More Excerpts from My Writing: Do Animals Have a Soul?

I was happy to find a no-kill shelter that I could visit in the area.  As the dogs rested in the midst of a community of 300 outdoor cats – too tired to show the slightest interest in the young kitty playing with Petey’s leash, I walked through the shelter noting the sign that verbalized the all too visible cat epidemic on the bumper of a car:

“One plus one equals 64 000 cats.  Please spay and neuter.”

and the other sign over the counter as I entered the kennel area:

“Heaven is the place where you meet every dog you have ever cared for”. 

The second sign resonated with me.  Having deeply loved, fostered, and let go of over 70 animals, I know the heart-wrenching pain of letting go of an animal that looks to you for everything.  You know or at least believe that the animal is going to a better place when it is adopted, but as a human, it still hurts.  Someone once told me, there’s a 3 week rule.  After 3 weeks, the dog is yours.  I think that emotionally this is true, but realistically, foster situations are much better than shelters, if possible.  So there is a big role to be played by the person who is willing to host a dog for up to a year as a part of their family, even if they cannot make a commitment to the dog for the rest of the dog’s life.  There are many dogs who will not get even that year of happiness.

Animal Statistics in area


From the dog’s point of view, my experience is that dogs usually transition pretty easily between packs provided that the right stimuli and opportunities are available to them.  Mech and Boitani describe how the focus of a pack can change according to the internal state of the dogs (a dog with high estrogen levels will shift attention from other dogs to her, a nursing dog will have high prolactin levels that shift her attention to puppies, young pups looking for food will naturally follow older dogs who are more successful at obtaining it)[i].  I have additionally seen several male dogs “domesticated” by the presence of a “roaming” pack of 2 females (one large, the other small).  These male dogs somehow sense a lack in the pack, and want to occupy that spot.  It’s not a bad way of catching them if you can give them a home.

Underground dog rescue has a certain fingerprint to their activities.  I don’t always agree with their tactics, but the fact is that these particular underground people care much more about dogs than they do about people.  Some of them are severely antisocial.  You will see them with bumper stickers: “Hate is a learned response.” and “The more people I meet, the more I like my dog.” Still we share a love for, and desire to help, animals.  I do my part and the dogs move from a miserable diseased situation into a situation where they are happy and their basic social, exercise, and medical needs are met (I’ve never had a depressed dog), and they do their part, usually setting me up to look bad (even when the facts don’t support the appearance of the situation), and then having the dog “disappear” into a better home.  In some ways, I have learned, it is a chess game, and they are one step ahead of you wanting you to go and file paperwork with some acknowledgement of a violation of a leash law or other ordinance.  Still, with my record there are 61 dogs who have found homes, and most of the ones that were stolen, I believe, went into better more stable homes.  They were very adoptable by the time I had trained and socialized them.  Some were puppies.


_______ was a nice place.  They had both indoor and outdoor kennels, a lot of cats, and not too many dogs for a “no-kill” shelter.  I showed them the blisters on Duke’s paws, and they gave me some booties to try to put on his feet.  Duke is a “dog” dog, though.  The booties were not going to work for him.  He felt uncomfortable with them on.  They lasted less than a day, less than an hour, in fact.

Do animals have a soul?  In the Jewish tradition, animals were used for sacrifice, as a substitute atonement for sin.  Some in this tradition [livedog4] have argued that, in sinning, one’s rational faculty has become subordinate to one’s animal instinct, and therefore the atonement is appropriate and equivalent.  I don’t agree. Sacrificing an animal that has done no wrong to God, to atone for a sin that one has committed, is, in my mind, a boundary problem if there ever was one – a cop-out by any point of view.  Although it is not clear that animal sacrifice was linked to the eating of meat in that time, it seems clear that by the time Hosea prophesized (the only northern kingdom prophet in the Tanach 783-721 BC), the link had been established, and that he considered this link sinful.

They offer sacrifices to me because they are those who eat the meat, but Hashem does not accept their sacrifices, for He is mindful of their sin and remembers their wickedness.

                                                                                                                     Hosea 8:13 NIV

The initial presentation of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden is that of a vegetarian ideal:

Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it.  They will be yours for food.  And to all the beasts of the earth, and all the birds of the air, and all the creatures that move on the ground – everything that has the breath of life in it – I give every green plant for food.”

It is quickly followed by Cain and Abel’s story that designates animals as a preferred sacrifice to God.  This story indicates that Abel kept flocks[iii], and while they may have been plausibly kept for sacrifice, it seems likely that they were for food.

