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FACTS & Beliefs: Do Dogs Go to Heaven When They Die?

FACTS & Beliefs: Do Dogs Go to Heaven When They Die?
Photo by Patrick Hendry / Unsplash

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The death of a dog can have the same emotional impact on you as the loss of human relatives or friends. If you've ever lost a dog, you understand how it feels. The grief is hard. I did experience grief with my beloved 17 years old dog, my best friend who grew along with me.

While dogs cannot speak or laugh with you in the same way that humans can, they are devoted beyond words and create memories in their own unique ways. And this is maybe the most significant reason why our dogs' deaths are so heartbreaking. We are mourning the kind and wonderful beings they were, as well as the beautiful bond they shared with us.

It's not surprising that when a dog dies, the topic of the afterlife comes up regularly. Both religious and non-religious people are concerned if their dog is happy and safe after they've crossed the rainbow bridge.

Despite merely hoping that our dog has gone to a better place, some individuals wonder if their pet is still watching over them in the afterlife.

Do dogs have souls?

do dogs have soul

Of course, they do! Every creature has. Compared to people, dogs have souls, but not rationality. But this is my belief.

The term "soul" is one of those terms that encompasses very wide areas of semantic coverage. Just look at DEX and we will find no less than seven main meanings.

Therefore, answering the question "Do dogs have souls?" presupposes, first of all, the correct clarification of the question "what do we mean by the soul?". Only after we have defined well, together with the interlocutor, what we mean by "soul", we can have a final answer.

The multitude of meanings in DEX shows us that a theologian can understand the "soul" differently than a psychologist, a writer, or an animal lover. The visions being different, the controversies inevitably appear. It's just that, you know how they say it, everyone understands what they want, not resolving the controversy.

Let's see some religious beliefs about the soul of an animal and its afterlife.

Christian beliefs

Orthodox beliefs

Christians are reluctant to attribute immortality to animals on the grounds that they have no conscience, and that their soul is not identical to the human soul. Therefore, the soul of the animal is mortal, being generated by the earth at the word of God, as Saint Basil the Great confesses:

"Do not think that the soul of animals is older than the hypostasis of their bodies, nor that it remains beyond the decomposition of the body! Flee from the foolish talk of the towering philosophers, who are not ashamed to say that their souls and the souls of dogs are alike."   (Homilies to Hexaimeron., 8, 2, p. 159).

Since animals are not created in the image of God, eternal life in Christ cannot be shared with them.

From a short orthodox tale, a history teacher that was a great animal lover buried his animals in the yard of the house, and each time he was reading them prayers. He was convinced that his soul will meet the souls of the animals from his yard. He had a list of names of philosophers and writers who claimed that animals have immortal souls. Moreover, he mentioned Anglican theologians or John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, who advocated the immortality of the soul of animals. The writer Robert Stevenson was certain that the souls of dogs would reach the sky before us. In a pre-theological treatise of 1643, Richard Overton proclaimed: "All creatures, including man, will be raised and put to death until the resurrection" (Man's Mortality, 1968, p. 68). But, if you will read from the Holy Fathers, we'll discover a different perspective. St. John of Damascus describes Eden as “covered with everlasting flowers, full of fragrant fragrance, filled with light, transcending the notion of all sensible beauty and adornment: a truly divine land and a dwelling worthy of the image of God, in him, did not dwell any irrational being, but only man, the shaping of the divine hands .”

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So, in Orthodoxy, animals including dogs, won't go to heaven and their life ends when they die in the earthly life. Animals are just "breath of life". From this point of view, animals have no soul.

Catholic beliefs

Speaking about dogs having a soul, Catholics have a similar belief. Ancient and medieval writers, both pagan and Christian, often used terms that we translate as "soul" to refer, in general, to that part of a (living) being, which differentiates it from the inanimate (lifeless) things. In other words, the "soul" was simply the "principle of life" of a living being. In some Old Testament Bible texts, certain Hebrew terms seem to be used in a similar way. For example, the expression nephesh chayah (literally, "living soul") can refer to both human beings (see Genesis 2: 7) and animals (Genesis 1:30).

Plants and animals also have what might be called a "soul," simply because they are alive. Thus, the ancients spoke of animals as having "sensitive souls" and plants as having "vegetative souls". No doubt it sounds weird to our modern ears. How strange to think that the basil in the garden would have a "soul" in a way.

But animals and human souls are totally different. The "vegetative soul" of the plant allows it to reproduce and assimilate food for growth. A rock, for example, cannot do this. Animals can do this, plus others. Their "sensitive" souls allow them to move, feel, and respond to external stimuli, and (some of them) have rudimentary mental functions, such as learning and even communication.

Even so, the human soul is unique. Of all earthly creatures, only humans are made in the image of God (Genesis 1: 26-27). Their soul is in fact an immortal spirit, fully rational, able to reason and communicate at a high level, with the possibility of choosing good or evil, with free will. Among earthly creatures, only humans are truly able to love, in the full sense of the word: to desire the greatest good for the other. People can know and love God and become friends with Him in a way that no other earthly creature can.

By sanctifying grace, the human soul is capable of the beatific vision in heaven — that is, it can enter fully into union with God so that it can see and know Him as He is.

Since human beings can enter into communion with God in a way that is not accessible to animals, life in heaven would be a privilege that animals do not share with us. But the scripture seems to be silent on this matter, and the Church has not spoken.

