The soul of a dog

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There is an old episode of the Twilight Zone, in which an elderly man and his dog die and make their way to the afterlife.  They approach what they believe to be heaven, only to be told that the dog isn’t allowed to enter.  The old man decides that it can’t be much of a heaven if his dog isn’t welcome, so he walks on by.  Of course, it soon becomes clear that this wasn’t heaven after all, but hell, and the devil was trying to trick him.  His loyalty to his dog saved him.  I must have watched a lot of Twilight Zones when I was young, but this one has stuck with me.

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Some people believe that animals don’t have souls.  That everything they do, they do purely out of instinct or because it serves some purpose for survival.  They believe that humans are the only species with a rich interior life, full of dreams and enjoyment.  I know that my dog dreams.  I watch him sleep, his eyes fluttering, paws twitching.  Occasionally he growls, sometimes he barks – tiny barks beneath his breath that sound more like mewling.  This is one of my favourite things to witness, because I know that he’s in some other place, hopefully having fun.  It leads me to imagine which parts of his day he’s reprocessing, which scents he’s remembering, which dogs he is playing with.

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I know that animals do things out of instinct and for survival.  I know that some species have very brief lives in which their purpose is only to mate.  But does that mean that a mayfly can find no joy in its flight?  Does a bird only sing so passionately to attract a mate?  Are we the only species who do something because it sings to our soul?  This seems a narrow and dull way to look at the world.

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My dog finds joy in the simplest things.  Running around the beach after a ball, demolishing squeaky toys, following scents.  If he was a working dog, he’d use these skills for hunting.  Because he’s not, he uses them for play.  And in this combination of instinct and joy, my dog is sure of his purpose and puts all his effort into it, every day.   Every game is as exciting as the first.  I have no doubt that he has a soul and he feeds it with the pursuits that give him joy.

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I know that my purpose is to create.  But unlike my dog, I can allow other things to get in the way.  I rarely approach the page with an enthusiasm and energy as simple as that which my dog brings to his play.  There’s a reason the devil didn’t want any dogs in hell.  Dogs sniff out the truth of the matter.  And my dog is my greatest teacher.  When I falter he reminds me by his example.  That it really is simple.  Focus on doing what you love, fiercely, every day and your soul will never go hungry.

115 thoughts on “The soul of a dog

  1. Beautiful, Andrea…I can’t agree more. Between my work a vet and my greatest job…to be the steward of my dog, there is no question in my mind that dogs have souls and experience every emotion that humans do. They are just unfettered in their feelings.

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  2. I was once informed by the over-soul of all creatures on this planet, that all creatures have consciousness and choose their purpose as we do, and that even the smallest insect brings light to this planet…

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  3. They really do have souls, don’t they? I’ve never understood people who say, “Oh, she’s just a dog.” My dog is a faithful companion, a joyous spirit, true company. If you look in her eyes, you see who she is. And looking in your sweet dog’s eyes, I see the same. Beautiful:)

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  4. I read this post with my own border terrier sleeping (and snoring!) next to me. It’s so lovely to see photos of yours. It reminds me of when mine was a young pup (she is 15 years old now, still runs around at times, still very playful, but also an old lady who needs to nap most of the day now). I love that story from the Twilight zone!

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  5. Thank you for that, Andrea! Dogs are not just woman’s best friends but soul mates too. We owe them much. Have you seen the movie ‘Tracks’? Great for people who like animals, especially dog lovers.

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    • You’re welcome – very serendipitous! I haven’t seen tracks – I did read the book a long time ago and I must admit I didn’t remember her having a dog with her – I’ll have to watch out for it. Though I do tend not to watch movies about animals – I keep waiting for the sad parts and I can’t bear them!

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  6. I think I remember that Twilight Zone episode. What a great story that writer came up with.

    I wish we could have a dog, but the hubs is too allergic, even with the hypoallergenic dogs. They’re wonderful creatures for sure. And I like cats, too. 🙂

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  7. “Some people believe that animals don’t have souls.”

    They say that to separate us from the natural world, to make us believe that humanity is somehow unique and separate from the animal kingdom. They say this because they don’t want to acknowledge that we are just naked apes. However, in our more contemplative moments we all feel that feint but sure sense of connectedness with all living creatures. Maybe we do so because that bond is more real than any of the cultural artifacts we have created to separate us from the natural world.

