[TAE – Ominous October] Pets and the Paranormal

Monday, October 17, 2016
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It has long been believed that pets can sense the paranormal. Everyone who’s had a pet has, at one time or another, witnessed them doing something that they couldn’t explain. Whether it’s staring at a random spot where you see nothing, with an intensity that makes you swear that something HAS to be there, or barking at seemingly nothing, or even seeming to interact with some invisible force, pets have a connection to the paranormal.

In a recent BuzzFeed article that gave me the idea for this post, seventeen different people recount their personal experiences with pets seeming to sense the paranormal. I was reminded of a podcast I sometimes enjoy listening to  Paranormal Pets. Then, two weeks ago, a friend of mine told me a creepy story about their cat and a friendly shadow person in their house. This brought to mind my own paranormal pet stories, and I’d like to share a couple with you now.

While not as disturbing as some of the stories I’ve shared in week one and week two of Ominous October, I feel these stories still have a bit of the eerie about them.

The first paranormal experience I remember involving my pets occurred just after my first pet – a parakeet named Buddy – passed away. He was a little over four years old, and he died of complications of abdominal cancer. He passed at home, in my mother’s arms, one night when the power had gone out from a storm, leaving us suffering in the heat and humidity of a Texan summer night.

Buddy1Buddy had been fading in and out for awhile, but most of the time he seemed alright. He played, he ate, he did everything he’d always done. But he had a lump between his legs on his low tummy, and sometimes it oozed blood. We kept it disinfected and cared for him as best we could, but that night the heat became too much for him. He flew out of the cage to my mother’s chest, and it was there that he breathed his last.

I was heartbroken. For four years, Buddy had been a huge part of my life. I’d wanted a dog – and I treated him like one. He followed me around, spent all his time with me, and was basically my best friend. Now, having lost that friend, I felt adrift and lost. His cage sat forlornly on it’s table in the living room. I collected every photo I had of him and every shed feather I could find. We’d buried him in a beautiful park a distance from the house, so I couldn’t easily go visit his grave. I didn’t realize at the time how badly I would want to, either.

I still have one of his tail feathers, a “dot” feather from his little face, and a few more shed feathers in a ziploc bag inside my pet keepsake box.

Buddy was a clown. He did odd things, like pulling his favorite bell over and wearing it on his head like a hat while he slept. This made a very distinctive sound when he did it. A sound I was so used to hearing, along with his tweeting and talking, that I didn’t realize at first what was happening. But in the weeks following his death, my parents and I all heard those sounds.

The sound of his bell would come from his cage – as the bell hung still and silent. His chirps and tweets would come from random areas of the house – from the desk fan he liked to sit on, or from my room early in the morning. The sound of a flurry of wings would occasionally follow me down the hall – only for me to turn and there to be nothing there.

Buddy’s presence was strong in that apartment, and honestly…I’m not sure when it faded. I would eventually get another bird, who lived in the same cage, though it was set up very differently than Buddy’s had been. Johnny was definitely not Buddy – birds are individuals just like any other creature. But I eventually stopped hearing Buddy around the apartment, and over time I was able to look at pictures of him and touch his saved feathers without crying.

But I still, to this day, feel like that little “psurdy bird” (his own created phrase, a combination of “pretty” and “silly” bird, both of which we called him regularly) is still with me in some way. It’s like the Harry Potter quote – “the ones that we love never truly leave us.”

The more pets I had, and lost, over the years, the more times I would experience spirit visitation after their passing. My first dog, Baby, also seemed to be aware of the skeleton creature I talked about a couple of weeks ago, and would glare at my bedroom door at the same time I was sensing it out there. Sometimes she growled…but, being a toy poodle, she wasn’t the most intimidating presence. Still, she did make me feel safe.Baby

Baby was a special old girl. We rescued her when she was, according to the vet, already nearly twenty years old. She had almost no teeth, and swallowed dry kibble whole, but she mostly preferred canned food (and cut up hot dogs – a favorite treat). One of the two most profound spiritual experiences I’ve ever had with a pet happened in and around the circumstances that led to her being put down, and the day of the sad event itself.

