Do Pets Have Souls?
by Jenny Smedley
People sometimes say to me that there is no mention of pets having souls or going to Heaven in The Bible. But that isn’t surprising and doesn’t mean they don’t. After all The Bible is a sort of instruction manual for humans to follow in order for them to achieve Heaven, but a pet wouldn’t be able to go to Heaven because of anything its owner could do to make it happen, so why would there be any instructions about it in the human instruction manual? If you still doubt, then try to imagine heaven that has no animals in it. It’s impossible.
The real question to ask, is what qualifies a living being to be admitted into heaven after they die? The simple answer to me is that they must have a soul, and to make this a reality they have to have shown the ability to love and to feel compassion. On December 4th 2008 a story was captured on a Motorway camera in Santiago in Chile. At first sight the film looked like it was going to be just another tragic road victim tale, as a dog ran across the carriageways. Appearing to be in a blind panic the dog paid no attention to the continuous speeding traffic, and the inevitable soon happened. The poor dog was struck a glancing blow by two cars and was left, sprawled unconscious and obviously badly injured or dead, right in the middle of the carriageway. It looked as if this dog is soon to be reduced to a smear on the tarmac, the way we’re used to seeing ‘road kill’ on our roads after a few hours, reduced from living breathing creature to a greasy stain. But then on the edge of the camera’s range another dog appeared. It looked very similar to the other one, so you have to wonder if they were siblings. The second dog paused for a moment as if assessing the problem, and then carefully made his way across the lanes of traffic to the prone dog. At this point, for me, it became quite surreal, as the rescuer dog didn’t grasp the injured one with his mouth, the way you would expect a dog to, but instead put a front leg either side of the victim from the front, his paws under the armpits, as you would see a human do when attempting to drag a heavy person. Then the dog, step by painstaking step, walked backwards across the motorway, looking carefully at the traffic each time it crossed a lane, still able to avoid the speeding cars, dragging his friend, until he reached the safety of the central reservation. Sadly, this miracle didn’t have a really happy ending, as the first dog had died on impact, and his rescuer ran away before the motorway workers, running to the scene to help, could take him in to be homed.
But, there are many things to consider in this story. How was the second dog able to assess the situation so intelligently? If he was just a ‘dumb animal’ how did he know that his friend needed rescuing? If he was incapable of love, then why would he care anyway? He was obviously very clever to be able to make it unscathed onto, across, and off the three lane road, but when he reached the other dog, he must have been able to sense that it was too late to save his life, and yet something drove him to still want his friend’s body off the road. Why would a dog care what happened to a dead body, and pull him so laboriously off the road instead of just saving himself? Did he want his friend’s body to be respected? If so, this is hardly the thought process of an irrational mind. Why did he use the totally human way of dragging the other dog, instead of grasping him with his teeth, which would have made his journey back much safer and quicker for him? Over and above all these remarkable questions, the biggest one of all remains; why did he embark on the rescue in the first place? There can only be one answer. He loved the other dog.
Another prerequisite for admission through the Pearly Gates is the gift of self-awareness, which that dog surely had. Still, many would argue that animals do not have this gift, but I was sent two other slightly less dramatic but equally amazing stories about dogs caring for and helping each other that further belie this opinion. The first involved two dogs swimming in a pool. One was a large breed and the other a toy. The toy breed wanted to get out of the pool, but although he could put his front paws on the edge of the pool, he couldn’t pull himself out. So the bigger dog swum to the steps, climbed out, ran along the side of the pool to his friend, reached down, grabbed him by the scruff of the neck with his teeth, and pulled him onto dry land. In the second, featuring two different dogs, a ball had fallen into the swimming pool, and neither of them could quite reach it without overbalancing and falling in, which they didn’t want to do. So, one dog stood behind the other and grasped him firmly by the tail. The first dog was then able to lean forward and reach the ball without falling in. Then the dog holding the tail pulled backwards, dragging friend and ball away from the edge of the pool. Both these incidences were filmed and not just hearsay.
Again, there are many questions about these incidences. An animal with no self-awareness would not have cared that his friend wanted to get out of the pool, or that he himself had the ability to help him, and therefore change things for him. This dog was not only self-aware, but also aware of his companion, and could empathize with him. In the second case, these dogs showed an ability to be team players, again demonstrating awareness both of themselves and of each other, and a comprehensive grasp of cause and effect.
So, what other criteria could there be to qualify a living creature for admittance into Heaven?
A perceived lack of empathy in animals is a stumbling block that prevents some people believing they have a soul, and therefore qualify for admittance into Heaven.
However, recently, London's Birkbeck College did some research on the yawn mechanism. In their study, 72% of dogs tested responded to a yawning human by yawning back. This response shows a definite empathic ability. This was already an established fact with chimpanzees. This behavior showed dogs were skilled at reading human social cues and showed a capacity for empathy.
Some other easily observed characteristics that I believe fit are the following:
Animals are not judgmental about others, and they don’t prejudge others based on their personal appearance. They are not prejudiced against anyone of any race or sexual orientation or religious belief system.
An animal doesn’t care whether their companions are the same color or a different color to themselves. A black dog is treated exactly the same as a white dog, and of course this is only common sense, because under their fur and skin they are exactly the same.
Animals can still smell water and intuitively know what they need to eat to stay healthy, whereas a sense deprived human would die of thirst very quickly in a dry place, and would most likely eat poisonous plants without an instruction manual to help him.
Also human language has brought many benefits, but on the other hand it has moved us away from natural communication, by body language, which is of course the method of connection that animals rely on. We could truly learn a lot from our animal friends, not least of which would be to ask ourselves a little more often the question, ‘Who are we to say who does and does not, deserve a heavenly afterlife?’
Jenny Smedley is the author of Forever Faithful – O Books 978-1-84694-174-0, and Pets Have Souls Too – Hay House 978-1-84850-090-7.
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