Echoing Love in Eternity

This morning I dreamed my dog was being sick in my bedroom–she sleeps by my bed–turns out, my husband had said, “she’s throwing up, again” it and the words invaded my dreams before they entered my consciousness. I awoke to find him taking the first turn at what became a bad morning/afternoon of cleaning up after Alle, who seems to be a little more settled now, and is able to take some hydration.

The vet says tomorrow, we’ll know more. Meanwhile, I think my husband is bringing home a wet/dry vac, or something.

The worst thing about being a parent is watching your kid deal with the pains and pitfalls of life and not being able to do anything for them.

And the worst thing about loving a pet is actually pretty much the same, except the pet can’t even grouse to you. And with dogs, even while they’re sick, they’re trying to please.

Yes, it’s upsetting. I’ve had people ask me if dogs go to heaven, if animals are reunited with us in eternity. I don’t know. I’m sure strict theologians say no, that animals have no souls, so they don’t have an afterlife.

But theologians are only humans. There’s always more we don’t know. God does, we know, draw all creation to Himself.

Last night, my husband decided to do a thorough cleaning of the fish tank, including the boiling of rocks, houses, etc. He accidentally cooked a fish he’d had for nearly ten years. That sounds humorous, but he was really upset. It was a pretty, speckled fish, and he felt terrible for ending its perfectly livable life simply because he’d been careless. My Elder Son, who happened by, was equally sorry, and even Buster–who’d just texted about something–expressed sadness. We’d had the fish almost half his life.

Everyone regretted losing the fish; I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like over here if Alle can’t pull through this episode. She is the best dog, ever.

I know, every dog owner thinks their pooch is “the best” but Alle has always been so joyful and sweet and stupidly, passionately loyal and almost terrifyingly smart. And sensitive – if anyone in the house is sick, Alle is right beside them. She’s the nurse/escort. If you’re ill and stumbling into the kitchen for water, she’s with you. If you run into the bathroom to be sick, she’s at the door, anxiously wondering if you’re alright.

If you’re swimming in the pool and you’re splashing a little too excitedly, she’s at the edge, making sure you’re not drowning.

If you’re sad, she’ll snuggle all 75 pounds of herself up beside you, and kiss you happy.

Dogs are such perfect beings of unconditional love it’s hard to believe that heaven is not full of them. With no poop-scooping, because it’s heaven.

I am not at all anxious to find out about heaven or eternity or infinity; our lives are blink-brief in the scope of it all. But is it so bad to think about burping fish and romping dogs and cats on the periphery of all that infinite “gathering in” that Christ is about?

Speaking of things Eternal and Infinite, the Future of Catholicism Week is still going on, and we have a late entry from Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, who has contributed some timely observations about where the shepherds will find their sheep.

And, co-incidentally fitting right in with my theme, today’s Summa This Summa That Symposium showcases two of my favorite females touching on all that is beyond our limits. Kathryn Jean Lopez and Julie Davis do the honors. You’ll want to go read what they have to say!

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • darcee


    It is a bit lighthearted take on dogs and salvation. We are struggling with the end of our dog’s many happy days as part of our family and I definitely feel for you.

  • newguy40

    Your post reminded me of the old Twilight Zone episode of the old coon hunter and his dog getting in to heaven. I kinda feel the same way… heaven without my dog?

  • NanB

    I hope Alle gets better. Sorry to hear about your fish too. I hope our pets are with us in heaven.

  • Bender

    I’m sure strict theologians say no, that animals have no souls, so they don’t have an afterlife

    Strict theologians will add a caveat that whether animals do or do not is absolutely irrelevant to the question of whether human beings have an afterlife, which is what revelation is confined to.

    And whether they have an “afterlife” or not, whether they have a sufficient consciousness or sentience or soul in order to transcend this world, since they obtain their existence here only by and through God, and God is eternal, such pets are therefore eternal in and through Him.

    [That's kind of how I figure it. -admin]

  • Emkay

    Prayers for your pup. A few weeks ago, our Lab, the gentle Bunky (who had never, ever skipped a meal in her 12+ years) stopped eating and seemed to be sleeping away her life. With fear we never expected to have, The Daughter (age 20) and I took her to the vet, who reassured us that, even though he wasn’t sure exactly what was going wrong, now was not Bunky’s time to go. In retrospect, I suspect Bunky sickened after she ate a stray mushroom/toadstool in our yard. Her recovery has been slow but complete, as I pray Alle’s will be. As the vet said, “Hey, remember – she’s about 80.” When Bunky was herself again, The Daughter came to me and said, “Bunky and I had a talk, and I told her she can never die.”

