Will My Dog Go to Heaven?
October 3, 2022
Question: I have always had a house pet from a young age. My first animal was a dog named Princess, who I adored. Sadly, she got sick and passed away, leaving me wondering, Will I ever see her again? What happens to dogs or animals after they pass away? Do they go to heaven? Where do they go?
Answer: This frequent question does not admit an easy answer. As children of God created in God’s image, men and women have immortal souls. The immortal soul allows one to hope in the promise of eternal life. We know Christ’s faithful will be in Our Heavenly Father’s presence. As creatures, our pets do not have immortal souls. So, it would seem logical that they cannot enter eternal life in the way that human beings can.
However, we must remember that eternity transcends the bounds of time and space and is beyond our understanding. What heaven will be like will only be known at the resurrection in the last days. In addition, Scripture tells us there will be a new heaven and earth. The Book of Revelation imagines four living creatures in heaven and references other created things. The Scriptures also use earthly pleasures as an analogy for the joy we will experience in heaven. Therefore, we cannot say whether in heaven we will be reunited with or see the earthly creatures to which we were emotionally attached.
Perhaps the prevalence of asking about the destiny of animals after death is another indication of the tendency to endow animals and other created things with human feelings and qualities. Some people carry this tendency so far that they value their pets more than people. You may have heard of couples who choose to “parent” pets rather than welcome children as God’s precious gifts. If taken too far, this tendency to humanize pets can lead to disordered attachment to created things.
This might be the occasion to remember that if we receive the reward of the beatific vison in heaven through God’s merciful grace, our experience of joy will far surpass anything we could savor from earthly attachments.
On a Lighter Note: I remember once when faith formation students were asking if dogs go to heaven and the teacher nicely explained that pets do not have immortal souls and so they could not go to heaven. A young person piped up and asked: What about St. Bernard?
Father Joe Waters is Judicial Vicar and Censor Librorum of the Diocese of St. Petersburg.
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