Pet Loss and the Afterlife?
One of the most agonizing and probing questions after the loss of a pet is if one’s pet will be with them in the afterlife. There is a mixed consensus among theologians and others of many religious creeds, but I do
believe Christianity has room for a few dogs and cats in the afterlife.
While other religions, especially the ancient religions, considered the spirit of animals sacred and eternal, Christianity has declared that only man is made in the image and likeness of God. Yet from this phrase has come a few confusions. First, what does it mean to be made in the image and likeness of God? Obviously we do not physically look like God. So what does this mean? It simply means that our soul has an intellect and a will that can reason and make free choices. Animals on the other hand while free to make decisions within the realm of instinct, do not have an ability to rationally and intellectually understand a moral framework of a decision. This does not mean an animal cannot reason within the realms of cause and effect or show instinctive care, but it does forbid an animal from making moral decisions and understanding the implications of those decisions.
Yet, when one believes that man as being made in the image and likeness of God excludes all other in regards to eternal existence, I feel a mistake is being made. I feel image and likeness refers to moral choice and superior intellect, not eternal existence. Yes that is an element but it is not an element that is selfishly held by man alone. Animals have spirits and to boldly proclaim they are not eternal spirits is a far reach. Nowhere in Christianity does it definitively state if an animal has an eternal soul or not. It merely states only man is made in the image and likeness of God. And if we interpret image and likeness to primarily emphasize free choice and intellect, then we are free to share an eternal existence with other creatures and their spiritual form.
While the Doctor of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas, questioned the eternal nature of the
animal soul, I prefer to stand with St. Francis of Assissi who called the various animals his “brothers” and “sisters”. It is true that animals share in the glory of the creator. When God created them, he deemed it good and therefore how could it be possible for something so good and so wonderful as to give one joy, especially in the case of pet, be denied Heaven? Yes, the Beatific Vision would be lone enough to satisfy every thirst we may ever have, but God also knows we are social creatures and that the many good things we shared in the temporal world should also be shared in the Eschatological world. Heaven is about total happiness and one cannot have complete happiness unless one shares all that is good.
So in conclusion, yes “hun”, Spike will be with you in Heaven one day!
If you are interested in our pet loss program, please review it.
Mark Moran, MA, GC-C, SCC-C