By JESSICA PIERCE
Published: September 22, 2012


ODY died peacefully last year, Nov. 29. He was 14 and a half. Truth be told, Ody didn’t just die. I killed him. I paid a vet to come to my house and inject a chemical solution into a vein in Ody’s back leg.

People ask me how I knew it was time. There was no watershed, but a slow accumulation of miseries. Ody had been in serious decline for six months. Partial paralysis of his laryngeal muscles made it hard for him to breathe, and he would begin to pant at the slightest exertion. His once deep tenor bark had transformed into a raspy Darth Vader croak. The signals from his addled brain often failed to reach his body, so when I walked him he left a Hansel and Gretel trail of pee and poop behind him. His muscles atrophied, and his walk was crab-like and unsteady. He grew increasingly uninterested in food and people, his two great passions. Worst of all, he began falling more and more frequently and was unable to get up by himself.

Toward the end, I would wake in the night to scuffling sounds. I’d search the house and find Ody trapped behind the piano or tangled up in the exercise equipment. It was on the fourth such night that my husband said: “It’s time. We can’t do this to Ody anymore.”

Euthanasia is deeply entrenched in the culture of pet keeping in America, and for the vast majority of companion animals, death will be orchestrated by a human caretaker, the time and date chosen in advance and not, as it were, decided by “nature” or some higher power. Yet despite its ubiquity, we rarely question its moral appropriateness.

Euthanasia is typically thought of as a choice between suffering and death — and, indeed, it can offer relief from unyielding pain. But death is too often prescribed as a de facto treatment for suffering when much less aggressive possibilities exist. We can ease our animals into the valley of death, rather than abruptly shoving them off the cliff.

Pain is the barometer most often used to assess whether an animal should be euthanized, and one of the most important improvements we can make in caring for our pets is to provide them with better palliative care. Untreated or undertreated pain is epidemic among companion animals. Kevin Stafford, an authority on veterinary ethics, estimates that 10 million dogs in the United States suffer from osteoarthritis but that only a small fraction get treatment. Of those dogs that do, he says, many are treated ineffectually or are given too little pain medicine for too short a time. The only treatment many arthritic dogs receive is euthanasia.

Effective and affordable pain treatments for animals are available; many human pain drugs were developed using animals. We can also lessen the pain for ailing pets with structural alterations to our homes, like ramps.

Why, then, are so many animals in pain? The reasons are largely cultural. Some veterinarians, particularly older ones, have been taught that animals don’t feel pain (the same convenient skepticism under which the animal research juggernaut labors). Few vets specialize in palliative care, and treating pain effectively takes a tenacity that harried and underpaid vets may find difficult to muster on a daily basis. And pet owners can be inattentive, even lazy.

To be sure, animal pain can be tricky to recognize and treat. Cats and rabbits are notorious for their so-called stoicism, but dogs, too, may not display pain in ways we easily see. As with humans, responses to pain vary. Effective pain management often requires trial and error with various types of drugs, as well as the use of non-drug therapies like weight management, controlled exercise, physical therapy, massage, acupuncture and nutritional supplements.

Pain must be understood broadly, as it is in human medicine, to include psychological suffering. Ody’s physical ailments were mostly caused by neurological decline. The fact that he wasn’t obviously in physical pain made the decision to euthanize a difficult one, because I was left to make an imperfect judgment about his overall well-being.

Quality-of-life assessments have long been used within human end-of-life care, and similar tools for assessing our animals are increasingly available, well-refined and imminently useful. One nice example is the veterinarian Alice Villalobos’s “Pawspice” program, which directs pet owners to assess their pet on a 1-to-10 scale on seven measures — hurt, hunger, hydration, hygiene, happiness, mobility and “more good days than bad” — with the lowest number being the worst. During Ody’s final decline, I would force myself to think through this assessment. It was hard to be honest. Ody’s score just kept getting lower. But the exercise at least offered a measure of objective

One of the most troublesome moral challenges involves money. We could say that money shouldn’t matter when an animal’s life is in the balance, but this is neither realistic nor fair to pet owners. We might feel a justified repugnance toward the financially well-positioned pet owner who refuses to cough up the money for an antibiotic or inexpensive pain medicine. But the question of money can be gut-wrenching, as when prolonged care for an ill animal is balanced against college education for a child. Luckily, basic palliative care is not particularly expensive, and the emerging field of animal hospice will allow more owners to give respite to their dying animals without going broke.

