Are animals spiritual? Do they have souls? Will I see my pets in heaven? Questions about animal spirituality have been debated for centuries, but for some theologians the question has been resolved.
A young girl once asked evangelist Billy Graham if she would see her pet in heaven.
“God will prepare everything for our perfect happiness in heaven,” he replied, “and if it takes our dogs being there, I believe they will be there.”
Numerous books and articles have been written by people who firmly believe animals are spiritual and possess souls. Using Scripture, evangelical minister J. R. Hyland references Genesis in his book, “God’s Covenant with Animals,” as he writes that animals were “endowed with God-given souls.”
My curiosity about animal spirituality extends beyond whether we’ll meet up with them in afterlife. I believe we will. I’m more interested in whether or not they perceive their own mortality, and that of their fellow beings. As humans, we can gaze beyond the present and contemplate the inevitability of our death. But do animals perceive their own mortality?
Last June I wrote about our cat Mali’s passing. On that day our dog Mojo behaved in a strange, bizarre fashion. Earlier in the morning he’d refused to cross an area in our sunroom. Fearfully, he whined, whimpered and initially wouldn’t come in from outside, just beyond the sunroom door. He was attuned to some vibration we couldn’t feel. A short while later we found Mali sprawled out in distress in the exact spot Mojo feared to tread. Our vet said she’d had a stroke, and at 19, she was peacefully euthanized. Somehow, Mojo knew of Mali’s impending death.
Last month Mojo passed away in the same office as Mali. One evening, six weeks prior, we noticed Moe’s tummy was tight and worried it might be bloat, which can kill an animal quickly if left untreated. We brought him in to see our vet the next day. Mojo had developed an aggressive, fast-growing, and deadly tumor. At age ten, and for other reasons, he advised against surgery in favor of palliative care only. He gave Moe two days to two weeks to live, and said as long as he was eating and engaging with us, we should continue life as usual. We left with some pain and appetite meds and Mojo lived weeks beyond our vet’s prediction—happy, hungry and only vaguely aware of his prognosis.
One morning things changed abruptly, and we knew we were staring down his final hours. He was shaky, and spurning food— even his beloved hot dog, a junk food treat we used as pill pockets. Then, the oddest thing happened. Mojo nosed his way out the backdoor, crossing the mysterious spot in the sunroom that had frightened him last year. Later, when Michael checked on him, he was nowhere to be found. He’d not settled down in any of his usual spots. A bit panicky, Michael sprinted to the far side of the house, a fenced area facing the front yard, but hidden from the backdoor. It was in this grassy area where we’ve laid to rest nine little feline souls—our Cat Garden graveyard— that Moe was found curled up, panting softly.
He’d never hung out in that part of the yard before—ever. But this is where he was, communicating he was ready to join his kitty brethren. We phoned our vet and said we were on the way. We also called Dixie Memorial Pet Cemetery, where he would join Mooch in cremation. Once inside the room, waiting for the vet to arrive with the meds, Moe gave each of us one long last steady look, then slipped away into the healing worlds. Will we see him in heaven? I think we will.
Contact Deborah for comments or suggestions at deborah.camp@ comcast.net