On Easter Sunday, it seems like an appropriate occasion to visit the age old question of whether dogs have souls.
I am always blown away by the number of “religious authorities” and followers thereof who insist that only humans have souls. To which I can only reply that anyone so foolish and egocentric as to actually believe that dogs don’t have souls has never spent any real quality time with one. If anything, dogs have far purer souls than humans.
It was once believed that “dumb animals” did not have the capacity for emotion. Yet anyone who has ever loved a dog knows that a dog feels joy, sadness, pain, anxiety, loneliness, anger. In fact, veterinarians accept these emotions in pets so readily and completely that there is now a wide variety of anti-anxiety medications available for dogs. Some of them are literally human medications re-applied to the veterinary market.
A dog has moods: relaxed, tense, friendly, cranky, playful. Behaviorists and veterinarians (and good pet owners) can read a dog’s body language very adeptly to tell you what a particular animal’s mood is.
A dog has intelligence. Dogs can be highly trained to perform very complex tasks, from running agility courses to sniffing bombs to helping the disabled. Dogs can also reason their way through situations that we would not expect. Ever seen a dog assess a situation and visibly arrive at a decision about what to do next? Give your dog one of those complex puzzle toys and watch him work his way through the puzzle to arrive at the treat inside.
A dog loves and forgives, much more freely than humans. Anyone who has ever worked with a rescued pet who suffered from neglect, abuse, or abandonment knows this. How often have rescuers seen a terribly damaged animal recover to become a healthy, loving pet? We really couldn’t blame these animals who have suffered so much at human hands if they were irreparably hostile or fearful of humans. Yet time and again, these animals demonstrate a capacity for love and forgiveness that should be a lesson to us all.
My church (along with many others) holds a Blessing of the Animals every year. The number of people who show up for these services serves as confirmation that the vast majority of Americans treat their pets as beings with souls.
I think I speak for most of us in the rescue world when I say that it wouldn’t be Heaven without dogs, but regardless of what some so-called authorities think, I have no doubt at all that dogs go straight there.
Happy Easter to you and all your furry friends!