Personal spiritual beliefs and love for our companion
animals — are these inherently linked?
We believe so. Anyone who has looked into the eyes of the dog knows that in
there resides a soul, a being of warmth and intelligence. But, how
do we effectively communicate, in both life and after death?
Anthropologist, Dr. Marilyn Walker, speaks to this issue and the
healing bond between companion animals and people.
She says this: "Recent research in quantum physics, in the mind-body
connection, and in psycho-immunology is showing that we
have a brain in our head but also in our heart. This 'heart-brain'
is surely how we communicate with our companion animals, and they
with us." You can read more about this by clicking here.
Kinkade's April 2006 book,
The Language of Miracles: A Celebrated Psychic
Teaches You to Talk to Animals, is another great
resource that author Susan Chernak McElroy says,
'takes on the fields of animal communication and quantum physics,
merges them in a delightful and utterly provocative wayand
makes it look easy.'
And, our own personal hero, Dr. Allen Schoen
says this about the book: "Amelia continues to revolutionalize the controversial
arena of animal communication through her insights, wit, and wisdom.
Integrating scientific and spiritual perspectives, she guides us
through the development of our profound connections with our kindred
What Animals Can Teach Us
About Spirituality: Inspiring Lessons from Wild and Tame
Creatures was written by Diana L. Guerrero in
2003. Do you want to deepen your spiritual connection? Do
you want to strengthen your bond with animals? What Animals
Can Teach Us about Spirituality will help you unlock the
secrets of the animal kingdom, provide intriguing
perspectives on the complex relationships between nature and
humans, and lead you to a greater awareness of yourself and
the world around you.
Respected animal behaviorist and
therapist Diana L. Guerrero demonstrates the ways in which
animals can teach us about: Bringing Out the Best in Each
Other Living in the Now, Moving Beyond Fear, Helping One
Another Healing through Life Experiences, Living by Example,
Embracing Change Positively Listening to the Unspoken,
Unconditional Acceptance, and Making Time to Play. With
practical and meaningful advice, Guerrero will help you
understand why animals touch the soul, and explore your own
answer to the question: "Do animals have souls?"
Whether you believe that dogs have a spiritual core or not,
no one will dispute how appealing it is to see our dogs
imitating a spiritually loaded behavior such as praying. Of
course, our dogs are superb mimics and clearly will imitate
behaviors for positive consequences (such as getting a
treat, your positive attention, etc.).
Conan, the long-haired Chihuahua below, has quite the following and has become the "Praying Dog" of the
internet. We love James Ure's take, from
The Buddhist Blog:
I'm sure that this little doggie doesn't understand what
he is doing but I'm sure that he feels the peaceful energy
surrounding him that helps him feel content, peaceful and
calm. He has Buddha nature as any other living entity and is
our relative in the large and beautiful family of sentient
It seems less skillful to me to regard animals as less than
us and therefore somehow not worthy of our protection and
kindness. We must look upon animals with compassion and help
them live the best life possible to help reduce their
suffering as no sentient beings wants to suffer. And even
though we see ourselves as their teachers and guides, they
too have much to offer and teach us.
They remind us not to take ourselves too seriously, they
teach us how to have unconditional love for others, they
remind us of the freedom found in the present moment and to
not let anger rule our hearts but to forgive and move on.
Animals are the ultimate optimists who teach us a positive
attitude brings great happiness and that is o.k. to be
submissive at times.
Does a dog have Buddha nature?
By Chiyomi Sumida, Stars and Stripes, April
Dogs are said to be the embodiment of
happiness and unconditional love.
And if that sounds very Zen-like, well,
there’s a pup at a Buddhist temple in Naha,
Okinawa, that might just prove the point.
Conan, a long-haired Chihuahua, has mastered
how to properly behave and offer prayers in
the temple. He’s been offering prayers since
he was 5 months old.