  • Kat

    I hope your dog makes a full recovery.

    I once heard Fr. Rocky on Relevant Radio say that because Heaven is supposed to be perfect happiness, if you need your dog in Heaven with you to be perfectly happy, then he’ll be there. Granted he was talking to a child but I’d like to think it’s true.

  • JJM

    “Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.”

    - Mark Twain

  • SuzyQ

    I think dogs are OF heaven in the first place – how could they not be, with all that self-sacrifice and love and loyalty? Just you try not to be happy around a Lab. They’re like children, the way they disarm you, soften you, bring you back to what is real and good and true. I quite pretty sure we’ll find them there again.

  • Karen Townsend

    Aww. Max threw up yesterday, but it was because he ate too much of his crunchy food! He’s 62 pounds of love and loyalty. Our pets are family members, that’s for sure.

  • JJM

    I routinely get into trouble with folks when I opine that animals have no souls. What they don’t seem to get is that I’m actually not complimenting humans by this remark – I’m complimenting animals.

    An animal don’t have a soul because, unlike a human, it doesn’t need one.

  • JJM

    Typo alert!

    That last should be “An animal doesn’t”.

  • Last Sphere

    A couple of years ago we had to put our oldest cat down because of cancer.

    We were so sad for so long. We had given her fluids almost everyday for four years prior to that due to renal disease. She was such a loving little trooper through all of it.

    We still miss her deeply, but I’m sure we will see her again. I can’t imagine a paradise without the living gifts that God so graciously blessed us with in this imperfect world.

    I have always sensed the very personal hand of God in the gentle unconditional love of a pet. There is no way the Lord would design our hearts to connect with his creations on such a deep level unless those creations were a small reflection of heaven itself. The Good Lord simply doesn’t work that way. And neither do we.

    Our hearts tell us it is so.

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  • Kristen

    I will pray for you and your dog.

    I am a 2010 Easter convert to Catholicism and lost a very beloved dog to a sudden and very upsetting illness in January. A good friend, intending to be comforting, said “it is so hard losing a pet, knowing that they won’t be in heaven”. She is a devout Catholic and her husband is a renown Catholic scholar, so of course she knows her theology far better than I do. With her words I went from feeling comforted by and close to God in my grief to deeply doubting my decision to convert and wondering if God found the depth of my sorrow silly.

    I have loved dogs from the time I was a small child and have had a few with whom I’ve had a very strong connection (including the dog that died in January). In my mind, to say that a dog does not have a soul and therefore will not go to heaven is to dismiss the significance of the dog-human bond and to minimize the magnitude of the grief that can follow the death of a dog. I think that a person who has never truly loved a dog cannot really understand this and I have to wonder if the theologians who deny that animals have souls have had the opportunity to love a dog like a member of the family.

    Eventually I came to realize that God has made me a lover of dogs and has put a few very special dogs in my life path for a purpose. I am a person who has a hard time opening her heart to others, but the dogs in my life have assisted me in learning to love freely and deeply. To me it seems obvious that a being has to have a soul in order to teach such important lessons.

    Fortunately the next week the director of my RCIA program mentioned that the question of whether dogs go to heaven is a topic that the Church has left open for individuals to form their own opinions. Since then I have proceeded confidently in the belief that my beloved Winston is cavorting happily in heaven (prior to his death he was paralyzed from the neck down, so the vision of him running is particularly comforting) and have taught my young children that they can expect to meet him again one day.

  • Jan

    There must be some reason why God inspired St. Francis of Assisi to bless animals, which he called “fellow creatures of God” and why the practice continues today.

  • BarbS

    Dear Anchoress-
    I love your blog! We have a beloved cat named Ruby who is now fifteen. Recently, I had a vivid short dream where I am in Heaven. In the midst of reunions with loved ones, Jesus suddenly appears and, with a big smile, asks me to sit down. He then puts Ruby in my lap. She purrs like crazy when I tell her about

  • BarbS

    Dear Anchoress-
    I love your blog! We have a beloved cat named Ruby who is now fifteen. Recently, I had a vivid, short dream where I am in Heaven. In the midst of reunions with loved ones, Jesus suddenly appears and, with a big smile, asks me to sit down. He then puts Ruby in my lap. Ruby purrs like crazy when I tell her about this dream.

  • Pat Gohn

    As the keeper of the fish tank in my home, I feel your husband’s pain regarding the accidental loss of one of the tank community.

    Yup, we’re a dog family too. Alle sounds like a gem.

    Yesterday, our little not-bred-for-the-wild pooch escaped into the woods for the longest time. I thought it was the end. As darkness neared, he was found and lives to play and romp another day.