AT animal hospice, the therapeutic agenda is not abandoned, but its goals shift, sometimes subtly, from cure to compassionate care and comfort. We put aside the desire to fix — the stem-cell treatments, joint replacements, X-rays and biopsies, and the other marvels of modern veterinary medicine — and focus instead on managing pain and allowing death to unfold in its own time. When things get really ugly, we retain the option — still largely unavailable for our human loved ones — of a gentle release.

Unfortunately, the love we feel for our animals can inure us to their suffering. We may wait for our animal to “tell us she is ready,” but our love can make it hard to hear her cries. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing Ody, so I sugarcoated his suffering. I focused on care-giving, feeling vindicated when he showed his typical interest in hot dogs and processed cheese. When, prodded by my husband, I finally called the euthanasia vet, I asked her to come the following day. I need one more day with Ody, to say goodbye, I thought. After realizing that this extra day was for me, not for Ody, I called back, and when I was able to control my voice, I asked her to come as soon as she could.

When the vet arrived at our house that night to perform the procedure, Ody was crouched under the piano, peering out at the family and friends gathered to say farewell. Normally he was drawn to people, but not this night. I watched him turn and stumble off. I followed him onto the flagstone patio, where he stood still, his back legs with their awkward bent. It was a bitterly cold night. I sat next to him and wrapped my arms around his chest and buried my face in the soft red fur of his neck. I didn’t want this moment to end. A few minutes later, my husband opened the door and called, “The vet’s ready.” I sat for another long moment with Ody and then got up and moved toward the door, beckoning him after me. He stood still, looking into the dark. I got behind him and gently touched his back, urging him on.


Jessica Pierce is a bioethicist and the author of “The Last Walk: Reflections on Our Pets at the End of Their Lives.”
A version of this op-ed appeared in print on September 23, 2012, on page SR10 of the New York edition with the headline: Deciding When a Pet Has Suffered Enough.

On Jan. 4, 11 years and 26 days after I walked out of an animal shelter in New Jersey with a little white and brown dog attached to the end of a brand-new leash, she died. On this day, an undiagnosed tumor pressed down on Emily’s brain and told her that she needed to escape, which made her usually soft, cuddly and often napping body go wild, endangering herself and me. The humane thing to do was put her down.

I don’t think anything could have prepared me for that moment, or the searing grief that followed. But if I could go back in time to console myself, I would tell myself these six things:

Most people will say the wrong thing. They will talk about dogs they knew and loved and put down, too, or, if they haven’t walked through this long, lonely tunnel yet, about how they can’t possibly imagine losing their very alive pet, which reminds you that yours is dead. They will also ask how old she was, and when you say 15, they will say, “Well, it was a good long life,” as if the ending of it would be less painful because of how long you were together.

They may tell you other dog death stories, too, like the one about the dog who was so excited to be home from vacation that he bolted out of the car and was immediately run over while the whole family watched — stories that imply it could have been worse. They will shove shelter listings for other Jack Russell terriers at you, as if another dog could slip into that perfect little spot left by your beloved one-of-a-kind pet.

Guilt overwhelms. I still tell myself that I killed Emily, despite the veterinarian telling me, after her body had been taken away, while I gripped both a counter and a vet tech to keep from collapsing, that all four of her paws had been bloodied as she had clawed at the floor, the door and the ground during her manic and desperate attempt to get away from my home. There is guilt, too, over the relief of no longer having to take care of a dog who was on multiple medications and who had arthritis, two defective heart valves and pulmonary hypertension.

You will become unmoored. I adopted Emily soon after I became a freelance writer, and I wrote three books with her by my side. She was the metronome to my life. With her gone, I floated through a space she no longer occupied but haunted with every little white hair found on my blankets, on the floor, in my shoes. Once, in the first week following her death, I came up from the basement and looked at the spot where she would usually be waiting. I called for her with the foolish notion that she’d appear at the top of the stairs. But of course, no: just another sledgehammer reminder that she was really gone.

Grief is exhausting. Last fall, I ran two marathons and an ultramarathon. After Emily died, I couldn’t drag myself through three miles, not to mention find the energy to get out of bed, put on clothes that were not my pajamas and shower at regular intervals. I pushed off assignments because the idea of putting my fingers to the keyboard was inconceivable when Emily wasn’t sleeping on her bed in the corner of my office. These were wretched, grief-stained days, surrounded by a deafening silence.

It will get better. You won’t want to hear it, or believe it, because the pain is so suffocating. It does ease, though, almost without you noticing it.

