AR-News: Is there an afterlife for pets?

jim robertson wolfcrest at
Sat Jul 3 12:37:10 EDT 2004

Is there an afterlife for pets?

By David Briggs
Religion News Service

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 

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.

Louise Foresman of Cleveland mourns the death of her dog, Laughter, at a 
recent memorial service for animals at the Cleveland Buddhist Temple.

"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 

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 salvation.

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 heaven."

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

So many gods, so many creeds,so many paths that wind and wind, while just 
the art of being kind is all this sad world needs.
-- Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1805-1919)

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