The passing of a beloved animal companion is never easy. In the case of dogs, their absolute love and devotion to us creates a deep bond and we come to see them as almost human. Thus, their passing is just as impacting as if we lost a human family member.
The subject of whether our dogs go to heaven is a difficult one to discuss. I know that when I pass, I hope that I am greeted by my dogs in the same manner they had greeted me at the door when I came home from work. Excited and happy to see me. They made me feel good about coming home. I looked forward to those greetings (still do). The thought of seeing my recently passed, Scout, and my two current dogs, Leela and Buddy, waiting at the Gate, pacing back and forth, wagging their tails, as I enter Heaven is comforting to me albeit a bit metaphoric.
So the question looms before us. Do dogs go to Heaven?
Despite our professed belief in an afterlife, we have no idea of what Heaven is or if it even exists. Do we live on after our physical death? We can cite scripture and profess our beliefs but in reality, unless you’ve been there and experienced Heaven, you are simply hoping that the Afterlife is true. If we can’t say for certain that we are going to Heaven, how much harder is it to expect our dogs will be there?
I am a student of religion, having studied the Scriptures of the world’s religions for my own personal growth and understanding. In regards, to our dogs going to Heaven, I can say that I have never come across anything in scriptures that specifically says that they do. There are references to some animals in Heaven but there is no clarification as to whether they are spiritual animals that have always resided in Heaven or passed animal souls. The other issue that creates confusion is the constant use of animals as metaphors when describing Heaven and the afterlife.
In Christianity, Psalm 145:-9-10, 13, 15-21 reads, “God loves all His creation and has made plans for all His children and the lesser creatures to enjoy His eternal Kingdom.” Does this mean that animals go to Heaven too? It would seem so, but the verse is somewhat vague. Do dogs go to a dog Heaven? Also, the word “plans” implies there are a variety of plans involved instead of one (and that being, all creatures go to Heaven). So it seems that God has made plans for lesser creatures to be in some aspect of the afterlife, but perhaps not the same one as us.
So we have to assume that there must be different Heavens for different types of creatures (that have souls), at least at the very first level of Heaven.
Now the question becomes “Do dogs (and other animals) have souls?” Here, the scriptures are very clear. Animals are not endowed with souls. It is strictly a human thing. Although this seems a bit slanted owing that humans wrote the scriptures that elevate the human animal over all others and deny lesser creatures the privilege of having a soul and thus putting them on even ground with us. I have yet to discover any clear verse that tells us that animals have souls. For that matter, I have not found any clear verse on what a soul is, let alone, who has one. So again, we strike out. Whether animals have souls or not is unclear.
I have found more scripture that does not support animals going to Heaven than those that do. I have also found significant scripture that claims animals do not have souls that survive death. With this in mind, on a purely scriptural basis, I find we must conclude that animals (our dogs) do not move on to Heaven after death.
There is another option that seems to make sense to me. While our actual pets may not go to Heaven, the memories we take with us may allow us to “create” them. Several scriptures allude to the probability that the first realm of Heaven that we enter after death is very similar to the natural world here, without the strip malls, pollution, power lines, etc. That realm is a world of spirit. The landscapes are filled with plants of all types. Mountains, lakes, and meadows. And there are homes and great buildings that people work and play within. Several afterlife accounts from around the world, all seem to agree that the afterlife is a world of thought. Should one feel more comfortable by living in a home they were fond of, they have but to will it and it appears until such time that they have no further need of it. Similarly, people create flower gardens, sculptures, play music in ways undreamed of, all with the creative will within their soul.
With this in mind, it seems quite reasonable that should you truly desire your beloved dog to be with you in the afterlife, you simply have to will it and it will materialize in its best form, young and healthy, eager to meet up with you because you carry the memories of it, the love it had for you and you for it. It will remain with you as long as you feel the need to have it with you. Perhaps at some time, as you continue to progress spiritually, you will find it necessary to let it go, allowing the love associated with it to become part of you again. Content to know that it lives on in you.
Our dogs bring joy to our lives. Through them we learn compassion and responsibility. They repay us with love and loyalty. Through our dogs, we are in touch with the natural world. We are their pack. Dogs express joy, sorrow, empathy, pain, and a myriad of emotions many think are reserved for humans, but in fact, all animals (and even plants) express emotions. It is part of the life experience. What we consider “human behavior” is actually shared by all living things. In our dog’s eyes, we see ourselves looking back. We elevate them to near human status and our love for them creates strong ties. It is only natural that we should desire them to have with us in the afterlife.
I offer one more argument on behalf of our beloved pets. It is presumed that the Creator is Absolute. That is to say, that it possess all the attributes we can think of and it possesses them in a perfect state. So to say that God is just, is to say that God is absolutely just. It possesses the highest degree of justice, far beyond our understanding of the concept.
With that in mind, I would argue that I cannot possess any attribute to a higher degree than the Creator. Inasmuch as I am created by God, I cannot be better than God in any way. Yet, I find myself thinking that it is unjust to not allow my beloved canine companion into Heaven. If love is found in my dog, then it is love worth preserving. It is a life worth elevating above its earthly status. I find that I could not allow any animal that has loved to that degree to perish. If God can, then I must possess a higher degree of compassion and mercy than my Creator and that is impossible. So it leaves us with only two possibilities. One, that our pets will be in Heaven through the love and mercy of our Creator, or two, that our pets, like ourselves, continue on in ways we cannot imagine but all part of a wonderful continuance of life that returns all living things to its Creator.
Someone once said that a dog’s time with us is its heaven. Given that their time is so short, we should do everything possible to make sure that they are loved and well-treated. That we should work hard to stop senseless abuse of animals and to promote the responsible control of pet populations that unchecked result in the senseless deaths of millions of innocent animals whose only crime is that they did not have a family to protect them and care for them. We must become the care-takers that we were supposed to be. In doing so, we honor the memory of those beloved companions who have passed.
I write this in honor of Nikki, Scout, Tisha, Frenzy, Avalanche, and all the wonderful dogs who have passed, leaving large empty spaces in our lives. Please fill those spaces with another deserving dog waiting at a Rescue Center.
God Bless our pets.