A small group of Police Officers were holding a “memorial” service for a recently retired dog from the Dog Squad. As I was reading the lovely plaque that had been placed in the garden, one of the Handlers came up to me and quietly asked, “Chaplain, do dogs have souls?”
“Well, that’s a big question”, I replied, but it was a question needing an answer in the heart of at least one member of the Dog Squad, and I suspect it’s a question in the hearts of the dozens of dog owners Susan and I meet as we exercise Yogi Broughton on Howrah Beach every day.
So, after suitable theological consultation, I decided to hurtle headlong into heresy by replying “Yes”. Now, I know there is nothing in the Bible about dogs having souls, but among the gifts of the Spirit are numbered all those things for which dogs are so well known, such as love, joy, peace, gentleness, meekness, goodness, patience and faithfulness.
If these are the gifts of God, we have much to learn from our beloved pets. Although humanity is made in the image of God, to a dog, I guess humans are a sort of god, and it is up to us to behave to our little friends with the same love, joy, peace and with the other fruits of the Spirit – for whether they have souls or not, we do not know.
What we do know is that this world would be a sadder place without them, and that God is not a God of sadness, but a God of joy. I would like to share with you the prayer that I prayed at the Dog Squad’s “memorial” service:
Almighty God we give thanks for the horses and dogs of Victoria Police – past, present and future. We express recognition and appreciation for their companionship, trust and service which they display whilst assisting police officers to “Uphold the Right”. Into your hands, we commend (name of animal), as into the hands of a faithful creator. We especially give thanks for (name’s) faithfulness, loyalty, and devotion to his/her handlers, to his/her police work, and to the citizens of the State of Victoria. May the memory of (name) long remain in our hearts and minds, and may we be ever mindful of the environment we so delicately share with all creatures great and small. Amen