During a recent visit to a Zen temple near
Shuri Castle, a visitor found Conan sitting
up straight on his hind legs, his front paws
together and looking up at his master, Joei
Yoshikuni, the temple’s 29th-generation
Conan lives with his human family members in
Jigen In, a temple of the Rinzai Zen sect,
better known as Shuri Kannon Do.
Every day, Conan accompanies Yoshikuni to
the temple’s main hall, sitting up in a
prayer position while his master reads a
sutra in offering morning prayers.
“He does it to the rhythm of a sutra I
chant,” Yoshikuni said as he cast a gentle
look at his furry disciple.
Conan came to the temple in autumn of 2006
as an 8-week-old puppy. Yoshikuni said he
had an enlightenment on the puppy’s first
New Year’s Day.
“I came up with an idea to teach him, a
Buddhist temple dog, the basic worshipping
posture,” he said.
Bribing the dog with a treat, Yoshikuni
showed him the praying posture. Within a few
days, Conan mastered it, he said.
Word about the praying dog quickly spread
throughout the island and, eventually,
worldwide. As his popularity grew, more
people, especially younger people, began
visiting the temple.
These days there is an
endless stream of visitors to the temple,
which stands on a hilltop overlooking the
city of Naha.
Yoshikuni said that his temple occasionally
offers zazen, or sitting meditation, for
“It is our pleasure if Americans can get
firsthand experience of Japanese culture
here at our temple,” he said of the
structure that was built in 1618 by King Sho
of the Ryukyus.
“Zazen will help you to seek the true self
by emptying your self-consciousness and
judgmental thinking,” said Yoshikuni’s
father, Jogen Yoshikuni, the chief priest.
Sitting straight and pressing your hands
together is a posture to symbolize humbling
yourself and meditating to see things with
your mind’s eye, he said.
The chief priest said he is pleased to see
Conan following the teaching — in form, at
The younger Yoshikuni, however, wonders what
is in Conan’s mind when the seven-pound
canine makes the worship posture.
"Probably food,” he laughed. “Because I
trained him with a treat, he probably
associates the posture with a treat.”
A veterinarian figured the same.
“It could be conditional reflex, called
Pavlovian response,” said Hidekazu Ikehara
of the Ikehara Animal Hospital in Okinawa
City as he examined the images of Conan
posted on the Internet. “He must have
learned that he will be praised by making
Dogs also watch behaviors of human beings
and try to imitate them, especially when
they learn that it pleases their owner, he
said, noting that the intelligence of an
adult dog matches that of a 3-year-old
child. Some seeing-eye dogs achieve the
level of a 5-year-old human, he added.
“They imitate what human beings do. That is
why dogs take on the dispositions of their
owners,” Ikehara said.
Conan seems to have perfectly adapted to
life in the temple.
“Everything he does, he does it with a
prayer,” Joei Yoshikuni said. The dog prays
before his two meals and before he goes out
for a walk three times a day.
Whether he’s motivated only by food or by
some canine spiritual calling, probably only
Praying in a house of worship, as shown above, or before
meals and at bedtime are all situations now depicted with
our furry companions. While we are remiss and do not pray
before sitting down to a meal, this smart guy in the video sure has the
idea. Interestingly, though, there is no food on his plate.
But, the dude below clearly has his meal a-waiting.
bedtime image is one of our favorites, and the
original photo as shown below, has definitely gone viral.
It has been passed on from friend to friend for
quite some time, always
classically evoking the desired "Awww!" response.
The boy’s name is Jesse Rodrigues Jr. and the dog's name is Floyd. Jesse’s
mom actually took the photograph, and in June 2008, artist
provided his incredible 'oil on canvas' version.
We you just love the addition of the praying cat (brings up
the thought "Cat"echism or Meow Mitzvahs).