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    • Thanks Malcolm. I’ve been reading and pondering a lot recently about our relationship with nature – how first we feel connected to it, then we ‘conquer’ it and distance ourselves from it, then feel nostalgic for the loss. And it is a great loss, I think, to deny that connection.

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  8. Andrea what a beautiful post and images. Your dog is gorgeous. I believe our pets are evolving with us. I also cannot imagine my space without them in it. I use to watch the Twilight series and it captured my wild imagination every time.

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  9. I love this post. It reminds me of a book I inherited from my grandmother called Beautiful Joe’s Paradise. It was written by Marshall Saunders and my copy is 1904. I absolutely loved the book as a child and it’s basically about animal heaven. Also have you ever seen rooks playing in the air, rolling on their backs? It’s such a wonderful thing to watch and it looks as if they’re doing it for the pure pleasure of it and for no other reason.

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  10. Love love love this post, Andrea. I fully agree with you that dogs have souls. In fact, I believe all animals have souls. I often watch my dog playing and rolling in the warm grass, and I think she knows what life is really all about. Dogs are fantastic teachers. Thank you for your awesome, insightful words.

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  11. Fun to see the pictures of your dog. Lately I’ve read several newspapers articles on animals tending to each other and to humans in time of need and grieving humans and animals who have died. I agree that animals have an inner life we don’t know much about.

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  12. This touches my soul, as I am a dog lover. Whether one believes in a god or not, I do believe dogs are a gift to humanity. Thank you for sharing these lovely words about our precious loved ones.

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  13. One big YES to everything you’ve said here, Andrea. My dog accords with it, too 🙂 This post was the first thing I read today, early, on my mobile phone with my morning cup of tea. It was a really positive and cheering start to a Monday that has otherwise proved stressful. I’ve returned to read it again on my PC this evening, to cheer me once more.

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  14. I love this, Andrea, and I love your compassion and feelings about animals and our pets. Like you, I’ve felt a special bond with them and intuition. I love how they are always, incredibly in the moment, yet, they feel changes in our moods and energy. Oh, to be so in tuned as they are. I’m working on it and feel truly blessed to have our pet, Abby, to teach me.

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  15. Great quote Andrea! I adore The Twilight Zone, used to watch them all the time when we lived in the States and I remember this particular episode very well. I have to believe that animals have souls. they experience a vast range of emotions and surely are here to do so much more than just to procreate? We’ve had dogs over the years (a cross collie/lab and a pure lab) and cats as you know and they have given us so much as a family. We would be lost without them. Your little dog is adorable and what joy he brings to you. And yes, what a beautiful message he brings to you which you then share with us – to focus on doing what we love ‘so that your soul will never go hungry.’ Thank you Andrea, a lovely post to warm my heart 🙂

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    • Thanks Sherri. I watched a lot of Twilight Zones, but this is the only one I really remember, not surprising given the way I feel about animals 🙂 I’ve gained so much from all the animals that have lived with me and that includes the goldfish! But Winston definitely came along at the perfect time and has been the perfect dog for us 🙂

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  16. Aw, yay for our furry friends! Your dog is such a cutie pie. I’m with you on our “pets” being our greatest teachers. Whenever I come home after a long day, they bring me back to my truest self. Lovely post, honey.

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  17. Hmm – I’ve little empathy with dogs (or any animal) but even I think it’s a long shot that us humans are the only animals with a higher purpose beyond survival. (Soul I’ll stop short of). Interesting concept.

    In my most recent book I played around briefly with the idea that occasionally a sheep will escape the flock and the attentions of the sheepdog. She wanders up the hill wondering if there is a sheep-world where dogs are subservient and exist to be bossed around by their sheep masters. You never know.

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    • 🙂 Well, I think there are all kinds of worlds out there, so why not a sheep one? My dog is quite submissive (unless he’s having one of his stubborn terrier moments) so I could quite easily see the sheep being in charge!

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  18. Wonderful Andrea! That last sentence should be tattooed on my arm! pure wisdom, thank you.
    I believe all animals have souls because everything that exists is energy and energy goes on and on… So dogs go to heaven. So do lions and centipedes 🙂 Your dog is adorable! he looks so serious, so wise beyond his dog years.

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  19. I’m definitely of the view that animals have souls, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that all lifeforms do. That Twilight Zone episode was a great one. There were so many that were so good, but some of my favorites are the quiet ones like that one.

