I love fall! From my perspective, it’s the absolute best time of year, with the crispness in the air, the glorious colors of the changing leaves, the crunchy red apples and golden pumpkins from the farmer’s market, and the joy of a crackling fire in the wood stove to take off the chill in the early mornings. And of course there’s Halloween – my favorite holiday!
Sure, I like Christmas as much as the next person, but Halloween rocks my world! I love stringing orange and purple lights all around the house and garden, setting up a mock graveyard on my lawn and creating pumpkin people to occupy my front porch amidst ridiculously expensive straw bales (but hey, they look so cool!).
Now, I’m sure you’re thinking “I bet this crazy person dresses dogs up in costumes, too!” No, I don’t. I very much doubt that dogs enjoy wearing costumes – I know some people claim that their dogs love dressing up, but my take on that is that dogs love their people and want to please them so they put up with wearing Halloween costumes. I choose to spare Janice and Leroy the indignity.
I’m also very careful with my dogs on Halloween and during the days leading up when people are likely to be setting off fireworks – I see so many “lost dog” ads online and in the papers following “fireworks-centric” holidays like Halloween, the 4th of July, and New Year’s Eve. So, I keep Janice and Leroy in my fenced-in yard and on the night itself, I confine them to the spare bedroom since fireworks aren’t the only threat – trick or treaters in masks and costumes can also give a dog a pretty good scare.
Anyway, that was a bit of a digression – as I was saying, Halloween is, for me, the very best night of the year. I love handing out candy (even though the rest of the year I pretty much just tolerate kids), listening to spooky songs on the radio, and watching scary movies. It’s also the one night of the year that I choose to suspend my skepticism concerning the supernatural and allow myself to believe in witches, werewolves, vampires, demons, and yes, ghosts.
So, in the spirit of Halloween, I’ve compiled 7 dog ghost stories for you. Since we’re talking about dog ghosts, though, you won’t find these stories scary. You’ll have to look elsewhere if you want thrills and chills – these stories are about people who believe that they have seen their dogs after they’ve passed on and I think you’ll find them pretty uplifting. It’s up to you, though, whether you believe them in their entirety or whether you’re unsure. I’ll offer my own perspective and thoughts as well.
When I lost my Gloria, I read a lot about grief and how to deal with it. Several sources suggested that I should take comfort in the belief that our loved ones don’t really die – they just move onto another plane of existence, one that we cannot occupy, but that we can glimpse from time to time if we are open to the possibility. Call it Heaven if you like, or call it the Rainbow Bridge, or call it something else – perhaps the astral plane.
Sylvia is a resident of the United Kingdom, and very much a believer in astral travel, or what some people call OBEs (out of body experiences, sometimes pronounced “oobies”). She claims to regularly travel out of her body and on an August night in 2014, she woke every couple of hours. Finally, at around 8 in the morning, although she wasn’t really tired, she decided to lie down for a while because she was having some pain in her hand. Within a few minutes, she heard a buzzing sound. It wasn’t exactly in the room; it was more just in her mind, and she recognized it as a signal that she was about to have an OBE.
Sylvia says that she is rarely able to completely leave her body – usually it’s a slight rising above herself, and when it happens she is still able to hear, see and speak. She did a quick check to be sure she knew who she was and where she was, and having determined that she was fully lucid, she relaxed. The pain in her hand disappeared, and her legs seemed to be floating.
Having experienced brief contacts from her dog who had died two months before, Sylvia decided to try to contact her. Previous contacts had manifested as waves of affection and a strong sense of her dog’s personality. They had been few and far between of late, though, so Sylvia thought that perhaps her dog’s soul had “moved on.” She fully expected to be disappointed but still wanted to try.
At this point in her experience, Sylvia could no longer see but she had her sense of touch. So, she called her dog’s name the same way she used to when the dog was in another room. She heard a bump and then a stumbling sound and felt her hands touching her dog’s head. Then, the mattress sank in the same way it used to when her dog would jump up on the bed to be with her.
Sylvia maintains that she could feel her dog’s ears and body. She stroked and ruffled the ears and spoke to her dog. She could feel her dog pushing against her as if asking for more stroking and cuddling. The dog’s ears bent a bit under the stroking, so Sylvia told her dog that when she left, the dog should shake her ears to straighten them out. Then, suddenly, Sylvia was back in her body.
Sylvia says that before this experience, she was reasonably certain that there was life after death. Now she says that she knows for sure. “There is no death,” she says, “Only translation to other dimensions. And another dimension exists only a heartbeat away.”
So, was this a real experience or just a comforting hallucination? I don’t know. But it has given Sylvia the comfort she needs to work through the loss of her dog and from where I’m sitting, that has to be a good thing.
Nanu Sharma is a schoolgirl who lives in a neighborhood that is not exactly dog-friendly and one day a feral dog gave birth outside her house. Two puppies were born and Nanu’s neighbors were not happy with the situation. Some even kicked the puppies. Nanu wasn’t prepared to allow that to happen so she and her parents took the puppies inside the home. One, named Chinky, was very destructive and caused quite a bit of damage, but that didn’t make her any less loved – except by the neighbors.
Upon returning home from school one day, Nanu’s mother informed her that a neighbor had kicked Chinky and the puppy had been badly hurt. Nanu and her brother rushed the dog to the veterinarian who told them that Chinky had a badly broken leg. If there was to be any hope of survival an operation would have to be done immediately. Even so, the chance of Chinky surviving was only about 50%. “Go home,” the vet said, “And I’ll call you in the morning once we know how the surgery has gone.” As Nanu and her brother left the animal hospital, Chinky was crying and howling and looking at them as if to say, “Please, don’t leave me.”