    And we are grateful for the little tender mercies that come our way… even through lowly creatures that delight and cheer us.

  • Sprucecreekgal

    We had to have our 12 year old Yorkshire Terrier put to sleep yesterday, and we are heart broken. She was always with us, and somehow I feel she will be with us again. So yes, i do believe dogs have souls and that God has a place for them in heaven.

  • Warren Jewell

    I’ve long held, for the sake of comforting mournful young pet lovers whose pets have died, that pets make it to heaven based on our love for them and how that works into all love that saves us. God in His mercy and love wants heaven to be perfectly happy, and if we make it to heaven, how are we perfectly happy without those innocents, our pets, with us?

    Do you think that Jesus could resist throwing a stick for your dog? Or, scratching your cat on her back? Or, admiring your aquarium of old familiar water dwellers? Or getting a kick out of the natural antics of every manner of beloved pet?

    I do condition old Rover getting to heaven based on his master getting there. But, I can’t imagine heaven for the master without Rover to jump to greet him.

  • Laura

    I’m so sorry to read this. We recently had to put a beloved cat to sleep – stomach cancer. It’s a loss, and we grieve for her just like we do for our human loved ones. A book that has been a great comfort to me is Randy Alcorn’s Heaven. He’s done a great deal of research on what the bible and the great theologians have said about heaven. The second half of the book is a Q & A, including whether or not we’ll see our pets again in heaven. The bible obviously doesn’t speak directly to the question, but Alcorn makes a persuasive case that we will.

  • Michiganian

    Who ever said a soul is a prerequisite for Heaven? The biblical imagery of Heaven is full of water, trees, and buildings; no souls in any of those as far as I know.

    I firmly believe that there will be animals in Heaven. That seems in line with the way I’ve seen God work. Could be wrong, but if I find out Heaven isn’t filled with safe lions and grinning dogs, I’ll already be in Heaven and perfectly happy anyway.

    My prayers for your dog, Ms. Anchoress.

  • Andrew B

    My beloved basset hound, Jack, is a better Christian than I am. If anyone deserves Heaven, it is Jack.

    As you say, dogs are creatures of pure love. I am sure that I am skirting blasphemy here, but I think of them as just slightly below angels in the divine order. If they aren’t in Heaven (especially Biscuit and Sparky, my childhood companions) then there is no possible way that I will ever get there.

  • Bender

    It does raise the whole eschatological question of what the resurrection of the body is really going to be all about. We will be in the presence of God, fullness of Love and Truth, etc., but is it something where we will actually “do” thiings? That we would get a resurrected glorified body would seem to suggest that we will get it in order to use it in some way, but how?

    The Book of Revelation speaks of trees in the New Jerusalem, a “city” in the new “earth,” which suggests physical structures. What does that mean? I don’t know.

    But whatever it means, the description does not seem to say that there would be no place for our animal loved ones. If there is going to be “trees” and a “city,” why could there not also be animal companions, those we used to call “pets,” but who are no longer objects of ownership, but are friends, fellow creatures of God, including the lion lying down with the lamb.

  • Jeff

    Dogs do not have human souls; they have animal souls. They are different, just like our bodies are different.

    We have every reason to hope that our beloved animal friends continue to exist in Heaven. Remember Jesus in Revelation, “Behold, I make all things new.” All things, not just humans.

  • Diane

    “Dog Heaven” is a wonderful children’s picture book written and illustrated by Cynthia Rylant. The first line is, “When dogs go to Heaven they don’t need wings because God knows that dogs love running best.” I highly recommend this book to any dog lover. She created a companion book “Cat Heaven.”

  • Dustin

    I know what is to love a pet that much, and to be worried she’s near the end.

    I’m really sorry, and I hope your dog continues to have a happy life with you. If it doesn’t, I’m glad you both found eachother and had so much happiness.

  • Kurt

    I hope Alle gets well soon. I love my dogs so much that I have trouble imagining how their could be a heaven without them. I always think of my dogs as blessings who can teach me many lessons if I am willing to learn. I particularly liked Jan’s and BarbS’s comments above.

    I have two dogs, one of whom is a border collie, and though he’s not as active as some border collies nor is he particularly good at problem solving, he understands a lot, and he is amazingly friendly, loving and good-natured. My other dog is more reserved and more independent than my border collie, but she also knows that I’ve always been crazy about her, and she is quite skilled at getting me to do what she wants through the sounds and facial expressions she makes.

  • Kurt

    Aaarrrgggh, once again, my fingers have a mind of there own and I typed “their” when I meant “there” above.

