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(RNS) Ever since author John Grogan scored a megahit with 2005’s “Marley & Me,” publishers of all stripes have been looking for the next chart-topping, boo-hooing, man-and-his-dog story.

Nowhere has this been more true than in religion publishing, where books such as “Heavenly Humor for the Dog Lover’s Soul,”  “The Dog That Talked to God” and “Four Paws From Heaven” have been good sellers for their various Christian publishers. These books look beyond the earthly relationships between people and their pets to the religious and spiritual lessons the four-footed can teach.

But a decade is a long time for a trend, and as religion publishers prepare for this month’s BookExpo America, where booksellers look ahead to Christmas, they are adding cats, horses and even birds to the animal spirituality roster.

"My Boy, Ben: A Story of Love, Loss and Grace" by David Wheaton. Book cover photo courtesy of Tristan Publishing

“My Boy, Ben: A Story of Love, Loss and Grace” by David Wheaton. Book cover photo courtesy of Tristan Publishing


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

“These books are about life and relationships, and that draws people in,” said Sheila Waldman, “president of relationships” at tiny Tristan Publishing, which is bringing “My Boy, Ben: A Story of Love, Loss and Grace” by tennis pro David Wheaton, about his yellow labrador, to Book Expo. “They are timeless and universal.”

They are also potentially big money-makers. Americans spend more than $60 billion on their pets annually, according to the U.S Department of Labor. That’s a number any publisher — religious or otherwise — would lie down and roll over for.

“As a business, it just makes sense to publish books with great stories about people connecting with animals,” said Kim Moore, senior editor at Harvest House, an evangelical Christian publisher whose 2006 release “Four Paws from Heaven” sold 125,000 copies — a big number for a small publisher.

At New York’s BookExpo, Harvest House will move beyond paws to hooves with “Great Horse Stories: Humor and Wisdom from Our Majestic Friends” by Rebecca E. Ondov, about horses who help people. Moore said animals are a perfect subject for religion houses.

“The Bible says God is loving towards all he made and there is something about connecting with God when you care for your pets in the way he cares for us,” she said. “It gives us a glimpse into who God is and how we can relate to him.”

 "Great Horse Stories" by Rebecca E. Ondov. Book cover photo courtesy of Harvest House Publishers

“Great Horse Stories” by Rebecca E. Ondov. Book cover photo courtesy of Harvest House Publishers


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Lynn Garrett, senior religion editor for Publishers Weekly, a trade magazine, said books about animals and their humans have been a publishing mainstay since the 1960s’ “Travels with Charley” by John Steinbeck. “Now we are seeing them in the religion category because, I think, there definitely can be a spiritual aspect to our relationships with animals,” she said.

As for the shift beyond dogs, “that makes sense, since there are successful programs using horses for therapy — for vets with PTSD, for disabled kids and prisoners,” she said. “That’s just another animal people can have a spiritual bond with.”

That’s been the experience at Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, which will bring “The Cat on My Lap: Stories of the Cats We Love” by Callie Smith Grant to BookExpo. Grant is the pen name of Revell executive editor Lonnie Hull DuPont, who has been writing spiritually inspiring animal books since 2007.

“There was resistance in the market for a while” to religion titles involving animals, she said. “But now people don’t feel silly to admit they love their animals and are grateful for them.”

She expects to see more religion books on working animals, perhaps cancer-sniffing dogs or therapy horses, and said even birds are not out of the question. “They are not cozy or furry and we can’t ride them, but the Bible is full of them.”

YS/MG END WINSTON

28 Comments

  1. The wish thinking that says animals go to heaven
    is just another layer of foolishness designed to obliterate a little more reason and rationality in our world.
    This is baby talk.

    Is the cow I ate last night in heaven, too?
    How about the parasite that died after it ate the wasp larvae?
    How about the dead bacteria which caused the plague?

    And if all living things go to heaven, what sort of sense would that make of Heaven? If God is just going to let everything continue as is – why does god let anything die?

    We share a lot of DNA with bananas.
    Do Bananas go to heaven?

    Spectacularly foolish nonsense. Americans should be ashamed to buy such books.

    • I can see why cats don’t go to heaven.

      They are selfish, willful, evil little balls of cute, adorable, furriness. They don’t play well with others, don’t need us for very much except for a box of sand and food delivered at their beck and call. They do not take direction easily, or at all.

      But the little fuzzballs aren’t atheists. They KNOW they are God*

      • Larry,

        I happen to have the most adorable cat on the planet!!! Having him since kitten hood (and he is 9 now ), I have intense love and affection for him. He provides me with great companionship and is the most important creature I come home to.