But still, it slaps back. This may happen at predictable moments, such as when you decide to sell her crate, and sometimes not. Soon after Emily died, I got on a plane and went to Florida to bake out the pain with all-day poolside sessions punctuated by midday drinks. It worked, somewhat, but on my last night there, my face cracked open at the World of Disney store when I saw a mug with the character Stitch that said “brave” on one side and “loyal” on the other. Only the cashier noticed that I paid with tears and snot running down my face. I then ran out of the store to stare at a lake.

These days, I get up, I brush my teeth, I write, I run. I smile now and laugh sometimes. The pain still catches me, though, and I can now more clearly see why: I loved that dog, and in giving a scared, abused, imperfect Emily a home, she loved me back, and together our lives both bloomed. The loss of that joy is why the pain is so acute — and why, at some point in the maybe not so distant future, I’ll go back to that animal shelter with a brand-new leash, and do it all over again.

Posted: Saturday, March 29, 2014 7:00 am Associated Press |

FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Because Julie Mack’s golden retriever was her best friend, roommate, playmate and travel partner, the euthanized passing of the nearly 12-year-old Clancy was excruciatingly painful. As Clancy’s head rested in her lap, Mack said a tearful goodbye in the privacy of a Fort Wayne veterinarian’s emergency room. Shortly after Clancy’s cremation, Mack’s friends gathered for a brief memorial service.

“I even had a guy come with bagpipes,” Mack says, nearly five years later. “We had a funeral service here at my (Atwood Lake) cottage. And so I started helping people with (their grief).” When a friend had given her a hand-painted wooden box in which to place Clancy’s remains, the gift touched Mack to the point of paying the gesture forward. And recently, she had just completed painting and varnishing her 30th memorial box – this one for a friend in New York. “I do it just to help people get over that loss,” Mack tells The Journal Gazette.

“I feel like there’s not much for people when they lose a pet.” All that could be changing. Public pet bereavement, a subject once questioned with the gesture of raised eyebrow, is not only accepted, but has become commonplace. Newspapers, including The Journal Gazette and The News-Sentinel, publish pet obituaries that include a photograph. Private services, such as Mack’s, are given. Even established funeral homes are offering their services.

“People today are certainly more attached to and into their pets than they have been in the past,” says Doug McComb of D.O. McComb & Sons. “I think it’s a lot because our society is changing in regard to our family structure. In the past, we had family members who were close to each other – lived in the same communities and so forth, and now we have people going away to college, and their first thought isn’t to go back home anymore. Now their thoughts are about moving on to New York or California or someplace like that. There isn’t that interaction with your family; sometimes pets can serve at least a part of that role as a companion. I think some of the relationships with pets today are deeper than they were in the past. People, when they lose their pet, it’s a significant deal in their life.”

McComb says his company will remove the pet from its home as well as offer the cremation and a specific setting for a private service. “We did have a person in the last year or so, the pet that they had was a company mascot,” McComb says. “The pet went from desk to desk and got patted on the head by the various staff members. Everybody was very attached to the dog. So what he did was he had a reception, and they passed out cookies that looked like dog treats. It wasn’t a funeral; it was a reception and kind of recognition for the people in the office that lost an office companion.”

While Clancy’s remains are in a painted box that sits on one of Mack’s end tables, Julie has another companion in Sam, a romping golden retriever who has filled the void in her cottage, if not her heart. “There are no rules to follow, no guidelines to go by, when you lose your pet,” Mack wrote in a short essay. “A pet becomes more like your family member. Their loss is deeply felt. The only thing that you can do is to take each step toward all of your feelings. Don’t try to run or block them. Honor all of your feelings of grief. It is OK to cry. It is OK to feel the void and very deep loss of your pet. Always remember it is OK to miss them. “And remember that down the road you may open your heart to another heart that just wants to be loved.”

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Last updated: November 24, 2009 9:50 a.m.
Emma Downs – The Journal Gazette

“Pet-sympathy cards have long been available, but are more in-demand these days,” says Terri Todd, of the Anne’s Hallmark store on St. Joe Center Road.

Darby was a typical terrier. High-spirited, mischievous, maybe a little too big for his tiny britches. “Ordinarily,” says owner Mary Morrow, 76. “We called him a terror instead of a terrier.” For 14 years, Darby was Morrow’s companion,  her special friend, she says. But the Welsh Terrier developed cancer in his nose and, one morning, he sneezed and started bleeding to death, Morrow says. “He loved us to death,” she says. “And we returned that. He was the joy of my life. I was so sad. We didn’t get another pet for years after that.” Morrow took Darby to the veterinarian, and the dog was euthanized.