Pets Gaining Recognition in Places of Worship
By Maryann Mott for National Geographic News, October 6, 2006
At St. Francis Episcopal Church in Stamford,
Connecticut, the pews are filled with some
unlikely worshipers. Dogs sit by their
owners' sides and cats peer out from
carriers during a monthly pet-friendly
Barks and purrs—or "prayer noises," as the
church calls them—can be heard during the
afternoon celebration of Eucharist, in which
people receive communion and pets a special
blessing. The half-hour service focuses on
the special relationships people have with
their animals, says Rev. Mark Lingle. "At
our church there are a number of people who
are single or who have lost a loved one, and
their pet is one of their primary
relationships," he said.
The church's special service is part of a
growing movement among places of worship,
some of which not only recognize the
human-animal bond but offer pet owners
support and services almost unheard of a
decade ago. In addition to special blessings
or regular church services, these places
hold private pet memorials or burials and
offer grief counseling to comfort members
whose pets have died.
Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels of Beth Shir
Sholom, a progressive reform Jewish
synagogue in Santa Monica, California, says
that when a pet dies, owners suffer the same
grief as they would over the loss of a
For years he's made condolence calls or
visits with members of his congregation
whose pets have died. And after each service
he says a prayer for members mourning the
loss of an animal or human. "It's something
people don't necessarily expect their
synagogue to do, which is to recognize how
important their animals are in their lives,"
number of churches and synagogues are
recognizing the animal-human bond with
activities such as pet-friendly services and
For example, the congregation at the Beth
Shir Sholom temple in Santa Monica,
California, holds a "Bark Mitzvah
spring during the Jewish holiday of Purim.
The annual ritual for pets is a lark, with
spoofs of songs and prayers, says Rabbi Neil
Comess-Daniels. But when it comes time to
bless the animals, people take it very
Rev. Gill Babeu, a Catholic priest at St.
Bridget of Ireland in Stamford, Connecticut,
says he understands the pain of losing a
beloved companion animal. Six months ago he
was devastated by the death of his poodle,
Louise Frances, and fell into a deep
Even though the church does not condone
masses or funerals for pets, Babeu still
presides over backyard burials by reciting a
simple prayer. When asked if there are dogs
in heaven, he replied: "Well, the church
says no. But I really believe I'm going to
see my little doggie when I get there."
Rob Gierka is a new breed of chaplain.
Originally trained to provide pastoral care
at hospitals, he now consoles North Carolina
pet owners whose animals are sick or dying.
Gierka grew up in a houseful of animals and
experienced a deep sadness with each one's
passing, he says. But no one ever
acknowledged his feelings or seemed to care
about his pets' deaths.
Today the Baptist chaplain provides clients
at a local animal-rehabilitation center with
what he didn't have as a child—a shoulder to
cry on. The soft-spoken chaplain also
oversees private memorial services where he
plays guitar and recites a few prayers. And
he provides emotional support for owners
during euthanasia procedures.
Gierka says he's careful not to impose any
religious views on the owners he counsels.
But most veterinary hospitals struggle with
the issue of religion and pet care and shy
away from Gierka's services, which are
offered for free, he says. "It's an uphill
climb to try to get these large veterinary
hospitals to accept pet chaplains," he said.
"But I know it was the same uphill battle
for chaplains in human hospitals." In the
future Gierka would like to see an army of
trained pet chaplains around the country.
A Place to Rest
In New Providence, New Jersey, a garden at
St. Andrew's Episcopal Church offers animal
owners, regardless of their religious
affiliation, a final resting place for their
pets. Created some 40 years ago, the pet
cemetery is believed to be the only one
located on church grounds in the United
The ashes of more than a hundred faithful
companions are buried in the flower-filled
garden. No headstones mark the grave sites.
Instead a memorial book with photos of all
the buried animals is kept in the church.
"People's pets become part of their family,
and it helps their grieving to have a prayer
and a special place to bury them," church
rector Margaret Hodgkins said.
As religious leaders begin to recognize the
human-animal bond, some Episcopal Church
leaders have gone a step further by raising
awareness of various animal issues such as
cruelty, neglect, and exploitation.