        There was a recent video happening in Las Vegas where a little boy was riding his bike in his yard next to a car. The dog next door ran around the car and started to viciously attack him… At which time the “cat of the house” ran to the boy, fought off the dog and chased him away, making sure the dog did not come back!!! The boy needed some stitches, but even cats can be protective like dogs!!!!! They all have their own idiosyncrasies, personalities and moods, just like humans!

        Lastly, they are one of God’s gift to humans, including the “wild cat kingdom”, which will be at peace with other animals (usually a food source!) in the coming new world!! (Isaiah 11:6-9). I can’t wait to pet a tiger! :-D

    • Traditional religions do not teach that animals go to heaven when they die.
      You are confusing Catholics, Baptists, Hindus, and Muslims with Disney.
      Just to head off further confusion, they also don’t teach that people become angels when they go to heaven.

          • True, NOBODY goes to heaven in Hinduism. But animals and people have souls which get reincarnated. No separation between the two exists. Noble prince one life, humble ant the next one.

    • T.R. Erickson

      Max, you are correct that we are foolish in believing in such nonsense (that animals, domestic and wild, go to dwell with God). But you also make a claim about DNA relations that does not quite hold true. It is true that we share DNA from a banana (50%) but assuming you are taking this from a Darwinian worldview, you a false. Every animal and living thing was created in it’s own kind, hence why there still is apes, but not only that the “science” does not hold to reality. You like talking DNA relation, so here is an example of your ignorance: 95.5% of apes DNA is shared with humans, 98% of rat DNA is shared with humans (concluding we then should evolve from rats rather then apes), but it doesn’t stop there… 98% DNA relation to humans makes a difference of 1.5 trillion nucleotides. An animal that is only 3 or more nucleotides different cannot sustain itself to live and never will be able to make itself into an embryo. Your evolution theory claim is irrelevant to this topic regardless. And God allows death because that is part of our judgment that we brought on to ourselves. We disobeyed God and continue to do so, so judgment must be made and death is the way we receive that judgment. And this is what the Bible really says about animals and their death.
      Ecclesiastes 3:11, 18-21
      He has made everything beautiful in its time. He also has planted eternity in men’s hearts and minds [a divinely implanted sense of a purpose working through the ages which nothing under the sun but God alone can satisfy], yet so that men cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I said in my heart regarding the subject of the sons of men, God is trying (separating and sifting) them, that they may see that by themselves [under the sun, without God] they are but like beasts. For that which befalls the sons of men befalls beasts; even [in the end] one thing befalls them both. As the one dies, so dies the other. Yes, they all have one breath and spirit, so that a man has no preeminence over a beast; for all is vanity (emptiness, falsity, and futility)! All go to one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knows the spirit of man, whether it goes upward, and the spirit of the beast, whether it goes downward to the earth?

      Only eternity is planted in MAN’s heart. All living creatures will die and go to the ground. Man’s breath or physical life appears in the surface to be little different than that of an animal. In reality, man’s soul differs in that God has made him eternal.

    • Hi there Max….just sharing with you some scriptures that shed light on this subject: Ecclesiastes 3:19,20: “For there is an eventuality as respects the sons of mankind and an eventuality as respects the beast, and they have the same eventuality. As the one dies, so the other dies, and they all have but one spirit (force of life/breath), so that there is no superiority of the man over the beast, for everything is vanity (they both will die). All are going to one place. They have all come to be from the dust, and they are all returning to the dust.” Man and animals continue to go to the grave; however, God (Yahweh/Jehovah) holds out a promise of resurrection for humans back to life on earth (John 5:28,29; Acts 24:15). However, there is no reference about this happening to animals in the Bible. We will have to wait and see what their outcomes will be in the new, cleansed earth that is awaiting us (Isaiah 11:1-9).

    • Max, the cow you ate was in a dead state, eaten by you as food and properly eliminated through the human body.

      The parasite that died after it ate the wasp larvae is still dead.

      The dead bacteria that caused the plague is still dead.

      The only ones that go to heaven are spirit-anointed humans who, after they die, change in the twinkling of an eye, into spirit persons who will rule with Jesus, King of God’s kingdom over mankind on earth, numbering 144,000 (Revelation 14:1-5; Revelation 20:6).

      God is not going to let everything keep going as it is. That is due to the ransom sacrifice of his son, Jesus, and God’s kingdom, which has been established, and will put an end to all human governments (Daniel 2:44) to rule with complete righteousness and justice. These provisions from God will also put an end to all suffering on earth, including all sickness, disease, old age and death (Isaiah 11:1-9; Revelation 21:1-4).

