Sixty-five percent of households in the U.S.—almost 80 million families—own a pet today, according to a survey by the American Pet Products Association. In addition to offering unconditional love and a sense of companionship, animals can provide assistance to those in need and are even used in trauma and medical rehabilitation programs, but can they also be viewed as guides to God? New books are not only examining the emotional bond between humans and animals, but also the ways pets can strengthen one’s faith.

Waking Up Slowly: Spiritual Lessons from My Dog, My Kids, and Other Unexpected Places

Dave Burchett (Tyndale, Mar.)

Burchett, a television sports director and founder of the blog Confessions of a Bad Christian, draws inspiration from the Bible, children, and his rescued Labrador Maggie in order to “intentionally live more fully in the moment and to be more connected to God, others, and myself,” he writes in the book. Arguing that today’s culture perpetuates a slavish devotion to busyness and values “screen time” over time with loved ones, Burchett provides readers with tips for managing the to-do lists, worry, and other distractions. 

Always by My Side: Life Lessons from Millie and All the Dogs I’ve Loved

Edward Grinnan (Howard, Mar.)

“The physically blind use Seeing Eye dogs to navigate their lives. But there are those of us who have been blind spiritually and emotionally, and who have discovered that a dog can help lead us into the light,” writes Grinnan, the editor-in-chief at Guideposts. His memoir recounts life with his Golden Retriever, Millie, and how her unconditional love for him helped him overcome alcohol addiction and depression. He also shares stories of other dogs he’s loved and how each of them taught him important lessons on life and faith. 

Animal Frequency: Identify, Attune, and Connect to the Energy of Animals

Melissa Alvarez (Llwellyn, Mar.)

In this reference manual, spirituality coach Alvarez explores the meanings and messages she believes can be found in relationships with animals. Providing encyclopedic information on almost 200 species, Alvarez encourages readers to pay attention to the animals that appear in their lives and lays out ways to better bond with their pets. The book also features guided meditations and visualizations. 

Animal Lessons: Discovering Your Spiritual Connection with Animals

Danielle MacKinnon (Llwellyn, May)

MacKinnon, a psychic medium, blends personal stories with tips and tools aimed at helping readers discover a deeper relationship with their pets. Animals, she writes, often act as therapists, trainers, mentors, and gurus, and can offer lessons on love, patience, happiness, and gratitude.

The Grace of Dogs

Andrew Root, Ph.D. (Convergent, June)

“There is just something unbelievably unique about dogs in the fact that they so regularly do for us what we so desperately need: remind us that we are worthy of connection, and promise us in their love that there is hope, compassion, and mercy—in this world and in the next,” writes Root, a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary and professor at Luther Seminary. After losing his black Labrador, Kirby, Root sets out on a quest to better understand why humans have such a profound connection with dogs. Drawing from a wide-array of disciplines, he weighs intellectual and theological questions such as whether all dogs really do go to heaven, have souls, or even sin.  

The Dharma of Dogs: Our Best Friends as Spiritual Teachers

Edited by Tami Simon (Sounds True, July)

This collection of essays focuses on the question, “What is the dharma of dogs?” With contributions by 31 different Buddhist writers and other spiritual teachers, the book explores what particular purpose might be unique to dogs and how their relationship with humans benefits us. Covering everything from lessons on self-acceptance and unconditional love to the afterlife and raising dogs as a spiritual practice, the book highlights how the steadfastness of a dog’s unconditional love can lend a better understanding of deeper universal truths.