The Episcopal Network for Animal
Welfare—launched two years ago—has about 200
members as well as 15 churches that have
pledged to be "animal friendly." The
churches must hold an animal-blessing
service each year, provide pastoral care and
prayer for members grieving the loss or
illness of a pet, serve vegetarian fare
during community meals, and agree not to
hold fundraisers that center on the killing
of animals, such as pig roasts and lobster
"People get a lot of flak for caring about
animals," said Rev. Rebecca Deinsen, a
priest in Worthington, Ohio, who helped
start the network. "This gives people a
sense of support and of community."
Christians' views of animals are slowly
changing for the better, says Andrew Linzey,
an Anglican priest and author of several
books on the subject, including Animal
Rights: A Historical Anthology.
Historically, Christian theology has been
against animals, Linzey says, regarding them
as little more than lumps of meat. "It may
be that we exploit animals so much precisely
because we have such a spiritually
impoverished view of their status," Linzey
said. "The Christian mind should be [that]
we are given life by a generous creator," he
said. "And we in turn, in the image of God,
must show that generosity to other
Animals and Religion
— Judaism's Perspective
Although various Christian clergy have come out
with their individual beliefs attesting to the holiness or
redeemable nature of animals, most adhere to the belief that
scripture does not offer a definitive answer. Yet, in
Judaism, issues related to animal kindness and to the questions of whether animals have souls and
whether our beloved companion animals go to heaven are
CHAI, an organization in Israel, is striving to foster
empathy, respect, and responsibility toward all living
beings. They are inspiring and empowering people, Jewish,
Muslim, and Christian, to recognize the interconnectedness
of all life and to make compassionate choices for the good
of all. The following True-False Quiz on
Judaism and Kindness to Animals comes from their
Curriculum for Children Jewish Humane Education Kit.
Let's see how you do!
G-d made covenants with animals just as with
Only humans go to Heaven.
Hunting for sport is permissible as long as
the animals have a "sporting chance."
Rebecca was chosen to be Isaac's wife
because she gave water to some thirsty
Rabbi Judah suffered from a toothache for
thirteen years because he ignored a calf's
plea for help, but his health was restored
when he prevented his daughter from killing
a family of weasels.
Any animal that kills a human should be put
to death immediately.
A person who was a spectator at gladiatorial
games was only condemned if the games
A person who is noble, polite, sensible,
learned, and orthodox may be considered
righteous even though he or she is cruel to
Noah was called righteous because he spent
an entire year caring for animals in the
Since humans are given dominion over the
animals, we can subordinate all their needs
When an animal is slaughtered for food, the
blood of the animal or bird is covered to
indicate that killing is a shameful act.
Animal sacrifices are considered worthy
It is important to muzzle oxen when they are
It is forbidden to tie the legs of a beast
or of a bird in a manner that would cause
Although a blessing is said when new clothes
are worn, the blessing may not be said if
the clothes are made of fur or leather, for
you have killed to get them.
There is a special blessing only for fruit,
vegetables, bread, and wine, but not for
Animals are to be fed and watered only after
humans have finished eating.
Only humans are required to rest on the
Sabbath. Animals can work on the Sabbath as
long as it is for a non-Jew.
The first diet of humans and animals was
vegetarian, and one day we will all be
vegetarians once again.
You should help an animal in distress only
if you don't have to violate the Sabbath or
interrupt the carrying out of a commandment
You are not permitted to wear leather shoes
on Yom Kipper because you can't ask for
compassion for yourself if you haven't shown
it to others.
G-d chose Moses and David as leaders of
their people because of their compassion for
Now, just click here for the
answers and discussion!
Pet Mitzvahs, which began in the 1980s, are now a very
popular trend. They accompany the many churches that provide
special services to bless congregants' companion animals.