She’d heard about veterinarians sending cards or flowers to clients who’d lost a pet. But Morrow received nothing. “I never heard from them,” she says. “I felt bad about that.” Losing Darby was the impetus for Morrow’s volunteerism at Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control. Five years ago, she joined the other shelter volunteers who write and send sympathy cards to anyone who brings a sick, severely injured or elderly pet (or a pet with advanced aggression) into the shelter to be euthanized. In 2008, the shelter euthanized 407 pets for people unable to afford euthanasia at a veterinary clinic.

“You’d see people bring in a dog or a cat and they’d be so sad,” Morrow says. “The least we can do is send them a card.” Morrow writes the cards herself. Featuring artwork by local artist Lisa Girlach, the message inside the card is simple: “We want you to know we understand how you feel about the loss of your friend,” Morrow says. “These animals are part of people’s lives,” she says. “And for some of the old people, they’re a reason to go on living.” This year, Morrow and Girlach have sent 200 of their cards  for cats, dogs, hamsters and one iguana  to local people.

“Pet sympathy cards are not a new phenomenon but are gaining in popularity,” says Terri Todd, manager of Anne’s Hallmark on St. Joe Center Road. During the 15 years Todd has worked for Hallmark, pet sympathy cards have always been available, but Todd sees more customers requesting them now. “They’ll think they’re asking for something unusual,” she says. “And they seemed relieved to actually find one.”

“One of the possible reasons for the increased interest in pet sympathy cards is that having empathy for a person who lost a pet, especially if you don’t own one yourself  is a relatively new phenomenon,” says Peggy Bender, community relations and education specialist at Animal Care and Control. “People are still taken by surprise when they receive one,” Bender says. “There are people out there who still see pets as just animals. So a person who loses a pet will feel hesitant to express how much grief they’re going through.”

“Sending a sympathy card is an important acknowledgment of a person’s loss,” says Kathleen Bredemeyer, an employee at Paws and Remember (www.pawsandremember.com), a local business that provides loss and grief counseling and provides pet memorial and cremation services. “We’re beginning to understand and recognize how deeply felt the loss of a pet can be,” she says. “They are our best friends and a part of our families. They play a large role in our lives and should be remembered.”

By Kim Eisen | Published: March 1, 2010

In the past, most grief therapies take place after the loss or event, whether it’s the transition of a loved one or beloved pet, a divorce, loss of a job, friend, relationship, self-image or anything with which you have formed a bond or attachment. Grief shows up in many aspects of our daily lives and, if not processed, we can hold the energy of it not only emotionally, but oftentimes physically and mentally.

As a culture, we usually talk about grief in relation to death, but it is much more than that. Grief can start the moment you think something unpleasant might happen to you or is happening to you now. While experiencing this myself and with clients, it became so apparent that because grief may have already begun just with the thought that something may be lost, why not address it now? Even if the loss is or isn’t certain, the grief associated with it is still present.

To address this issue, I created a process called “Pre-Grief: Gateway to Grace.” By walking through the imagined loss prior to the event, while neutralizing the energy associated with it, it brings you to a higher state of grace when and if that event actually occurs. And, if it doesn’t occur, you have relieved the pain of the grief associated with the “not knowing” part of you that delves into the emotions of grief anyway.

This process can be done as soon as you have a thought about it and/or during the process of the cycle of grief.

Examples of pre-grief

Although not all-inclusive, the following are some examples of when pre-grief may arise, whether or not the perceived events are terminal or imminent: You or a loved one was just diagnosed with cancer or illness; your pet has an illness or old age is taking its toll; layoffs at work are pending and you might lose your job; your marriage isn’t going well or you are in the process of divorce; a friendship or relationship is not working out the way you had wished; your personal or career status may be affected by something; your sense of safety, family structure and dynamics may be changing; or stress and worry about the future in general.

It only has to be imagined for the grief to begin.

Grief is a normal process, but it doesn’t have to be painful or continue for long periods of time. It can be processed ahead of time. We’ve been told that you have to mourn for a certain length of time after the event to justify the loss or to express your loyalty to a person. I have come to find out this is absolutely NOT true after using this Pre-Grief process with myself and my clients.