There are 4 stories in the Bible where animals communicate with man: the snake tempting Eve, the animals coming to Noah, Jonah’s rescue from drowning by the whale, and the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus in the form of a dove[iv].  Although the speaking snake and the rescuing whale story may challenge credibility according to modern experience, the other 2 stories seem plausible to me.  In the story of the ark, Noah takes animals onto the ark with him, rescuing some of them arguably specifically for the purpose of sacrifice.

“Two of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive.”                                                                                           Genesis 6: 20 NIV

After disembarking from the Ark and preparing a sacrifice, Noah is apparently given all animals as a potential food source, perhaps because no other food is available (the harvest being destroyed after 7 months of flood).  With the Noahic covenant, God formally ends the vegetarian ideal[livedog5]  with no apparent distinction between clean and unclean, but with the caveat that the blood must be removed from the animal.  It is as if the soul is fused in conception with blood, and consumption of animal blood would be equivalent to acquisition of animal soul or qualities.  Animal blood is not to be eaten, but offered instead to God.   The quality of soul/spirit in blood is interestingly also somewhat present in the story of Cain and Abel when the ground is said to refuse to yield to Cain because it swallowed Abel’s blood from Cain’s hand.  Abel’s soul or spirit is transferred to the earth where it calls out to God.  The earth having seemingly absorbed Abel’s spirit or soul issues justice for his death by refusing Cain a crop that will yield, forcing him to wander (and hence into a probable dependence on meat)[v].


By the time of Noah, there is seemingly no general societal sanction against killing except that it not be done to someone because they had killed with reason.  Violence was widespread and displeasing to God, so God sends the flood. After the flood, with the Noahic covenant, God is depicted as sick of the violence, and blood is declared sacred:  its spilling to be atoned for with blood.  The fact that this passage designates “clean and unclean animals” as the animals embark on the ark, that is before clean and unclean had formally been defined in Leviticus, is some indication, that it, like its priestly counterpart in Genesis 14:18, may be a later insertion by a priest into the original story, an idea that a covenant could not be established without animal sacrifice.  Other such insertions exist in Genesis such as the Genesis 14:14 mention of Dan, one of the 12 tribes of Israel mentioned before Abraham had even had Isaac, Dan’s grandfather.

By the time of Abraham, sacrifices were well established.  Records indicate they were performed for the establishment of covenant[livedog7] .  Although priests are mentioned as early as Genesis 14:11 in the story of Abraham’s rescue of Lot, the priesthood would not be formally established until the time of Aaron through Moses. Through sin offerings, the Aaronic priesthood sustained itself with meat.  The original atonement for sin was to be human blood, but an animal’s blood is substituted for sin, and the meat usually but not always eaten (biblical reference).

The idea of sacrifice was to offer the best that one had to God.  The sacrificed animals were to be blemish-free.  Initially, the first born children were offered in other religious traditions[livedog8] , but in the Abrahamic traditions, God is said to end child sacrifice with Abraham, and indeed human sacrifice is declared deplorable to God by the prophets[vii]. In the story of God demanding that Abraham sacrifice his son, a ram appears, offering himself as the substitute sacrifice for family unity with God’s intervention, just as Abraham is about to sacrifice his child.  In the Jewish tradition, Isaac was the designated sacrifice for which a ram was replaced.  In the Islamic tradition, his older brother Ismael (Ishmael) is given this role.  The fact that both sons vie for this coveted spot, indicates that it was considered a privilege in spite of its distaste to modern sensibilities.

If it weren’t for the early Jewish rejection of theatre[viii] (ref needed)[livedog9] , and the fact that the story takes place on a mountain, one might consider the child sacrifice story as “dinner theatre”, a kind of scary story that ends with a good meal and with the moral to children that “God alone, and not the earthly father, dictates survival”.  Of course, what child would not later look at the meat on their plate, and think “There, but for the grace of God, go I?”


[iii] Gen 4:2-5

[iv] Matt 3:16

[v] Gen 4:10-12

[vi] Gen 4:23

[vii] Hosea 13:2

[viii] C:\Documents and Settings\c\Desktop\All About Jewish Theatre – The Development of Israeli Theatre– a brief overview.htm

 [livedog1]Animal statistics in

 [livedog2]Average number of dog packs in a dog’s life

 [livedog3]Find 3rd angel picture


 [livedog5]Gilgamesh story

 [livedog6]Relate this to other religions.

 [livedog7]History of covenant formation

 [livedog8]Ref. child sacrifice in religion.

 [livedog9]Jewish rejection of theatre

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