Are animals the same as humans? Does my dog have a soul?
I have a lovely dog. He is a Golden Retriever and his name is Willow, (not after the vampire TV series but after a willow tree because he is fluffy and dangly). My family loves him and considers him part of our family. I often wonder who they would choose between me, or him, if we were both on a sinking ship but, I am afraid to ask!
Willow is stupid but crafty, he is very affectionate but also very selfish and clumsy. Sometimes he irritates the life out of me with his hairiness and his clumsiness but, other times, he is a real friend and companion. I think dogs are unique in the animal world, designed as the perfect pet for humans.
But onto the nitty-gritty; does my fluffy, stupid, lovable dog have a soul? I don’t like guessing at things and, just because I want him to have a soul, that is not going to make it true! I have found the answer to the question and, there is good news and bad news.
The word “soul” is first used in the Holy Bible in its first book of Genesis. The Hebrew word for soul is “Nephesh”. This basically means “breather” and it refers to any creature that breaths and bleeds. It most definitely includes all animals because, in Genesis chapter 1 verse 24 it says “let the earth put forth living souls according to their kinds, domestic animal, and moving animal, and wild beast of the earth”. But notice that, animals, including dogs, don’t HAVE souls, they ARE souls! This is confirmed when it says of Adam “and the man came to be a living soul”. Later, in the book of Ezekiel (18.4), we are told that “The soul that is sinning, it will die”, referring to humans, not animals. So all of us, humans and animals are living souls. Yet the soul, the person, the animal, can die. Humans die because of inherited imperfection, like a virus, but animals die because it is the natural way of things.
The bad news is that, although animals are souls, and should be treated kindly, they are not made in God’s image, i.e., they do not have God’s qualities of creativity, compassion, and a sense of future or past. They do not worship their creator, neither are they aware of him. Animals, including dogs live brief but satisfying lives. They do not worry about money, property or the threat of war. They are basically content and they are not conscious that they will one day die. They do not yearn for longer life or immortality. Humans, on the other hand, are painfully aware of their mortality. They also have an inbuilt desire to live forever, as the Bible tells us “For God has put eternity in the hearts of men” (Ecclesiastes 3.11)
Animals are a gift from God. They make our lives more fun, more interesting and more bearable. But they will not have the opportunity to live forever on earth. Only humans have that gift offered to them (please see Psalm 37.29).
So I will enjoy the company of my dog Willow for the time that he is with us. He is a faithful old soul.