Within ten months starting in 2006, I lost a pet of 13 years, my sister and best friend, my other beloved pet of 21 years, and my mother. I used the Pre-Grief process with my beloved pet and mother and I had no grief afterward, just a sense of completion and joy. In fact, as I sat with my mother as she was leaving, I was able to see my father and sister along with angels come and greet her. It was one of many mountain top experiences I’ve enjoyed throughout my life – and I may have missed it if I had not done the pre-grieving. With my sister, who died suddenly, I used this process immediately and the deep and painful grief was totally gone within two weeks, permanently.

I thank them all now, as their transitioning served a valuable lesson in creating this process. My heart is filled with joy every time I think of them.

Peace and clarity

Clients with whom I have used the Pre-Grief process seem to go through an event or loss with much more grace, understanding and compassion – and even joy. It brings them to a place of peace and clarity so the decisions they may need to make are more clear and easier to put in place. If an event or loss they imagine doesn’t happen, it allowed them the opportunity to live without grief, pain, stress and worry of waiting and not knowing.

What is so beautiful about the process is that it is fast, efficient and effective. No drugs, needles or traditional talk therapy are needed. Most people only need one to three sessions to relieve their pre-grief or grief, which is a whole lot better than being in that state for months or even years.

How do you know you are grieving? It shows up in so many ways, but here are some symptoms: Life has just stopped, no emotion, no movement forward, obsessively recalling the past over and over again, deep love pain, don’t want to bring up the issue, feeling that it’s not fair, apathy, why bother or what’s the point, extreme sadness, don’t want to do anything, afraid of failure or success, loss of future dreams, anxiousness or anxiety, physical issues that don’t seem to go away even with proper care, denial, anger, mind racing, intrusive thoughts, depression or despair, and sleep disturbances.

Grief isn’t bad. And it is compounded when it affects your life on a day-to-day basis. Pre-Grief truly is the Gateway to Grace, a more joyful and peaceful existence while living everyday life.

Copyright © 2010 Kim Eisen. All Rights Reserved.


About The Author | Kim Eisen
Kim Eisen, HHCP, EFTCert-I, PhD, DD, of the Twin Cities is a best-selling co-author along with Dr. Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra and others of Wake-Up: Live the Life You Love – Finding Personal Freedom. She is an intuitive spiritual healer and board certified Holistic Health Counselor and Practitioner who has helped hundreds of people and entrepreneurs get fast and efficient release of emotional blocks and limiting beliefs using energy psychology tools and has operated Spirit Healing Power since 1999. Contact Kim at www.DoEFT.com or call 612.802.HEAL (4325). See the special offer for readers of The Edge at www.LifeGuidanceCoaching.com or join her in her Banishing Baggage series at www.EFTteleseminars.com.

Contact Info | (612) 802-4325 |

A sick man turned to his doctor as he was preparing to
Leave the examination room and said,
‘Doctor, I am afraid to die.
Tell me what lies on the other side.’
Very quietly, the doctor said, ‘I don’t know…’
‘You don’t know? You’re, a Christian man,
and don’t know what’s on the other side?’

The doctor was holding the handle of the door;
On the other side came a sound of scratching and whining,
And as he opened the door, a dog sprang into the room
And leaped on him with an eager show of gladness.

Turning to the patient, the doctor said,
‘Did you notice my dog?
He’s never been in this room before.
He didn’t know what was inside.
He knew nothing except that his master was here,
And when the door opened, he sprang in without fear.
I know little of what is on the other side of death,
But I do know one thing…
I know my Master is there and that is enough.’

 

A Reader’s Review:   “You can’t read this story without a tissue. This is a touching story about a boy Riley who wants to make his retriever Jasper’s last day very special. Together the family celebrates what a great companion Jasper has been by visiting many of the places that have been special to him. I would read this story along with my child. Although sad, it is a sweet story of a family’s love and respect for a dog they certainly viewed as a member of the family.”

You can purchase a copy from this link  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/jaspers-day-marjorie-blain-parker/1006326945

(Author Unknown)

And God asked the feline spirit,
“Are you ready to come home?”
“Oh, yes, quite so,” replied the precious soul
“And, as a cat, you know I am most able
To decide anything for myself.”

“Are you coming then?” asked God.
“Soon,” replied the whiskered angel.
“But I must come slowly
For my human friends are troubled
For you see, they need me, quite certainly.”

“But don’t they understand?” asked God,
“That you’ll never leave them?
That your souls are intertwined. For all eternity?
That nothing is created or destroyed?
It just is….forever and ever and ever.”

“Eventually they will understand,”
Replied the glorious cat.
“For I will whisper into their hearts
That I am always with them
I just am….forever and ever and ever.”

 

 

Book Review: Kate, The Ghost Dog: Coping With The Death Of A Pet – by Wayne Wilson

My review originally posted on Feathered Quill Reviews

Aleta is a bright, free-spirited, young girl who lives with her parents and younger brother. She has two great friends she loves spending her time with, and even has aspirations on becoming a veterinarian someday. On a most terrible day, Aleta returns home to discover that the family dog, Kate, has died. Although Aleta does understand that animals can’t possibly live forever, she is completely devastated over the loss of the dog, and doesn’t want to accept the truth at first. As the days pass, Aleta goes through her own grief process that includes isolation so she doesn’t have to talk about it, to anger and even pretending that Kate’s ghost has returned to the family. Her pain also spills into school as she breaks down and cries in class, and Aleta doesn’t want to participate in a memorial for Kate, nor does she want to play with her two best friends. Thankfully, with the help of her family, uncle, and close friends, Aleta is able to overcome her grief and turn her raw feelings into positive memories of Kate.

Author Wayne Wilson, coupled with illustrator Soud, present an admirable story on grief and pet loss for children that not only perfectly identifies many of the emotions children can experience during such an event, but also points out the equally valuable ways in which the healing process can, and does, occur. This story is eloquently written, flows well, and keeps the reader’s attention throughout, while the illustrations are gently sprinkled amongst key points in the story, rather than having them included on every page, which is often seen in more simple picture books. The book stresses the importance of building on family support, and creating positive memories of times spent with a beloved pet, which can be equally transformed into human loss too. Kate, the Ghost Dog also includes a summarization of helpful tips on how to cope with pet loss that can be a useful tool for not only children, but also adults.

Quill says: Kate, the Ghost Dog is a positive book that respectfully discusses the grief process for children, and is a beneficial tool for both parents and schools alike.

For more information on Kate, the Ghost Dog, please visit the author’s website WayneLWilson.net

Here is what they had to say:

 

Oh, how I wish when I die my dog Skippy or my cat Peaches would meet me at the gate and we would go on like we were never apart. Life would be easier to live if after death we could all meet in a glorious place and continue on with the people and pets who passed before us.

Unfortunately, I believe that is not the way it works. When people and animals die, they are kept alive by our fond memories of them and, in the case of people, our genes that our children and grandchildren carry. Sadly for all living things, when we die that is the end.

— Virginia Weaver Sabol, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Erie


Buddhism considers all of life to be evolving toward higher consciousness and sees nonhuman life to be divine, just  as is human life. Animals are seen to be an evolving kingdom of living creatures destined in time to attain perfect enlightenment. Therefore,to harm any living thing is to do injury to the divine. Since animals are considered to be traveling toward enlightenment just as humans are, neither are they to be harmed, discouraged or hampered in their progress.

— Jim Hamilton, Erie Karma Thegsum Choling Tibetan Buddhist Center


I may not be able to prove that animals do or do not have the necessary souls that would bring them to the afterlife, but I will say that the afterlife will be a very lonely and horrible place if our dearest friends and “family” were not there to greet us when we cross over the veil.

— Grollwynn (Christopher Temple), Whispering Lake Grove, ADF


I do not believe that animals go to heaven when they die. The Bible does not teach on whether animals have souls or if they can even go to heaven. The first book in the Bible, Genesis, states both man and animals do have the breath of life (Genesis 1:30,6:17, 7:17 and 7:22).

There is a big difference between humans and animals. The difference is humans are made in God’s likeness and image (Genesis 1:26-27). God also breathed into the nostrils of man the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). Humans are capable of spirituality, and future heaven is promised to mankind but never animals that die (Philippians 3:20, 1 Peter 1:4). Animals are a part of God’s creative process, and God said that they were good (Genesis 1:25). I also believe that animals will be a part of the future kingdom but it is impossible to say whether they can die and come back to life (Isaiah 11:6, 65:25).

— Seth Crowell, Assemblies of God, Erie


I don’t think that much about the afterlife, but it seems to me that without all of those that we have loved (and that includes the animals who add so much to our lives), that it would be incomplete. So, if Morgaine Imelda, Smokey Joe and all the other furry friends aren’t there, I’m not going.

— Mike Mahler, Erie


Of course there are animals in the afterlife. I can’t imagine God denying us one of his greatest creations. Not a day goes by that I am not amazed, amused, entertained and loved by one of God’s creatures. God did not put animals on this Earth just for food or sport. Instead, he put them here for three other reasons.

The first is to enjoy. Who hasn’t admired a beautiful bird in their yard, and look at the millions of people who flock to our forests and parks just to catch a glimpse of an elk, deer or even a bear.

We also learn from animals. Every day, science discovers another way we can learn from these creatures. It may be the study of the traffic patterns of ants or how bird migration corresponds with the weather.

At last there’s love. That unconditional love your pet gives you every day. They don’t care how you look, the money you make or even if your breath is bad. They are there to greet and love you after your long day.

No, I can’t imagine God not including animals in our afterlife. Without them, we would be missing the “life” in afterlife.

— Cheryl Wenslow, Unity in Edinboro


This may be the easiest question I’ve had all day. Just go to Revelation 6:2,4,5 and 8. I take the Bible at face-value. I’m sure John knew what a horse looked like, so there would be no mistaking it for something else. Also, God made all living things. I believe he can “talk” to all living things, and they have a way to talk to him. To say otherwise puts limits on God. My God has no limits.

— Bob Boyd, Immanuel Baptist Church, Erie


The church has no explicit doctrine about animals in heaven or the afterlife. It’s a matter of theological speculation.

However, concerning “last things” the church teaches about “a new heaven and a new Earth,” that presumably includes animals (Lumen Gentium,48; Catechism 1042-1050). My wife and I have similar discussions about whether or not animals have souls.

According to Aristotle and Aquinas, they do. But they define “soul” very broadly as the “principle of life” or “life-force.” Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College and a popular author, speculates that there must be animals in heaven. His opinion can be summarized in this simple syllogism: 1. Heaven is a state of perfect happiness. 2. Animals (including our pets) are part of our happiness. 3. Therefore, animals are part of heaven.

Jesus didn’t say anything about animals in heaven. But I often wonder what happened to the donkey after Jesus’ triumphal entry on Palm Sunday.

— Deacon Dennis Kudlak, Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, Erie


I believe there is a heaven for animals and an afterlife for them.

I act responsibly and lovingly toward all of God’s creatures. Acceptance, love, kindness, generosity — all these qualities can be true of the pets that share our lives.

I bless all animals in my prayers, always acknowledging that they, too, are being divinely cared for and loved by the same God that protects and loves all.

I give thanks for the pets who keep me and others company. More than just animals, they are beloved family members. These pets never need to be asked for love and acceptance. They are given without question and without thought of return. I give thanks for animal friends and the joy they add to my life.

All creatures proclaim their Father’s power and testify His love. All creatures are miracles and gifts from God, but I believe because I’ve seen the miracle of love. These are the overflowing riches of His grace. There is a heaven for all of God’s creatures. They were here first.

— Rita Trabert, St. Stanislaus Catholic Church, Erie


As Toto was in the land of Oz, so animals will be in heaven.

That’s great news for most people, especially to think that in the place of perfection, there will be no more accidents on the carpet.

Animals don’t have souls like people, so I doubt very much that I’ll see my dog again. But animals will be part of the new creation of God. What was created in perfection the first time will be re-created in perfection the second time.

The prophet Isaiah gives us a glimpse into the next life, where the wolf shall dwell with the lamb and the calf with the lion. Animals are part of God’s eternal created order.

In Revelation 21, we behold the Lamb, a name for Jesus Christ. The time frame there is the eternal state. If animals were not in heaven, no one there would understand what the metaphor means.

Yes, expect to see animals in heaven. You’ll encounter a zoo there like none on Earth.

— Rev. Al Detter, Grace Church, McKean


“The whole creation eagerly awaits the revelation of the sons of God.” Romans 8:19 “The world itself will be freed from its slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.” — Romans 8:21

From these statements in the Bible, we can see that all creation — plants, animals, along with us humans who care for them on this Earth, are waiting for their freedom.

Remember how God told Noah to take the animals into the ark so they would survive the great flood? It was out of his great love for the work of his hands, the innocent animals of which man is the greatest.

Thus, the animals will also be living with us in heaven, as in the garden of paradise, as their creator intended.

Sin entered the world by one man Adam, but by one man, Jesus Christ, we were freed from the curse of sin and corruption. As we will live in the glory of God in his kingdom, so also will the rest of his creation.

God is love, and he wants the best for all things that he made — all people, trees and plants, cats, dogs and every kind of living creature. The lion will lie down with the lamb. In the kingdom of peace, we will be united with God, and reunited with each other and with our beloved animals.