  • Alexandrag

    Dear Anchoress, I hope your dog is better soon. I think God made dogs as a way for humans to experience unconditional love. Our dog not only greets us with joy, but any visitors to our house. He is up for anything: a walk, a treat, a ball throw, a tussle, dress-up (OK, he tolerates that), a trip to the store, a trip to the vet, whatever. To top it off, he never complains about what is for breakfast and dinner. I don’t know if dogs go to heaven, but I do know that God had something wonderful in mind when he created them and I am convinced that the love between humans and their animals (and fish) is eternal.

  • Brian English

    “I do condition old Rover getting to heaven based on his master getting there. But, I can’t imagine heaven for the master without Rover to jump to greet him.”

    I believe this was C.S. Lewis’ position on this question — that pets are “saved” through their owners.

  • Elaine T

    We’ve lost two pets in two years and we’ve all been heartbroken over the losses. My husband had a dream/vision – he swore it didn’t feel like a dream – of the first one, whom he had especially connected with during a bad time in life, came and told him he (the pet) was in a wonderful place. I really want to believe they’re going to be waiting for us.

    After all, God made them – if He hadn’t wanted them to be, they wouldn’t exist. Why would He leave them out of the new heaven and new earth? I just can’t see the New World being just us humans and angels. God’s abundance would be nullified, seems to me, if that were the case.

  • RigelDog

    I just cannot understand those who are quick to pronounce that our pets will not be in Heaven in any way, shape, or form. As your commenters have noted, since when is having a human soul the prerequisite for existence in the afterlife/Heaven? I often contemplate the meaning of Jesus’ promise of “many mansions.” Do mansions have souls? No? Well then how can they exist in Heaven!

  • JBalconi

    Elizabeth, I hope your Alle recovers. I always joke that pets show us how to be real humanitarians. My beloved Pepper attacked a much larger dog that was going after my oldest brother on Christmas Eve (and almost died from the wounds), woke us up for school every morning (but never during summer vacation), and gave us all a lot of comfort when Dad had cancer. My BFF’s cat was her “angel-kitty” when she went through an episode of suicidal depression and kept her from killing herself.

    One of my earliest memories of catechism was drawing a stairway with humans on the step between those of angels and animals. All living creatures have souls, including dogs and trees. They just aren’t immortal souls. I remember on a later occasion Sister explaining that we mustn’t baptize animals because they can’t be “saved”. (Yes, there was a reason we needed to be told not to baptize animals!) Yet we will be held accountable for how we treat our pets and we shouldn’t think it’s less sinful to kick a cat than to hit our siblings. (And sadly, there was also a reason to tell us that.)

    I think there was only one person who got upset about thinking of her dog not going to heaven. Our deacon said that God has plans for everything good, which is about as clear as it gets. :)

  • F

    No one should worry. I believe it said:

    a new heaven and a NEW EARTH.

    What’s not to look forward to about that???

    I ask my patron, St. Francis, to bless you, hubby and Alle. Sorry about the pretty fish. That had to be such a horrible shock for the poor man.

  • OldLineStateDad

    I’ve never understood those who believe pets don’t have souls, and cannot enter heaven. They forget that only man was forced out of Eden.

    Both you and your beloved dog are in my prayers. As the owner of a 13 year old lab, I’m all to aware of what having an elderly pet entails.

  • Kate

    Many years ago I had to have my dear Kitty put down, after nearly three years of subq’s for kidney failure. That evening I was sitting with a book in my easy chair when I felt her presence again in the room. I held my breath, and in my mind I asked, “Oh! Is it true? Do animals go to heaven?” And Kitty replied, “It’s better than you think.” And she pushed her head under my hand for one more quick pet, and then she was gone. It was a singular experience, never repeated with any of my other pets. But I am sure there is much more to heaven than the theologians know.

    I hope your dog recovers, Anchoress. I pray often for the sick animals, that they may be well, for the lost ones, that they may be found, and for the hurt and neglected ones, that they may be delivered to a place of safety and care. St. Francis, pray for us!

  • pam

    Heaven is a perfect place…out flower gardens won’t have weeds and our dogs won’t throw up.

  • Kate

    Sorry, I meant to add that Peter Kreeft talks about animals in heaven in one of his books; I think it was “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Heaven, But Never Dreamed of Asking.”

  • DWiss

    pam (#38)…agree and add…no shedding!

    darcee (#1)…hilarious! I want to meet your pastor.

    Last, dogs are definitely part of heaven (IMHO). But not Alle, yet!

  • Ryan

    If heaven is a perfect place it simply could not be so without my special friends and companions; The collie I grew up with who practically herded me and died while I was just entering high school, or the cat I have now. Coming home to a living incarnation of love is something special. And that something special has to keep on existing.