Diana L. Guerrero's book,
Blessing of the Animals: A Guide to Prayers & Ceremonies
Celebrating Pets & Other Creatures, welcomes
all creeds, all breeds, and
covers everything from amusing contemporary phenomena—with
such chapters as “Rites of Paw-sage: Muzzle Tov,” about
“bark” and other mitzvahs—to more serious issues of pet
illness, loss, and burial. There are blessings for the
furry, feathered, scaled, and finned; prayers for a new pet;
fascinating background on the historical roots of critter
celebrations (plus information on where to find some of the
most popular ones today); tales of muttrimony and other pet
nuptials; and advice on hosting a purr-fect party or
participating in a pet pageant.
by Shari Cohen,
is a fun book for Jewish
youngsters. Brimming with unconditional love, devotion, and
a never-ending desire to help others, Alfie is the epitome
of all dogs and is a great role model for kids. It seems
he's been that way since he was a pup. But today, Alfie is
passing from puppyhood to adulthood and, in honor of this
most important occasion, Alfie gets to celebrate his Bark
Mitzvah with all of his family and friends. Alfie's Bark
Mitzvah is beautifully illustrated by Nadia Komorova and, as
a bonus, includes a CD of children's songs created
especially for the book by the internationally acclaimed
Cantor Marcelo Gindlin.
Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels of
Santa Monica's progressive Reform Temple,
Beth Shir Sholom—House
of the Song of Peace, held the first community Bark
Mitzvah in the early 1980's. The affair continues to be held in the
barking lot, with all four-legged participants receiving a
Bark Mitzvah certificate. And, for a small fee, they can
even get a commemorative photograph of the event. Rabbi
Neil, of course, is a dog lover, being the proud dad of a
Bark Mitzvah'd Sheltie and
A Temple Beth Shir Shalom Bark Mitzvah consists of a
welcoming blessing for both the humans and the canines, in
which the homo sapiens thank G-d for “beautiful acts of
creation”—their pets. “We have kippot with chin straps to
put on if the owners want and the dogs are amenable,” says
Beth Shir Sholom: 1827
California Ave, Santa Monica, CA
Pet Shabbat: A Summer Bark Mitzvah on August
21, 2009 – 7:30 pm
All kinds of Pets are welcome to our Pet
Shabbat/Bark Mitzvah! Invite your furry (or
feathery or scaly) Jewish friends (and their
humans!) from the homes of neighbors
and families! It’ll be a little bit of a
“different” evening, filled with love for our
animal family members and lots of fun! Here’s
what we need from you:
Please sign up so we know how much supplies and
food to provide.
$18 per pet received on or by August 14th. $25
per pet from the 15th on.
Fee includes a yarmulke with chin straps, a Bark
Mitzvah Certificate and treats! Bark Mitzvah photos are optional for an additional fee of $7.
Proceeds to go to Guide Dogs for the Blind and
Assistance Dogs International.
Please leash or cage your pet as necessary
(remember all the other species around!) Please
bring your own “poop bags” to clean up after
your pet. Thanks! We can’t wait to meet and give
a good scratch to all the Bark Mitzvah candidates!
Email the following info to
Neil’s Executive Assistant (and pet whisperer!):
Pet Name(s) & Species, Name(s) of Human Owners,
Address, Phone, Email.
The Shehecheyanu blessing (Hebrew: "who has given us
life") is said. The Rabbi has taken this prayer, which is
said to celebrate special occasions, and adapted it to the
song, Fiddler on the Roof, which he sings to the
Bark Mitzvah boys and girls. Playing his guitar as well, he
sings: "May G-d protect
and defend you, may He always shield you from fleas.” He
also provides a Barchu blessing (the call to prayer in
the temple) in which the owners all kneel alongside their dogs.
“We do this event mostly as a lark,” says Comess-Daniels.
