The most profound physical encounter I have ever had with a spirit of any kind was with Flake, the cat I talked about in part 2 of this series. I only knew him alive for about a month and a half, but I bond quickly with animals.
However, Flake was the exception until right before the end.
He was a very literal scaredy cat. Loud noises, sudden movements…
New people in the house.
And it was hard on me because here I was in this new place with new people, and the one thing that felt comfortable to me was that there were pets. So I focused on the pets. But this one didn’t like me – worse than that, he was afraid of me.
My future wife told me that he acted the same way with people he’d known his whole life – and I saw that demonstrated time and time again, so I got used to it. Only once in the time I knew him before he lost the use of his back legs did he try to play his “chase me” game with me – but I was too tired to finish it, so I lost the chance to pet him.
A month and a half after I moved in, after a bout with a spinal tumor that claimed the use of his entire back end, Flake was put to sleep by at-home hospice vets. The night before his appointment, however, I went into the bathroom where he was living at the time to spend a little time with him and say goodbye.
He was lying on the fluffy pink rug. He had chosen that bathroom to be his and got upset if the door wasn’t closed at all times over the couple of weeks that he was getting worse and losing his legs. I knew, of course, that he would be gone the next day. Though I’d only known him a little while, I wanted to have a private moment to say goodbye.
So I went into the bathroom with him, sat on the lid of the toilet, and just looked at him. He freaked out at first and tried to haul himself a distance away with just his front legs, but when he realized I wasn’t coming near him, he slowly settled back down. He was facing me, staring at me, obviously trying to figure out why I was in his sanctuary. So I started talking.
I told him I was so sorry that I only got to meet him at the end of his life. I apologized for having scared him at any point, no matter what it was that caused it. I felt like I was going to cry, but I held it together and said that I wished he’d let me pet him at least once. Then I closed my eyes, put my head in my hands, and cried as quietly as I could.
I have no idea how long I was in there, crying. It had to be around ten minutes. As I reached to get some toilet paper to wipe my eyes, I felt something very soft against my bare foot. I wiped my eyes and looked down.
Flake had dragged himself off the fluffy rug and over to my leg, and was gently rubbing his soft face against me.
I almost burst into tears anew at that. I remember talking to him – I don’t quite remember what I said. The jist of it was that I was so happy he’d chosen to let me touch him, and that I wanted to say goodbye. I reached down and this precious little cat let me pet him, pressing his head into my hand as much as he could from the angle we were in and his limited mobility.
I eventually sat on the floor with him and just petted him for awhile, and talked to him. Basically told him I wished he’d been like this a month ago – letting me pet him, not on the verge of dying. His fur was so soft – he was like the softest plushie you can imagine. I’m still sorry I only got to pet him while he was alive the once.
He was put down the next day, and I went through the mourning process. I only knew him for less than two months of his ten year life – mostly I tried to be there for the other people in the house who HAD known him that long. But after a few months, as is the norm, I didn’t really think of him very often anymore. Until the night I saw him again.
It was exactly a year from the night I’d said goodbye to him. Thanks to an unrelated situation in the second bathroom, I had to go into the master bathroom. I wasn’t thinking about Flake – he’d been gone almost exactly a year, and I’d lived here a little over a year at the time. I had my mind on other things.
Then I felt something very soft against my foot.
I thought maybe I’d look down to see some cat fur or something having blown against me. I certainly didn’t expect to see Flake, though.
He was standing, all four legs completely functional and whole, gently rubbing his soft face against my lower leg. I stared in complete shock. He wasn’t see-through or anything – he was completely solid and if I didn’t know he was a ghost just by virtue of it being Flake, I would have thought he was alive.
I’d had experiences with pet ghosts before, as I’d mentioned – but they’d been mostly auditory. Only occasionally did I get the sense of something or see something out of the corner of my eye that the back of my mind told me was a ghost cat roaming the house. I have never before, nor since, had such a tactile, visceral experience with a ghost cat as I did that night with Flake.
I didn’t know what to do at first. I could feel him against my leg, as real and solid as he looked. And it wasn’t some memory reflection that was playing out the events of a year before – he hadn’t been standing on all four legs that night. This night he was standing strong, hind legs unfettered by the tumor he’d had in life.
I finally whispered a hello, and dropped my hand to pet him. He was solid, warmer than you’d expect a ghost to be. His fur was just as soft and plush as I remembered it. I started talking to him, saying how happy I was to see him and to know he’s whole and happy as he is now. His purr felt like it was filling the room, and he nuzzled my hand and arched his back into the petting.
I don’t know how long I sat there petting a ghost cat, but it was long enough that I almost forgot that he was a ghost. I turned to grab the toilet paper so I could easily move and settle on the floor to visit with him more, like I had a year earlier. Breaking eye contact with him was apparently enough to break whatever spell had held him there and solid, though. When I looked back, he was gone.
There wasn’t so much as an indentation in the plush rug where his back paws had stood a second earlier. I remember crying – I didn’t realize how much I missed him until that moment. Since then, I’ve seen Flake in that bathroom several more times – but never in a solid, touchable form.
It was like that night opened my eyes, though. After that experience, that literal touch of the spirit world, I have had an easier time seeing and sensing spirits. Both the ghost cats that roam our house (Flake is only one of them – there’s also Squeak, Moe, Ginger, Smokey – as I mentioned in the last part of this series, AJ, and now most recently Ziggy and Taru), the skin spirits I work with, and the occasional human spirit (mostly my wife’s father, who passed away four years ago) have become easier to see since that night with Flake.
What all this comes down to is that I have had, and continue to have, many wonderful and profound experiences with pets – both alive and dead. For many years, I’ve wanted a way to remember these little lives – to share all of these experiences with a wider audience. Both to share all the wonderful memories I have of all my old pets, and to remember them in such a way as to give them all the memorials most of them never received.
In the final part of this series, I’ll reveal exactly what I’ve been working on for some time now – I hope you’ll take the journey with me!