Is there an afterlife for animals?

Published 1:16 pm Sunday, January 18, 2015

When I was a little girl, my dad took me to see the movie “All Dogs Go to Heaven.”

If you’re not familiar with that one, it’s an animated movie about a German Shepherd named Charlie, voiced by Burt Reynolds, who is murdered and sent to Heaven. But rather than stay, he escapes the afterlife to seek out revenge. Now that I’m explaining it, the plot seems rather dark for a children’s movie…

To make a long story short, during Charlie’s quest for revenge, he ends up befriending and exploiting a little girl who can talk to animals. Charlie ends up really caring for the little girl ,with the movie culminating in the dog having to choose between saving her life or his own.

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Spoiler alert — Charlie saves the little girl, he dies and is sent to Hell. Don’t worry, he gets to heaven eventually.

That movie was probably one of my favorite when I was a child because to me, it answered the question, “Where will my dog go when she dies?”

In my mind, our golden retriever, Wendy, was absolutely going to Heaven.

A few weeks ago, two of my colleagues got into a semi-heated argument about whether animals go on to an afterlife. Both were steadfast in their opinions and not backing down.

At the time, it seemed like a silly thing to argue about, but it got me to thinking about that movie I liked as a child and whether I still believe that, yes, all dogs do go to Heaven.

Pope Francis said something this past December to a little boy whose dog recently died.

He said, “One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.”

For anyone who has pets that are just like members of the family, that’s a pretty comforting statement. It is for me.

Especially when you hear stories about extraordinary animals that seem to show more compassion than many humans.

This past week, a news story about a Russian cat that “saved” a baby went viral.

The stray, named Masha, found an abandoned newborn in an apartment building’s entrance way. The temperature was below freezing that day so the cat climbed on top of the infant to keep it warm. Loud mewing alerted a tenant, who called authorities.

Residents of the area, who communally take care of the cat, said they were certain the infant would have died if it weren’t for Masha’s heroism.

That’s pretty awesome, right? Way to go, Masha.

In 2007, a golden retrieve saved its owner from choking by performing a sort of Heimlich maneuver. The dog pounced up and down on the woman’s chest, which dislodged a piece of apple.

That same year, a group of dolphins save a surfer from a great white shark. They formed a circle around the man, which allowed him to escape to shore.

And animals aren’t just saving us humans from all manner of catastrophes, they save each other.

Last year in India, commuters caught on video a monkey who tried to resuscitate another money that had fallen onto train tracks after being electrocuted on a wire.

The video shows the monkey biting, shaking and even dipping the unconscious monkey in water to try and revive it. And it worked.

And even after the monkey came to, its rescuer stayed right by its side and continued to hold and pet it until it was ready to move on.

Every time I read a story or watch a video like that, I’m still amazed at the compassion animals can show.

How could that kind of heroism go unnoticed in the afterlife?

I realize most pets and animals aren’t out saving lives everyday, or ever, for that matter, but if the pope is right, that all of God’s creatures have a place in paradise, I’m more than OK with that.


Michelle Goodman is the news editor at The Tribune. To reach her, call 740-532-1441 ext. 12 or by email at