  • Sandra

    Remember in the Book of Tobit, the Archangel Raphael/Azariah had a dog that accompanied the Azariah and Tobias, and when the Angel left, he left the dog to protect the young couple.

    There is a reason why in the English language the word, “dog,” is the reverse of the word “G-d.” The creature reflects the love of the Creator.

    “Lord, please help me to be the person my dog believes me to be.”

  • Mimsy

    “All God’s creatures have a place in His choir!”

    As I tell my children: love is cumulative; it is never wasted.
    Hoping that Alle continues to mend.

  • Sandra

    I meant no ill will to those with cats and other non-canine pets!

    Cats keep us humble, but that does not mean that they do not love us. Even pet fish and reptiles establish a bond with their “person.”

  • Amma

    As F points out, we will be resurrected in the body and the earth will be remade. Animals must surely be included in this. A comforting thought given the Gulf of Mexico!

    Also, Saint Nikolai Velimirovic writes in The prologue of Ohrid for July 5th: “Brethren, the mind is the guide and adviser to the soul. God gave the animals only a soul, and that is why He did not give them freedom, but guides them with His mind. God gave man a soul and a mind–and with the mind, freedom.”

  • Cynthia

    I will pray for Alle and your family. Veterinary medicine has come a long way; it’s just amazing what they can do.

    My personal belief is that heaven wouldn’t be very heavenly without our beloved animals.

  • Gordon Savage

    Remember that Thomas’ judgment that animals could not participate the New Heaven and Earth was based entirely on the “scientific cosmology” of his day: to the point, it assumed that the cessation of the movement of the heavenly bodies (a “cessation” which is entirely dependent on the assumptions of Aristotle crudely transposed into NT eschatology) would deprive animals of a necessary condition for their continued existence. Plants and flowers didn’t make the cut either. Heaven in this scheme was limited to minerals and man. Pretty grim. Much as I love Thomas, this isn’t his finest moment.

    Both JP II (in interviews) and Benedict XVI (in his book Eschatology) recognized this and refused to endorse the “traditional” theological judgment. They didn’t venture to speculate about the precise destiny of nature’s “many members,” but left the door open for what all of us have experienced: animals as friends, companions, even angels. Von Balthasar (Theo-dramatics V, pp. 416ff) is even bolder in affirming the place of animals in the New Jerusalem.

    I’m praying for Alle and deeply moved to see all these comments, to know that I’m not the only one to see their relationship with a certain animal or two as a gift from God.

  • Roz Smith

    Nice people always have nice dogs. Maybe not obedient ones, but friendly,loyal, loving dogs who do belong by their side in heaven.

    I currently own three dogs. Clare, a Jack Russell, is the Duchess of the dog pound. Cooper is a German Shepherd/Akita cross who looks fierce and who does intimidate uninvited guests who don’t know the biggest risk is that he might knock them over and lick them to death. They both came from the local shelter.
    My third dog, Buddy, was a bequest.

    Alice was a dear friend and when her 13 year old Lab Goldie died six years ago she was deeply depressed. I told her to get another dog if that’s what she needed to be happy living all alone. Alice was in her 80s and was worried the dog would certainly outlive her. Becasue her only child is not a dog person, I promised Alice that would not be a problem. She promptly went out and bought Buddy, an 80 lb Labradoodle.

    Buddy became a member of my family last July when Alice’s son called to tell me she was terminally ill with lung cancer. Buddy is both a joy and a daily reminder of how much I miss a very good friend. When Buddy’s time comes, I am sure Alice will be waiting for him.

  • Lori

    Do animals show love? They surely do. Any creature that gives and receives love must have a soul, must have something that will be eternal.

    My question for a long time has been, why did God create a world in which creatures have had to suffer – long, long before any Fall of Man? Why is Nature designed so that animals prey on one another? That can’t be due to the Fall, since animals were here long before we were. But God created this world, “and saw that it was good…” – but how could built-in predation be a good thing?

    C.S. Lewis is the only theologian I’ve found who addresses this, and his solution is that we don’t know all the ways Satan may have interfered with God’s early creation – that somehow the cruelty of Nature may be a result of demonic intervention. Hmmm.

  • Alan G

    With regards to the animals in heaven thing. In Revelation – it is revealed that God will remake the Creation, in which man – in his sinfulness – had corrupted. The New Earth is to be perfect and good – as was the Original Creation. In as much as the Original Creation included animal life – it seems natural that the new, perfect creation will include animal life as well.

    So I agree with an earlier respondent that those creatures we loved will be with us in eternity.

    Hmmm -Does our “Cloud of Witnesses” include our pets?