precisely because they are sinless, dogs
and other animals will be restored in the new creation. It wasn't animal
sin that ruined the first Eden, and there is no reason animals will be
kept out of the kingdom to come, believers say. They point to the presence
of animals in the images of heaven in Revelation.
"All of the animals will go to heaven. They are sinless,"
said Niki Behrikis Shanahan, author of "There Is Eternal Life for
Animals." "Every creature that was created was created for eternity."
A third theological stream speculates that some animals
will go to heaven and others will not. For example, animals that exhibited
viciousness toward other animals or human life may not make it; animals
that were caring and gentle in this life could have a place in paradise.
Animal-rights advocates often point to the parable of the
rich man and the beggar in the 16th chapter in the Gospel of Luke. The
rich man who feasted sumptuously while the beggar sought scraps from his
table ends up in hell. Would not the dogs who did not ignore the beggar
but licked his sores in apparent comfort end up in heaven with the poor
man? The Gospel does not speak to that question.
Just as human beings must wait to find out what the
afterlife will be like, so, too, will the fate of pets remain a mystery in
this life, many say.
Still, it is important that clergy and theologians are
talking about the issue, said Webb, author of "On God and Dogs: A
Christian Theology of Compassion for Animals."
"To think about animal resurrection means that these
bodies are valued and will be restored; it means that their lives, as well
as their deaths, will have to be treated with respect."
And while clergy still are hesitant about giving
definitive answers, observers say pet owners are much less likely today to
be dismissed as childish or told offhand that their dogs or cats are
excluded from heaven.
In a recent discussion in The Joyful Noiseletter, the
publication of the Fellowship of Merry Christians, the Rev. John Battern,
a United Methodist pastor from Iowa, said it seems reasonable God would
want humans to use their full capacity to love in heaven. Thus, he said,
"Yes, Virginia, there are dogs and cats and other wonderful creatures in
Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company
Go on to Puppy Mill
Return to 11 July 2004 Issue
Return to Newsletters
** Fair Use Notice**
This document may contain copyrighted material, use of which has not been
specifically authorized by the copyright owners. I believe that this
not-for-profit, educational use on the Web constitutes a fair use of the
copyrighted material (as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright
Law). If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your
own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright