Question: As an animal lover and someone who has a deep connection to my pets, I’d like to know more about what the Bible says happens to our pets and other animals when they pass away. Does God have a place for them in heaven? Will we see them again?
As a dog lover myself, who is obsessed with my best friend, Haze the Dog, I always picture Haze bounding toward me when I reach the eternal reward, ready to greet me again.
The truth is that we know little about what heaven is like. What we do know is that this is a complete union with the Divine. So any earthly pleasures that we have come to know will be far exceeded by the complete joy that awaits us in heaven.
The Church teaches that we have dominion over the animals of the world (Genesis) and that while animals are great companions, God shows special preference towards human beings, instilling us with a soul. That said, while we might be the only creatures able to unite with the Divine, that does not mean that animals will not be present in heaven! It just means that they will not be united to God in the same way that we are.
So there very well may be dogs and cats and elephants in heaven. And they would be there for the same purposes that we have them here, companionship. They too, are creations of God and therefore we should take care of them as best we can. I believe that God takes care of them after death as well. A loving God, after all, would never just rid us of the love that God reflects to us in our pets.
But something to keep in mind is that even if they are not in heaven the same way that we now know them in life, it doesn’t matter. God finds a way to give us even more bliss than our pets have given to us. So the love that we recall from these animals will be present to us in an even greater way.
A final quick story that I believe provides us some insight into an animal’s place in heaven:
There was a man who died and in the afterlife his dog met him. They romped and bounded together just like old times. Upon reaching the first gate a man came out and said: “Welcome to heaven. But you can’t bring that dog in here.”
The dog growled and barked at the gatekeeper. Dejected the man said, “Well, if he can’t come, then I guess I can’t go either. I can’t imagine that God wouldn’t allow him in.” And he went away saddened by this.
A bit more up the road, he found a second gate. And a smiling young man came to the gate and greeted him and the dog wagged his tail and the young man came over and gave him a pat on the head and a belly rub and some doggy treats that he had in his pocket.
He reached out his arms to the man and embraced him and said, “Welcome to heaven!”
Surprised the man said, “But I was just at another gate and that guy told me THAT was heaven. But he wouldn’t let my dog come in with me. So I left that gate and was sad that I’d never get to see God.”
The young man said, “Oh, by the way, I’m St. Peter. And that last gate was hell. They only take people in who are willing to abandon their best friend.”
And off they went. Amen.