“But,” he adds, “the reality is that there is this beautiful
underlying seriousness to it that everyone brings,
recognizing what an important part of our families our
animals are. “It’s something that doesn’t quite fall into
the traditional realm of Judaism,” he concedes, “but it’s a
way to bring the community together.”
"To take a moment to celebrate the animals in our lives
that bring so much to us, it's something that absolutely
should be celebrated," he says, "and to recognize what an
important part of our families they are."
Rachel Zuckerman, author of the 2003 Jewish Daily Forward
From Member of the Family To Member of the Tribe?,
revealed more about Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels unique
For Comess-Daniels, Bark Mitzvahs are about the
spiritual connection some humans feel for their animals,
not about a relationship between their dogs and G-d —
regardless of all the linguistic palindrome jokes.
(What’s dog spelled backward?)
“I run a fun event,” the rabbi said. “People are
bringing their pets into the spiritual parts of their
lives and expressing it in a Jewish, communal way.”
To maintain a boundary of sorts, he said, “we perform
Bark Mitzvahs around Purim, because it’s a time when we
make fun of ourselves, and I felt it was more
appropriate to do it in that context.” Comess-Daniels
said he wanted to provide a Jewish equivalent to the
Catholic ritual in which animals are blessed in the
church. “I believe that there is some spark of divinity
in all animate and inanimate creatures,” he said, adding
“this is not necessarily a relationship [between God and
dog]…. I do believe they have the essence of divinity.”
All of Beth Shir Shalom’s Bark Mitzvahs are held in the
parking lot, to avoid any “accidents” in the sanctuary.
The events are usually oriented toward a family’s
youngest members, which might account for some of the
sillier aspects of the ritual — howling on behalf of the
dog, for example. The ceremony begins with
Comess-Daniels reciting the prayer said when seeing
beautiful animals and ends with the awarding of a Bark
Mitzvah certificate to the dog’s owner — to make it
“official,” of course.
“I have a tendency to anthropomorphize animals,” said
Comess-Daniels, whose home houses an Australian shepherd
and a Shetland sheepdog. He said that on several
occasions he has been approached by congregants grieving
for their pets. “To tell them that Judaism does not
accommodate that would just be cruel. So, why not
appropriately embrace our pets in our spiritual outlook
on life while they are alive?”
Reporter Diane Herbst provided her own version
of a Bark Mitzvah for her dogs, Rudi and Smokey, detailed in
the 2009 article,
Muzzle Tov! My Dog’s Bark Mitzvah. (We learned that 13-year-old Golden Rudi has just been
diagnosed with cancer [8/09], so we love being able to honor
this sweet girl here during healthier times.)
The ceremony was brief: a blessing over egg challah and
grape juice "wine," a speech about my gratitude for my
youngest's presence in my life and all that he's brought,
and a swim in the frigid fresh-water creek.
The Bark Mitzvah of two-year-old Smokey — or about 13 in doggie years, the
bar and bat mitzvah age of Jewish boys and girls
continued with a modest reception at his home in New Jersey,
with three other dogs and a dozen humans who ate a cake that
had "Muzzle Tov Smokey" written across its white frosting by
a bakery worker who said "Hey, I like all cultures" when I
apologized for my odd request.
As a female Jew who sees her dogs as her children, why
not make a Bark Mitzvah? ... The first Bark Mitzvah I threw was in
2004 for my oldest, Rudi, a golden retriever. A modest
affair, I ordered doggie yarmulkes and a Tallis (Jewish
prayer shawl) and a beautiful $70
doggie/human carrot cake with sugar-free cream cheese
Party City I found a red dog-shaped piñata which I filled
with treats and bobbed from a broom handle as Rudi and her
puppy pals tore it open and gorged themselves.
Check out some more fun
Bark Mitzvah videos here.
FAIR USE NOTICE
The articles on this page contain copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been
specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material available in my
efforts to advance understanding of human rights and social justice issues, among others. I believe this constitutes
a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US
Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107,
the material in this article is distributed without profit for research and educational