A recent post on Facebook depicts a graphic in which a dog allows its owner/carer into heaven. And this actually is a tradition in Zoroastrianism, where we find both cows and dogs given a lot of importance. In fact one could say the dog is really the most important animal as indicated by several passages in Zoroastrian texts. For instance, the Vendidad states, that the dog is one of the creatures of the good spirit (Spenta Mainyu), which always serves man and should be cared for. Another passage points out its usefulness. ‘The dog, O Spitama Zarathushtra! I, Ahura Mazda have made self-clothed and self-shod, watchful, wakeful and sharp-toothed, born to take his food from man and watch over man’s goods.. Whosoever shall wake at his voice, neither shall the thief nor the wolf steal anything from his house..’ (xiii.106-7). Much of the Vendidad also lists punishments for ill-treating a dog, or not feeding it properly.
The dog is also associated with the other world. In the Arda Viraf Namah, Zerioug Goash is a dog that guards the Chinvat Bridge. Devils quake at his bark, and any soul who on earth has hurt, ill-used or destroyed any of these animals, is prevented from going further.
For those unfamiliar with the religion, Zarathushtra is the prophet who founded the religion, Ahura Mazda is God, and the Chinvat Bridge is the bridge that has to be crossed after death.