Do Dogs Have Souls

Do Dogs Have Souls? This question bothers me. And this is why.
Zeus was the pick of the litter – a bouncy, chubby, six week old Labrador for whom the basket I had carried all the way from Delhi turned out to be too small. He seemed petrified at being away from his mom and by the sights and sounds at the railway station and quietly puked – a white yoghurty substance. When I took him inside the rail compartment he took one look at me as if to say ‘Let us sleep over the problem’, turned his face towards the backrest and curled up to sleep. Not for long though. An hour later he woke me up asking to go to the bathroom. Two trips later, I just spread newspapers over myself put him on top of me and told him to use it whenever he felt the urge. And he did –throughout the night.
My 11 year old daughter was at home waiting eagerly for her birthday present. Much like Draupadi this present was soon shared by our whole family. But he was closest to me for a variety of reasons- he was too big and strong to be handled by the rest, I took him for all his walks and dogs being pack animals gravitate naturally towards the head of the family.

He quickly disabused me of all my romantic notions of all that a dog is supposed to do – well trained, obedient at heel during walks, a fierce watch dog at home and sitting companionably in front of a warm fireplace. For one he had too much energy and zest for life, next he hated the leash and finally was willfully disobedient. The days we had company at home were the time times he was at his worst behavior. If kept away in another room, he would create a ruckus and if brought inside he would actively canvass for snacks and titbits from our guests. Seeing his size and his friendly disposition guests quickly obliged. Later when I took him for his compensatory walk – he would look at me regretfully and take off for the night to meet his friends as though to say ‘I have friends too’. At times he returned after two to three days – and once we found him after 17 days tied up at a neighboring village with a big chain. It was his signatory barks that he would let off when denied his evening walk that led us to him.
Zeus was now 11 years old. I had been alone with him at my new place of work for almost two years my daughter having gone onto college and my wife having to stay with my son for his Class 12. He always waited for me at the gate irrespective of when I returned – and the moment I returned I had to take him for his walk. Making me feel all the more guilty for having played my round of golf or gymming or even working late and ignoring his simple need for my company. The walks had now reduced from the usual 3 km one to just a km as regretfully, dogs age seven times quicker than humans. By the time they reach nine years of age, they develop cataract, arthritis, and become a pale shadow of their former selves. We were beset with worry because the time had come to again move home. We wondered if he would be able to take another change of place at his age. As if on cue he stopped eating. The vet just put down his lack of appetite to old age and summer. He was however put on drip. My daughter pleaded with me to keep him alive for one more month as the entire family was coming together. By the time they came his huge frame had shrunk, his ribs showing through and was able to walk just a few steps. We went for a second opinion; he rubbished everything the earlier vet had said gave him some injections and put him on a drip again. Seven days later he could not even rise on his haunches. Desperate, we went for a third opinion. I had to leave for Jaipur for admissions of my son and the vet told me not to worry and go ahead. On the train I got the sad news. Zeus who had been put in front of the AC had crawled to my side of the bed and quietly died when the family was having dinner. Even in his death he had kept my interests foremost – he knew I couldn’t take his death. I immediately decided that I couldn’t take this heartbreak any more. I would never have another dog even if my entire family got down on their knees and begged me.
My daughter hugged me and told me ,’Papa you kept him alive for us and I killed him before you could return’. My wife too was in tears racked by her own sorrow. It was then that it struck me. ‘A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself’ and all of us were beset with guilt for having failed in matching up to his undiluted unconditional love for us. In some way we had all failed. Which brings me to my original question ,’do dogs have souls?’. Why should only man possess a soul and not these finest of God’s creations?
As if in answer that night Zeus appeared in my dreams. I knew it was him as he bounded towards me ears flapping and as I reached out to hug him he transformed into a black dog. The next night too he came – only this time as a black dog right from the beginning. Now every time I pass a black dog I look into his eyes searching for my Zeus. For I know he will find me – eventually. If not on earth in doggy heaven certainly. And as Will Rogers said, "If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went."
Postscript.... Exactly an year later to the day, a small black, female, Labrador in all respects the polar opposite of Zeus walked into our lives. Some matches are truly made in heaven.


  1. I too strongly believe that they come into our lives for a reason..... I mean some connection.... Soul connection as you say Gen Mani...Your narrative is so engaging.It brought back memories of my experiences with my previous and my present dogs. Believe you me though I am not an avid dog lover but everytime these beautiful souls have come to me ,they made me fall for them...

    1. Glad you liked the post! Seeing how naughty your pet is there would be many stories unfolding in your life too!


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