Before telling that only humans go to heaven, we must remember that great Christian thinkers, such as C.S. Lewis, also discussed this issue and left open any possibility. St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274) taught that the "souls" of animals cannot, by their nature, survive death. Unlike human souls, he said, they are extinct when they separate from their bodies. Even so, it remains possible for God to choose to keep at least certain "souls" of animals from perishing after death, giving them a privilege beyond their natural capacity.

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Catholics admit that both humans and animals have souls, but different kinds of souls, humans being the only creatures able to have "life" after death (going to heaven or hell).

What religion believes dogs go to heaven?

There are other religious beliefs like Mormons, that admit the fact that dogs among other animals can go to heaven after they pass away.

Some biblical explanations contend that if God created animals in the Garden of Eden to represent His ideal environment, He will undoubtedly include them in Heaven.

In Islam, all souls, including those of animals, are immortal. According to some Muslim thinkers, animals are not judged in the same way that humans are. So there might be a possibility for animals (including dogs) to go to heaven (Jannah), but they're also judged by their "mistakes". If you're interested in reading more, you can learn more on Reddit.

Is my dog in heaven?

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This question stands on your belief. Let me tell you my short story.

It was the 6th of March, 2021 when I woke up with tears and an anxious mood because that day was about to take away my 17 year old best friend.

Coco, a medium golden Poodle has been with me since I was 10 years old. He was my guardian angel and my pure happiness. He has been with me in the most important part of my life, my childhood. But..after all these beautiful years, it was time to let him go. How is this? I was desperate..I didn't even want to think about a life without him..How it was possible that suddenly, my beautiful boy is gone forever?

From the moment I woke up (7:30 a.m.) until the vet has come (11:30 a.m.) I spent the time holding him in my arms, trying to remember all the good times and comforting myself with the thought that he will be pain-free.

The moment has come. I put him on a pillow and I sat near him, holding him so tight. Then the vet attached the branula through which he first administered the anesthesia. Then, his head slowly went down going into a deep sleep. After this, the vet put him to sleep forever. I felt his body so easy..like a quill. At that moment I felt so down..My father and brother buried him in the garden. I watched them with pain in my soul.

From that moment I did question myself: I will see Coco when I die? Is my dog going to heaven? and so many other related questions.

I read the answers related to my religious belief and I found that animals won't go to heaven. I still couldn't process it because I love these creatures so much. But I have faith and maybe one day I will be strong enough to admit that for animals their heaven must be on earth and that we have to make them feel loved as they love us unconditionally.

Why did God create dogs?

GOD created dogs

God loves us unconditionally as dogs do. I think God sent us dogs because we need them in our lives. We need examples of pure love, loyalty, and compassion. He knows that we need to know what unconditional love looks like. That's why He created dogs.

What happens to dogs' spirits after they die?

While religious views around the world vary, Christianity has traditionally held that animals have no hope of an afterlife.

Islamics do believe that dogs, among all the other creatures (except humans that have lots of sins) are in the state of heaven.

Buddhism considers animals to be conscious creatures, much like people, and believes that humans can be reborn as animals and animals can be reborn as humans.

Why do people mention the Rainbow Bridge when their dog dies?

dog rainbow bridge

Rainbow Bridge refers to both the meadow and the adjacent pan-prismatic transit that connects it to Heaven. When a pet dies, it is taken to the meadow and restored to full health and devoid of any injuries, according to the story.

People that have lost their dogs, need to believe that the Rainbow Bridge. This bridge is actually a myth that says it connects heaven and earth, but practically a way of grieving and hoping that someday they will reunite for good with their beloved furry friends.

Do dogs know they are dying?

Do dogs know they are dying

One of the most heartbreaking moments is when you observe the main signs that your dog is dying. Some dogs can feel when their moment has come and will look into your eyes for comfort (so painful, I know).

But nothing is more important for your dog than to have you by his side when he will pass away. To feel your love in their last moment of life for them means everything.

Do dogs die in their sleep?

Unfortunately, very few dogs die naturally in their sleep at home. Most dog owners reach a point in their lives when they have to take the hard decision of considering euthanasia because of their dog's quality of life. It can be emotionally exhausting for both dog and owner to live with a harsh sickness. Then, most of the owners choose to let their dogs pain-free.

Why is losing a dog so painful?

I think losing a dog is so painful because owners aren't just losing their dog, they lose their best friend, their member of the family that lived many years and left only happiness and love. And for most of us, it is so hard to admit that our pet is gone because we got used to it so much we couldn't believe its life ended so fast.

How do you get over the grief of losing a pet?

I think the loss of your dog would be there forever, but time will make it easier to accept it and get used to it.

Accept that the best support for your grieving may come from those who aren't in your regular network of friends and relatives. Seek out individuals who have lost dogs, those who may understand the gravity of your loss and may be able to offer advice on how to get through the mourning process. Why? Because in most of cases you'll not receive the same empathy.

For example, after my dog died, after a week or two, my parents and grandma said to me: "You still didn't forget him? You have to let him go!". I know that it wasn't with bad intentions, and they actually told me this in order to comfort me to get over grieving, but as you can imagine they couldn't help me in this way.

So, I've started talking on Reddit about this and I was surprised how many people were living the same grief I did at that moment. That helped me a bit, sharing stories and kind words, and also starting to write for this blog.

Whatever makes you feel better, even though it will make you sad, do it! But don't try to avoid your feelings!

Do you believe pets go to heaven?