Friday, April 19, 2013

Do Dogs Go to Heaven?

Dear George,
I made up my mind about heaven’s existence when I was nine or ten.  By then I’d figured out that Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy were frauds perpetrated by the elders just to bemuse the younger generation.  I’d spent a lot of time trying to decide whether ants or frogs went to heaven; then suddenly the whole thing seemed far-fetched.  Heaven, I concluded, was just another make-believe adult concoction.  Now that I’m more senior, though, I find myself reconsidering.  This isn’t due to age or fears about mortality, but rather a personal policy that it’s a good idea to change your basic beliefs every few decades.

Heaven is also on my mind because our beloved sheepdogs celebrated their eleventh birthday this month.  According to most vets, the  breed’s life expectancy is around ten.  The dogs don’t know this, of course, and they seem to be happy and youthful enough despite their circumstances.  It make me nervous though.  Because I’ve come to rely on the Internet for all sorts of information, I googled the question, “Do dogs go to heaven?”  This turns out to be a very popular topic since I got back 218,000 hits. That’s a lot more than you get  for questions like “Does heaven exist?” (12,700), “Do cats go to heaven?” (22,100), or “Do dogs go to hell?” (128,000), though not as many as for “Will I go to heaven?” (393,000).

Needless to say, there’s a lot religious discussion of this important question about dogs’ post-death fates.  The more grumpy theologians conclude that dogs don’t have souls and their brains aren’t complex enough to accept Jesus as their savior, so they will just die and that’s it.  Some cite the Book of Revelation (22:14-15) which, in discussing the Heavenly Jerusalem, says, “Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and every one who loves and practices falsehood.”  Categorizing dogs with sorcerers, etc., seems confusing until one learns that the word “dog” in the Old Testament sometimes means male prostitutes rather than our four-legged friends.

In general, the Bible has zillions of references to animals, e.g., Daniel in the lion’s den, Jonah and the whale, the snake in the Garden of Eden.  The Bible never mentions cats, but there are 40 references to dogs.  In fact, dogs are among the top Biblical animals, edging out locusts (36 references) and horses (33), though falling far behind lions (130).  One biblical scholar suggests that this means that dogs are the “messengers of God.”  A skeptic, however, points out that most of the relevant Bible passages refer to dogs as loathsome and despicable, e.g., noting that one of the worst fates of sinners in the Bible is to be “devoured by dogs.”  Proverbs 26:11 is typical of the Bible’s attitude: “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.”

The Bible never says, one way or the other, whether dogs will be in heaven, but there are definitely some other animals up there.  The Book of Revelation (19:11) states: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True.”  Likewise,  the prophet Isaiah says God will include various animals in the new heavens and new earth: "The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food." (Isaiah 65: 25)  No less a figure than Martin Luther, the 16th century father of the Reformation, said, "Be thou comforted, little dog.  Thou too in Resurrection shall have a little golden tail."

For those who don’t take the Bible as their primary source of information about the world, you might be asking if there is any other firm proof that dogs go to heaven.  Fortunately there is – i.e., the thousands of authenticated cases where deceased dogs have contacted their owners from the spirit world.  While I haven’t read the books yet (since, because of years of googling, my attention span has shrunk to 500 words), author Kim Sheridan in Animals and the Afterlife relates numerous stories about dog owners who have had visits from their dead pets, either through Near Death Experiences, dreams, or waking state visions.  Famous psychic Sylvia Browne in her book, All Pets Go to Heaven, recounts simllar experiences.  "Why would thousands have these experiences if they weren't true?"  Browne asks.  Good question.   

Many important thinkers of our times have weighed in on the question of heaven for dogs.  Here’s a sampling:

  • Rev. Billy Graham: "I think God will have prepared everything for our perfect happiness.  If it takes my dog being there (in Heaven), I believe he'll be there."
  • Pope John Paul II: “Animals…are as near to God as men are.”
  • Robert Louis Stevenson: "You think dogs will not be in heaven?  I tell you, they will be there long before any of us."

