How to baptize your dog

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The Jesus Bridge | Image via

The Jesus Bridge | Image via

Growing up, my family had a pretty spotty record with pets. Literally–my first pet, a goldfish I won at a county fair by deftly tossing rings around milk bottles, was named Spotté. Why he was French remains a mystery, but he died not long after we got him because I insisted on bringing him on a family road trip in Santa Cruz from our home near Los Angeles. Turns out, fishes don’t do so well in cars, and he is buried somewhere at the Mount Herman Retreat Center.

Later in life, my family got a Yorkshire Terrier puppy. My siblings wanted to name him Elvis, which is a terrible name, and which was mostly because my sister once did an impression of Elvis Presley singing the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song, but instead we named him Winston, after both Churchill and a street in our neighborhood. Winston was a terrible dog–he would not sleep in your bed without moving violently every five minutes; he ran away every time the door was open too long; he did not get along with other dogs. But we loved him, as you do the dog of your youth, and even as he grew old and defective (bad teeth, torn ACL) our family lavished affection on him.

When Winston was five or six, the question of his eternal life laid heavy on my heart. Where do dogs go when they die? Is the film All Dogs Go to Heaven making a theological claim? How would I survive in my large heavenly mansion without that dumb little guy barking at every angel that walked by? So, I decided to do what any rational Christian person would do: I baptized my dog.

Before you get angry and say that I forced him, guess what? I did no such thing! I respected Winston’s conscience and decision-making ability, so I set before him a napkin with an image on it that will be familiar to any long-time evangelical Christian: The Jesus Bridge. It looks like this, except I had drawn “Dog” on one side, and “God” on the other. Nice symmetry, hmm?

The Jesus Bridge | Image via

The Jesus Bridge | Image via

Next, I asked Winston to place his paw on the cross in the middle–symbolizing Jesus’ sacrificial love bridging the gap between Dog and God–if he accepted Jesus Christ as his personal lord and savior. Lo and behold, his paw moved to the center of the napkin and he looked up at me with large, penitent brown eyes! He was ready.

The final step was the baptism itself, which could be performed by no means other than complete immersion. Luckily, our pool was just the right size for a small dog to be reborn in. I held Winston above the water and he began to doggy paddle with his legs. I said, “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I baptize you!” and dropped him in the water. He swam to the pool steps and jumped out, washed in the blood of the lamb.

Winston died six years later, on the operating table, after a bad reaction to the anesthesia that was being used to repair his second torn ACL. It was one of the saddest days of my life. Who knows whether God really lets animals into heaven, but wouldn’t it be just like Him to give us the things in heaven that gave us such joy on earth? Hug your dog today.

  • Patricia A. Hemsworth

    This is terrible. I don’t think I can follow this blog anymore.

  • Clem

    I’m unclear — why is this terrible?

  • Cameron

    Whether this is meant tongue-in-cheek or not, it is blasphemous in its treatment of Baptism.

  • edward

    Yes, it is blasphemous. Being dipped in water is not baptism. To the Christian the only true baptism is the baptism of the Spirit.

  • yoh

    Nobody in their right mind tries to baptize a cat and for good reasons:
    1. They don’t appreciate the effort in trying to save their souls
    2. To cats, it is beneath their dignity to be subservient to anyone, including God.
    3. It misunderstands the relationship between cats and humans. Humans are not owners of cats, they are their servants.
    4. I should not have to point out the obvious involving cats, claws and water. 🙂

  • Justin

    I had a rough day and laying in bed with my pug. He is kinder and more loving than most people ( and Christians) that I know. This article reminded me of the importance of our baptismal promises. I for one didn’t find one thing blasphemous about it. Although I think the Catholic version of sprinkling water on the head might be a tad easier!

  • Clifton Palmer McLendon

    To set the record straight:

    Animals are eternal beings, the same as humans.

    Death came into the world because Adam and Eve chose mortality.

    The Savior’s resurrection made death temporary.

    Because none of us — and certainly none of the animals — chose mortality, resurrection is a free gift to all of us, humans and animals alike. No matter what we do or don’t, we will all be resurrected.

    Laura Turner did nothing blameworthy — and certainly nothing sacrilegious — by baptizing Winston. (Winston had no need of baptism, but she didn’t know that.) To the contrary: She is to be commended. She loved Winston — she wanted him to be happy both here and hereafter — so she did all she knew how to do to make that possible.

  • j

    Or Christianity Today’s “Her.meneutics.”

  • John Hutchinson

    The liberal United Church in my country in the 1960s went down this road towards fluff theology and plain old brainless silliness. The average age of United Church church-persons nowadays is in excess of 60.

  • Frank Schwimmer

    My hamster had first communion last month…no big deal

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  • Sabelotodo2

    This too may be deemed blasphemy by the hyperactive legalists here, but experiencing the uncondidtional love of a dog during childhood (and indeed, all throughout our lives) is a strong metaphor for God’s unfailing, unconditional love for us. Experiencing that often should indeed make us much less judgmental of others.