Thank you...all of you...for being so kind and thoughtful over the deaths of Toby and Dinky yesterday.

They had both lived very long lives and were tired...and it was their time to go.

When friends have lost their pets in the past I've always said they've gone over the Rainbow Bridge to meet with all the other well-loved animals who went before them. It sounds awful soppy I suppose, but as I'm totally useless at giving sympathy I find the Rainbow Bridge does offer some degree of comfort.

But I wonder what does become of an animal's soul?

And that question is almost considered to be blasphemous in Ireland because according to the Church, animals are not graced with having a soul in the first place so it matters little about what happens when they've died.

In fact, there was a time not forty years ago, when little children were slapped for grieving over a family kitten or an old farm dog who had died and told it was a sin to do so.

There was certainly no sentimental attachment to the ancient donkey who had served the family for many years without complaint when the first tractor was bought...I've lost count of the number of people who've met our donkeys and say the one the Da had was left on the bog the day his new tractor came...or sold at the next mart without any thought for the animal.

It is also interesting to meet with country people who recall the farm donkey...but hesitate over stroking ours...will it bite is the first question...well, Jack quite likes to lead you about with the end of your sweater clamped firmly in his mouth...but they don't actually bite.

They do kick though...only an eejit will walk directly behind our donkeys within range of a deftly placed foot...especially if they think you might have forgotten about bringing a piece of apple or a ginger nut biscuit.

The elderly woman who owned Neddy never went into his field without a stout stick to hit him with to keep him away from her...you'd only have to be with Neddy for the briefest amount of time to realise all he really wants is for you to put your arms round his neck and give him a cuddle.

But to go back to the question of an animal having a soul or spirit...especially an animal that isn't in the least bit humanoid...I was thinking about the apes who look half human to begin with...I've never heard any stories about ghostly horses...dogs..cats etc unless they are somehow connected to evil atmospheres or act as a portent of doom.

People don't confide that they've seen their much loved cat when it's been dead for a number of years but they'll say they saw their Granny...

I wonder if that means that the Church is right do you think? That an animal doesn't have a soul...?

Isn't your personality...the part of you which makes you an individual...also part of your soul. The unseen, intangible, part of what makes you good or bad or kindly and caring or evil and wicked...

Animals have that too...they can be kind or bad-tempered...greedy or noisy...placid and willing to please. That hidden part of them which makes them the way they are must surely be their soul.

I'm not sure whether I've put this clearly...but I'd be interested to know what you think.