      We die because we inherited sin and imperfection, resulting in death, (Romans 5:12), through Adam and Eve’s disobedience against one of God’s commands. Otherwise, they would probably still be living today and the earth would have been comfortably filled with mankind in paradise conditions.

      Bananas are not humans but were created by God for humans as nourishment to enjoy and to keep living. They are later eliminated by the body.

    • aweehandmaiden

      I know it is probably hard for you to understand why we Christians believe our animals that are taken in death will be with us in the next dimension or in the Kingdom of God..
      Years ago, I really had some questions about that and I found where Jesus said “Whatever you desire ask the Father in My name that your joy might be full.” Well, I knew that my joy would not be full if I didn’t have my little critters and big critters with me on the other side so I prayed asking for that and I know they are there waiting for me….. Another reason I can believe that is because our God created the animals for us and when you realize the love and comfort they bring it is impossible to think they would not be there with us…. It is written that we, as Christians, are to pray for His Kingdom to come and His will to be done in earth as it is in heaven~~~so since there are animals here , there must be animals there..
      These promises are for those who have Jesus as their Lord ~~~ your animals and other unbelievers animals do not have that blessed assurance, but I pray you will know the Lord Jesus as your Savior and Lord so you may receive all the precious blessings and promises He died for you to have……

  2. When my kid was in kindergarten she had a classroom assistant who died in an accident. The school counselor came in and read a book about a kid whose dog died and went to heaven.

    Young kids are blunt. My kid noted that animals are not persons and don’t die and go to heaven like people do. I’m sure that was an awkward moment. I think it put us under some scrutiny by the administration of the school.

    I personally found it horrific that a counselor felt it was a good move to equate the death of a person these children loved with the death of, say, their goldfish. But we’re outliers.

    • Its a slippery slope.

      Once you start letting people into heaven, then you let their pets, then soon heretics, unbelievers, Democrats, atheists, and telemarketers. Next thing you know they are letting everyone in. Soon there won’t be people left you could scare into joining your faith because they won’t be fearing hell. :)

      • Surely you could agree that any amount of fear and guilt mongering based on an imaginary God could be justified if we could, by that, end telemarketing. That’s got to be common ground for all faiths, including atheism.

      • Larry, not to worry….Only 144,000 humans from earth become part of God’s heavenly kingdom, and after they die, in the twinkling of an eye, become spirit persons (1 Corinthians 15:50-52).

        Wicked ones will definitely be done away with by God so only the meek, good-hearted ones will inherit the earth (Psalm 37:10,11; Matthew 5:5.)

        Man’s governments will no longer be in existence (Daniel 2:44), so there will no longer be divided political parties or nationalism to create dissension and disagreements with the people.

        There is NO reason to fear hell (also known as Hades and Sheol), since is is only the common grave where those sleeping in death are not conscious of anything at all (Ecclesiastes 9;5, 10). Genesis 3:19 also confirms this: “In the sweat of your face you will eat bread until you return to the ground, for out if it you were taken. For dust you are and to dust you will return” (and not be tortured forever in a place of fiery torment), another teaching of false religion.

        As to all the other persons you mentioned, Proverbs. 17:3 says: “The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but God is the examiner of hearts.” God knows what type of people they are inside and he can make the correct judgment. We humans generally judge wrongly by outward appearances.

    • Why would not animals be in heaven ? Jesus created them and us for his Glory.

      in heaven every thing will be made right again ..the lamb will lie down with the
      Lion . have you seen how God takes pleasure in describing some of his astonishing animals he created to Job? every thing God create was good .
      I think in heaven we will see and become close with some very amazing animals ..

      • T.R. Erickson

        Ecclesiastes 3:11, 18-21
        He has made everything beautiful in its time. He also has planted eternity in men’s hearts and minds [a divinely implanted sense of a purpose working through the ages which nothing under the sun but God alone can satisfy], yet so that men cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I said in my heart regarding the subject of the sons of men, God is trying (separating and sifting) them, that they may see that by themselves [under the sun, without God] they are but like beasts. For that which befalls the sons of men befalls beasts; even [in the end] one thing befalls them both. As the one dies, so dies the other. Yes, they all have one breath and spirit, so that a man has no preeminence over a beast; for all is vanity (emptiness, falsity, and futility)! All go to one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knows the spirit of man, whether it goes upward, and the spirit of the beast, whether it goes downward to the earth?