  • Will Rogers: "If there are no dogs in Heaven, 
then when I die I want to go where they are.
  • James Thurber: “If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that certain dogs I have known will go to heaven, and very, very few persons.”
  • Stephen Colbert (addressing whether all dogs go to heaven): “Sorry, kids.  It’s only the dogs who’ve accepted Jesus Christ.” 

It’s not only celebrities that we can turn to for answers.  One wonderful feature of the Internet is that allows regular people like you and me to weigh in on the major issues of the day.  There are probably a million virtual answers to the question, “Do dogs go to heaven?”  Here are just some of the cogent thoughts I’ve run across:

  • I have always wondered this. I happened to read about 2 different people who died, went to heaven, and came back and said they saw their beloved animals. (lolaloves)
  • Dog spelled backward is God, Nuf said. (masterman)
  • All living things go to heaven except plants. (number3bieber)
  • My dog is a corgi. 
So it goes to corgi heaven. (PrincessBeulah)
  • Yes, except in Korea, where they go into the stir fry.  (dollahrbill)
  • Dogs are like Atheists, they don’t have religion.  (DejaVu08)
  • My dog experiences heaven on earth.  (AskMeNoQuestions)
  • Only Christian dogs?  (Nimrad)
  • No, they go to the grave just like us.  (DissenterMan) 
  • Only if he accepts Dog Jesus as his Lord and Saviour.  (DarkSleigh)
  • No.  Dogs do not have a sole.  (acegal1) 
  • Worry about yourself, Are you going?  Forget the dog!!!!  (AdamP)
  • Are you Barking Mad?  (raybbees)
Many people observed, probably correctly, that dogs have their own heaven.  That only makes sense.  In people-heaven you wouldn’t want to hear noisy dogs barking while you’re sleeping or step in dog poop when you’re out for a walk on the gold-paved streets.  In dog-heaven angels would throw tennis balls for the dogs 24 hours a day.  There would be grassy fields to run in, glorious smells on every tree and shrub, and hordes of squirrels and chipmunks to hunt.  No dogs would ever get into a fight.  Not only that, but there would be portals between the heavens so that people could come and hug their dogs whenever they wanted.

To get a concrete handle on the matter, I made a list of all our family dogs over the years, then added family members, friends, and various acquaintances.  For each I carefully judged whether they were likely to go to heaven or to the other place.  Though you can’t be entirely certain, I felt confident about my judgments.  As it turned out, all of the dogs I’ve known would go to heaven without question, as would all my family members and friends.  Overall, the dogs generally ranked ahead of the people.  Number one was sheepdog Sophie, Mike and Duffy’s younger sister, because she is so sweet, loyal, affectionate, well-behaved, and perfect in every way.  Mikey was number two for similar reasons.  Duffy was further down the list, though he too was ahead of most of the human beings.  Only three people on my list weren’t slated to go to heaven: two of my former work colleagues and myself.  I failed to make the cutoff because of past misdeeds, mostly toward my brother Steven in childhood.  Now I’m upset by the thought that the dogs will go to heaven and I may not get to see them there.  I’m not going to be selfish about it though.  I think they’ll still have a swell time.

SOURCES:, "Do dogs go to heaven?  A Christian perspective";, "Do dogs go to heaven?";, "Do Animals Have Souls?";, "Do dogs to to heaven?”; “All Dogs Go To Heaven”;, "Do all dogs go to heaven?;, “Do dogs go to heaven?”;, “Will dogs go to Heaven?”;, "Defintive (sic) Biblical Evidence AGAINST Dogs Going to Heaven";, “Dogs in the Bible – Messengers of God”;, “List of animals in the Bible” 

G-mail Comments
-Donna D (4-20):  david, this is the BEST!!  i love everything about it except the ending.    awesome words about sophie....i think all three dogs are already there in spirit!
-Gayle C-L (4-19): David,  This letter is pretty amazing... What a topic...  You might have a little tooo much time on your hands..;)   Lots of love ;....;)    G

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