I’ve written this story out before (to read that version, click here), but as it is relevant to the paranormal, I’m going to tell the story again.

We knew Baby was an old dog. I, at this time, had said goodbye to many pets as they passed across the Rainbow Bridge, and could tell that Baby’s time was coming. However, all of my previous pets had died natural deaths. There had been no need for the human intervention of euthanasia. With Baby, however, that didn’t seem to be the case. Her old body kept going, long after she was comfortable with it.

I asked my mother one day when we would know it was time. My mom told me Baby would let us know – she’d stop eating, and she wouldn’t want to play or do anything anymore. The dog, who had been eating her lunch (a cut up, partially squished hot dog), stopped eating and looked up at me from the floor. I looked down at her and met her old, mostly blind eyes. I remember feeling the odd sense that she could understand us…that she heard and understood the conversation.

A few weeks later, I had that feeling again when she decided to stop eating and lost interest in everything. It was as if she had realized what we needed her to do to tell us she was ready, and she was telling us she was in the way she now knew we’d understand.

The day of her last vet appointment, she laid on the living room floor while I waited for my parents to be ready to go. I watched as Smokey, my first cat and basically the dog’s baby – as Baby had raised Smokey from a kitten, approached the old dog.

Baby hadn’t shown any interest in anything for a few days, barely lifting her head and only choking down a few bites of food if I hand fed it to her. But as Smokey approached, Baby lifted her head. Slowly, almost reverently, the two animals sniffed at each other’s noses. Smokey then walked a circle around the dog, her “momma,” and ended up back at her head. I started crying – what they were doing was obvious.

They were saying goodbye.

After a little while of sitting by the dog’s head and staring into each other’s eyes, Smokey finally got up and walked away. The whole interaction didn’t take more than ten minutes, but I still remember it vividly. Just like I think Baby knew what was going to happen, I also believe she somehow told Smokey.

I’ve lost pets that lived together before and since. I’ve watched the pets left behind search for the one that died, sometimes even if they saw the body. But after that day, Smokey never seemed to search for Baby, and that just confirmed in my head that Baby had told her little kitty that she wasn’t going to be coming back from this car ride.

Still, that’s not the paranormal experience, though it is a very poignant one. No, the paranormal experience happened at the vet when he was starting to give her the injection that would end her suffering and send her across the Rainbow Bridge on young, strong paws.

I was bent over her head as she laid on the vet’s table. My mother and father were there beside me, and the vet was on the other side of the table from us. He had explained to us how it would happen and what we might see or hear, but that it was all just an automatic process – she wouldn’t feel a thing. As the needle went into her hind leg, she lifted her head and her eyes, mostly blind with cataracts at this point, met mine.

I genuinely felt like she could actually see me for the first time in over a year. My breath caught in my throat. She held my gaze as the merciful chemicals flowed into her veins, and I heard in my head – as absolutely clear as if someone had said it right in front of me – a voice that I had never heard before and have never heard again. It was the voice of an elderly woman, and it only said two words…but they were important.

“Thank you.”

Then she lowered her head to the table, gave one final sigh, and she was gone.

To this day I have no doubts that we did the right then – that putting her down was exactly what that sweet old girl wanted. In that one moment, as she slipped into transition between life and death, she reached out to me to reassure her master that we had done the right thing…and that she was thankful.

I still get teary thinking about it…and I still vividly remember what her “voice” sounded like. I don’t even remember my maternal grandmother’s voice (she passed away when I was six), but I remember the non-physical voice of my first dog, thanking me for taking care of her.

I have many other paranormal pet stories – like what happened when Smokey passed away and I was over fifteen hundred miles away at the time. But those are stories for another Ominous October.

Next week I’ll talk about ways you might get to experience the paranormal for yourself – it’s all around you, after all. You just have to train yourself to really see.

Have you ever had any paranormal pet encounters? Sensed or seen the ghost of a pet or loved one? Experienced a dream visitation you’re certain was your pet? Or do you just have dogs that bark at nothing, simultaneously freaking you out and being annoying? Tell me all about your paranormal pet stories in the comments!