        Only eternity is planted in MAN’s heart. All living creatures will die and go to the ground. Man’s breath or physical life appears in the surface to be little different than that of an animal. In reality, man’s soul differs in that God has made him eternal

        • TR. yes, as you brought out, God has put “eternity” into man’s heart as evidenced by Ecclesiastes 3:11. Therefore it was God’s purpose for mankind on earth to live forever and to spread the garden (of Eden) to cover the entire planet. It is so sad that most of us don’t have the time or opportunity to see all the marvelous creations (animals, plant, food, water sources, etc.) that God created for us to enjoy forever. Instead, are forced to “make a living”, paying the bills, and before you know it, we hit “old age.”

          The Bible explains that we die because as through one man (Adam), sin entered the entire world and thus it has spread to all of us because we all sin. (Romans 5:12).

          The fact remains that eternal life on earth is impossible to experience at this time, ever since Adam’s day. However, through the ransom sacrifice of God’s son, Jesus (John 3;16) and the establishment of God’s kingdom or heavenly government, those benefits will be applied to mankind during Jesus’ upcoming millenial rule ( Revelation 20:4-6; 14:1-5). Satan and his demons will be let loose from the abyss one last time to test mankind’s obedience, and then put to death eternally by God (Revelation 20:1-3; 7:-10). All mankind who have proved faithful after that test (including those who had been resurrected back to life during the 1,000 years, who never had the opportunity to learn about God; John 5:28,29; Acts 24:15) will live forever on a paradise earth with wondrous blessings that we can’t even imagine!! :-D

      • Rob, Almighty God (Yahweh/Jehovah) created all things (Genesis 1-1), even his son, Jesus, “who is the image of the invisible God, the FIRST-BORN OF ALL CREATION…”(Colossians 1:15-17). And John 17:5 brings out, Jesus, when praying to God, said: “Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world was made” proving his pre-human existence. Also, the Bible is very specific that “flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom (1 Corinthians 15:50); that God is a Spirit (John 4:24), and that Jesus became a life-giving spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45). Neither humans nor animals can reside in the heavens since they are earthly creatures.

        Also God shows what his purpose for animals on earth was when he created them after blessing Adam and Eve: “Be fruitful and become many and FILL THE EARTH and subdue it, and have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and every living creature that is moving on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28). Did all the animals have a heavenly purpose? Of course not; it was an earthly one, not only for the animals, but for all mankind!! God even brought all the varieties of animals to Adam, and whatever Adam would call it, that was its name! (Genesis 2:19,20).

        Everything in heaven is perfect since Yahweh/Jehovah, Christ Jesus, his son, all the angels and those who will co-rule with Jesus in God’s heavenly kingdom (Revelation 14:1-5) are perfect and reside there. As brought out at Revelation 12:7-9: And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels battled with the dragon, and the dragon and its angels battled but it did not prevail, NEITHER WAS A PLACE FOUND FOR THEM ANY LONGER IN HEAVEN. So down the great dragon was hurled, the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth; he was hurled down to the earth and his angels were hurled with him.” Just one of the major reasons this planet is in such a mess!!!

        John 3:16 refers to God loving the world (of mankind) so much that he gave his only-begotten son, Jesus, (not God himself), so that everyone exercising faith in him might not die but have everlasting life. Did Jesus give up his life for his Father, all the angels, and all those who will rule with Jesus? Of course not, since they are all perfect! Jesus’ ransom sacrifice was only for IMPERFECT MANKIND! That includes all of us!!

        You mentioned that animals will be at peace with one another in heaven. Isaiah 11:1-9 paints such a beautiful picture of playing with an asp or a cobra, the lion eating straw like the bull, the wolf residing with the lamb, and a little boy will be leader over them. Since animals and humans are earthly creatures, this will be taking place on an earth cleansed of all violence, war, hate, prejudice, starvation, sickness, disease, old age and death. As Isaiah 11:9 brings out after describing peace among animals, “They will not do any harm or cause any ruin in all my holy mountain; because the EARTH will be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters are covering the very sea.”

        Lastly, Revelation 21:3 species who will be receiving blessings from the ransom sacrifice of Jesus for imperfect mankind and the rule of God’s kingdom over the earth: “With that, I heard a loud voice from the throne say: “Look, the tabernacle of God is with MAN (not angels or spirit creatures), and he will reside with them, and they will be his people (not angels). And God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore (all human emotions and conditions). The former things have passed away.”

  3. Luther once relayed the thought if those in heaven wished for something they would have it.. in heaven even Luthers little dog Topel

    would have a golden tail..

    in heaven people walk with God and look at things rightly never wrongly and if they still want there pet when they are up there . they will have it..

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