— Ann M. Filutze, Order of Secular Discalced Carmelites, St. Joseph Community, Erie


The Bible informs us that God created Adam and Eve in his image and likeness. All the creatures of the Earth, the heavens and of the sea were made for our use. They were put here for food, aiding in labor and providing comforting companionship as pets.

I personally feel animals are to be used and fully appreciated during their life span, but afterlife in heaven just isn’t there for them. Having said that, in all truth I’d rather select some pets instead of some of the earthly “human losers” I’ve worked with over the years to share my eternal reward with, that’s for sure.

But it’s God’s call, not mine.

— Leo Swigonski, Holy Family Catholic Church, Erie


As a Neopagan, specifically an ADF Druid, I offer praise to the Three Kindred; the Shining Ones, the Nature Spirits and the Ancestors. As all living animals are part of the Nature Spirits, when their bodies die and they leave this world, I believe those spirits exist as part of the Ancestors.

The Ancestors are not just of my blood (in the case of a family member or pet), they are of spirit, too. There are animals who are now extinct, or those hunted for food (and given the gift of life to others), for those that have gone I offer praise; be it stories, songs, food, to show them I have not forgotten them, that they are appreciated, honored and shown praise.

So, these beings will exist, as spirits, as part of the dead, as a form of the Ancestors.

Personally, as for an afterlife, I concern myself with the here and now. If we make virtuous choices, and do things well now, the next life will be taken care of when we get there.

— Grey (Paul) Whittney, Snow Water Grove, ADF


God said let the Earth bring forth creatures according to their kinds, and God saw it was good (Genesis).

You fall in love with pets and they fill your home with love.

My beloved cat and dogs have been four-legged blessings in my life with their unconditional love for me. They know when I am happy or sad. They keep my secrets and never betray me. When my world fell apart, my pet was right at my side, ready to snuggle, listen and with her eyes say, “Mom, things will get better soon!”

Since God created pets to be my very best friends and companions in life, I truly believe with all my heart that God will greet me with my family and friends along with Lady, Flipper,Pumpkin, Bozo, Turkey-Bird and Rosie.

We will all cross the Rainbow Bridge to be together forever once again in heaven.

— Rebecca Bliley, First Presbyterian Church of Waterford


I do believe that there are animals in heaven or the afterlife. Animals have a life of their own and have some of the same characteristics a human has. Some people even consider the pet they have as part of the family.

I know plenty of families that have buried their pets and gave them a ceremony just as they would for humans. Just because animals look different and are from the wild doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings.

God said that he created everyone equally. I believe this goes for animals as well. A big reason why I believe this is because of pain. No one likes the word pain and hates feeling it, and I think that’s how animals feel about it to. They feel pain, just as much as humans do, and it would be wrong to not think animals go to heaven or an afterlife.

— Jeff Slater, Christian


I have always heard about the Rainbow Bridge. It’s the place where all the pets you ever had wait for you in heaven until your happy arrival.

Our relationship with animals has evolved over the years. We used to be the stern master. They were in the doghouse, rain or shine. Gradually, pets moved into our houses, our beds, our hearts.

Animals have lived with me all of my life, each one unique and precious. I’ve felt the sting of being ignored by a cat for being gone too long. But also there’s the ecstatic jumping, barking, wagging doggy reception, too.

Jesus left us with the most important commandment — to love one another. I don’t know about most people, but pets have unconditional love for their humans.

Animals have exquisite minds, big hearts and, yes, souls. Why wouldn’t they go to heaven?

— Sally Messenkopf, First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, Erie


The subject of animals in heaven, spirit and the afterlife is one that is very close to my heart. How could anyone ever doubt that which is unconditional love would not transcend this physical existence?

Every being is a spark of the divine. Look into the eyes of your dog, cat, horse and see and sense that inner being. Feel that endless joy and peace that all of our domestic animals bring into our lives.

I believe that dogs and cats live in the original state of connectedness with being. They are here to help us regain that feeling of oneness with our creator. They remain in a state of deep awareness with all energy and life around them.

I also believe that animals can become our spirit guides and guardian angels, and their love truly never dies.They communicate with us telepathically, also with their hearts.

As a medium, I have been honored with their presence and communication many times. All animals bring wisdom, love and peace. Open your heart today and allow that unconditional love into your life.

— Rev. Brenda Beck, Namaste’ Center, Meadville