    Here’s to you and your friend enjoying many years playing and learning together. 🙂

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  20. You won over someone who is nOt into animals. At. All. =) Great post, Andrea, as hopeful as I am that I won’t have to worry about animals in heaven. (Maybe my Lord will keep me in the No Pets section.) I actually did develop fondness for a big dog – forget what kind Buddy was – decades ago when I stayed with a missionary family in the Northwest. I was amazed to see his humanity – if I may. His intelligence. And in some ways it’s sad but yes, we do have a lot to learn from animals.

    “Are we the only species who do something because it sings to our soul?”
    Love this.

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  21. Andrea, your post reminded me of a recent comment I made to a friend who has a kitten. I asked him what the kitty dreams about? He said he wasn’t sure but would like to know 🙂 I believe cats and dogs have souls and they do go to heaven. Your post made me smile, especially at the end when you explained about learning from your dog how to have passion toward life. Yes, let’s keep our energy levels high for what we know we are here to do in life! Hugs

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  22. Love love love!! “Focus on what you love and your soul will never go hungry.” Yes! It’s as simple as that and still our heads and worries can sometimes get into our own way. Most of the times I think we’re also just making them up, (problems I mean) no ;)?
    What a sweet doggie you have Andrea. Of course, you already introduced him to us before but I this he’s a cutie. Totally agree with you. Of course dogs have souls!! All animals do, as plants and minerals etc. Well, that’s what I believe.. And yes, they are the greatest teachers. My kitties are such masters in napping and they dream too, so funny. It’s as if they’re saying ‘no problem is so big it can’t be fixed with a nap’ 😀 And when I’m too long behind the computer they will let me know as well (not subtle!)

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  23. Oh how I agree with you, Andrea! On dogs, of course. And cats too! But also on returning to the task with joy and enthusiasm as if it were the first time. Young children in this aspect are also an example. Like animals they approach life as if it were the first day each day. Lovely photos of your adorable dog.

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  24. Couldn’t agree more! Not only do I know my dog has a soul but I often feel he is a guide to my own, here to give me a few nudges along the way!

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  25. Hola Andrea. Thank you for visiting my “casa” and for the follow. I love your blog. I recently changed my Gravatar image from a chunky little cartoon image (of myself) I created on Microsoft Paint to a photo of me and my Papillon/Chihuahua “Coco”. We call her Coco Loco. She’s the daughter I never had lol.

    We’ve only had her for just over a year and we’ve learned so much from her. The previous owner rescued her from an abusive home. So she needs a LOT of TLC and we indulge her need for closeness. Diana from The Holistic Wayfarer would probably gag but we let Coco sleep with us…although most nights she chooses to sleep with one of our boys. They’re afraid of the dark so they welcome her warm, furry presence.

    THE ABSOLUTE BEST experience we have with her occurs when she literally “smiles”. While rubbing her belly sometimes she is just so damn content and happy that her mouth opens slightly, showing her teeth. Her cheeks are drawn towards her ears forming a “smile”. It’s the funniest and sweetest expression. One day I must videotape it and post it on my blog.

    Saludos
    La Panzona

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    • Thanks for visiting La Panzona, your dog is gorgeous. I’m all for dogs sleeping with you except when your dog decides the best place to lie is right in the middle of the bed! Having a dog is the best thing we ever did – he’s completely changed our life, so I’m happy you’ve found your own gorgeous canine companion 🙂

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  26. How have I missed this wonderful tribute? You have a sweet friend and teacher 🙂 I am sure there are no animals in Hell ( whatever place it is). Sometimes I think they are placed on Earth to balance us, humans.

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  27. Andrea, how delightfully you capture the soul of your dog––and by extension, all lovely animals who enrich our lives. I feel that acknowledging the depth of these remarkable creature’s beings somehow propels us to be more humane. Gaining appreciation, respect and love for them overflows into all areas of our lives. I need to WORK at the qualities (unconditional love, faithfulness, gratitude, to name a few) that inhabit my dog naturally. He’s a small bundle of fur but a big inspiration.

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  28. Aw I love this piece! I really hate it when people put other animals down- my grandmother really didn’t think animals had souls. I know whatever it is my dogs have, I think it’s more than what I have- their little hearts are so full of love/passion/crazy… great post, although thanks to you I’m going to be marathoning twilight zone tonight!!

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  29. I’ve absolutely no doubt that dogs have souls. I have two sighthounds who spend most of their time asleep, but they’re far from inactive. As I watch their long legs twitching, I imagine them racing through the astral plane and having amazing adventures
    What a handsome boy your Winston is!

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