Will my dog go to heaven?

Will my dog go to heaven?

The Latin word for a “soul” is anima, and so “animal” means something with a soul! The Greek philosopher Aristotle and the Catholic thinker Saint Thomas Aquinas both taught that humans have one kind of soul, animals another, and plants yet another. From an article by hospice chaplain Fr Peter Fleetwood.

Fr Peter Fleetwood reflects on dogs and heaven

I’ve just come back from the hospice in the hospital where I am one of the chaplains. One lady I visited looked really ill; after all, her cancer means she will probably not have much more time on earth. So I was not shocked when she said, “I’ve had some shocking news today”.

I imagined the doctors had told her she had less time to live than she had thought. I was wrong. She went on: “My dog has gone missing”. This had clearly shaken her up, because this dog is her best friend. She thinks he may have been kidnapped…

The companionship of dogs

I love dogs, and was very pleased that the parish priest’s Airedale terrier came to us when he was just a few weeks old. He has a lively character and loves company. He can be boisterous, but is very gentle with children.

I used to frighten him with his own reflection in a saucepan lid, until one day he stopped barking at the saucepan lid and turned on me. I was delighted, and told him what a clever dog he is. He really is.

Fears about dying

Some of us, especially children and elderly people, get very attached to our dogs. When we hear about other people’s pets dying, we wonder about our own, and it is suddenly important to know whether animals go to heaven.

The Latin word for a “soul” is anima, and so “animal” means something with a soul! The Greek philosopher Aristotle and the Catholic thinker Saint Thomas Aquinas both taught that humans have one kind of soul, animals another, and plants yet another.

The soul is basically what animates people, animals and plants, in very different ways. It is their life-principle.

What the Bible says

The Bible says all sorts of amazing things about animals, but here is one of the visions the prophet Isaiah had of the way God would renew the world, in other words a description of heaven:

“Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat; the calf and the young lion shall browse together with a little child to guide them.

The cow and the bear shall grab, together their young lie down; the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the viper’s den, and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair. They shall not harm or destroy on all my holy mountain” (Isaiah, 11,6-9).

The official Church teaching about animals is in questions 2415 to 2418 of The Catechism of the Catholic Church. It says nothing about what happens to animals when they die.

What Pope Francis says

Pope Francis has made it much clearer, though. In his Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ (§243), about the way we should care for all God’s Creation, he wrote this:

“Eternal life will be a shared experience of awe, in which each creature… will take its rightful place.”

A vision of heaven

I like that vision of heaven that Pope Francis offers us, because everything God has created is part of it: dogs, dinosaurs, dodos and even people.

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat; the calf and the young lion shall browse together with a little child to guide them.

The cow and the bear shall grab, together their young lie down; the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the viper’s den, and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair. They shall not harm or destroy on all my holy mountain (Isaiah, 11,6-9).