No one in the household slept well that night. Early in the morning, Nanu’s mother awakened her saying, “Chinky is outside and barking!” Even knowing that this was impossible since Chinky was at the animal hospital, Nanu rushed for the door and she also heard barking. But when she opened the door all she saw was an empty yard.
Fifteen minutes later, the veterinarian called and reported that ten minutes earlier, Chinky had stopped breathing and died.
Nanu believes that Chinky came home one last time to say goodbye. Was it another dog, just barking in passing? Probably. But maybe it really was Chinky, making her way from one plane of existence to another, to let her family know that she loved them and would miss them. As was the case with Sylvia and her dog, this experience brought comfort to people who lost their dog and that’s all that really matters.
When Chandra was six, her dog died and she missed him terribly. Late at night she was feeling unwell and fading in and out of sleep. She awoke, and saw a glowing shape floating in the middle of her room. Moving forward, she saw her dog within the glow. She told him that she missed him and then drifted back to sleep. In the morning she looked at the bedroom floor. Just beneath where she saw the glowing shape there were paw prints on the floor. She believes that her dog wanted her to know that he was okay and that he came to comfort her.
So, is this a true instance of a dog returning to comfort someone he loved or just a fever dream? Did Chandra really wake up or was she dreaming that she woke? Should Chandra or her mom mop up the floor a little more frequently? I suppose there’s no way of knowing. But again, whatever happened, it brought comfort to a person who lost her dog.
From the day Trace first got her Doberman, Blade, she knew that one day she would lose him to death. After all, people hardly ever outlive their dogs. She also knew that when a dog no longer enjoys a good quality of life, euthanasia is the kindest option (I talked about this in Is It Time to Let Go?). So, Trace planned ahead for the inevitable, sad day. She had always intended, when the time came, to have Blade’s remains cremated and to keep the ashes in her home.
When Blade developed heart failure and the prognosis was indicative of a severely reduced quality of life, Trace had him put to sleep and arranged for cremation. She expected to have his ashes returned and was told that she should have them in about a week. Three weeks later, the ashes had not been returned.
Now, in a situation like this I would be absolutely beside myself, but Trace took a more pragmatic view, reasoning that since she knew the cremation had taken place, it wasn’t the end of the world if she didn’t get the ashes – Blade’s spirit had still been freed.
Trace thought about Blade constantly, as you might imagine, and often cast her mind back to the day of the euthanasia. She recalled explaining to Blade that she had decided that he shouldn’t have to suffer and that she was going to make a decision, for both of them, that would ease his pain. She told him that once his soul had passed she would have his body cremated and keep the ashes with her forever. She also asked him to visit her and let her know that he was all right.
Then, one night Trace woke suddenly. She knew she hadn’t been dreaming, since she always recalls her dreams immediately upon wakening. She hadn’t been dreaming at all, never mind dreaming about Blade, but she had been awakened by a bark – and no, it wasn’t a dog outside her house; it was Blade. She knew it was because he had a very distinctive bark that he always used when he wanted her attention.
Trace woke her husband and asked him if he’d heard anything. He muttered something about “poltergeists,” and then rolled over and went back to sleep. Trace lay awake, thinking about what she’d heard.
In the morning, the animal hospital called. Blade’s ashes were ready to be picked up. Trace believes that Blade wanted her to know that he was fine (as she had asked him to do), and that she would be able to fulfil her promise to him.
Trace has not heard from Blade since, but she’s okay with that. She believes that wherever Blade is, he’s happy. And again, isn’t that all that matters?
Carla and her twin sister each had a Pekingese-Maltese mix puppy out of the same litter. Scarlette was healthy, but Bandit, Carla’s dog, had multiple health issues and was ill for several months. The veterinarian recommended a myelogram for Bandit, which is a test that checks for problems in the spinal column like tumors, infections, or nerve disorders. Sadly, while the vet was performing the myelogram, Bandit died.
Carla was heartbroken. She and Bandit had been inseparable and she missed him horribly. A month after Bandit died, Carla woke up and found Scarlette with her – Scarlette was not quite so bonded to Carla’s sister as Bandit was to Carla and frequently wandered off in the night to spend some time with Carla, so this wasn’t out of the ordinary.
What happened next, though, was very much out of the ordinary. Carla says that the walls of her room turned black and where Scarlette had lain, there was Bandit. He appeared to be in full health and his tail was wagging. Then, he jumped off the bed and disappeared. Carla rushed to her sister’s room to tell her that she had proof of life after death for dogs. She says that she still misses Bandit, but she knows that wherever he is, he’s healthy and happy.
Well, honestly, this sounds to me like yet another intense dream that proves nothing about “ghost dogs” or life after death. But it brings Carla comfort, so it’s good.
I told you about Neila and Dennis in A Funeral for Your Dog. Of all the Rottweilers Neila has had, Dennis was her favorite. Neila has a very dark sense of humor and when she had Dennis put to sleep, she looked at the veterinarian and asked if he could load up a syringe of life-taking Euthasol for her as well. Obviously, the vet declined to do so.
Anyway, Neila was a mess for a long time. She told me, “If you think a heart can’t break, you’re wrong. I can feel mine, there in my chest, in fragments.”
Then, one night, Neila woke from a deep, dreamless sleep to the soft “whoosh whooshwhoosh” of a dog’s breath on her cheek. This wasn’t all that unusual, since she usually has at least four Rotts in the house at any given time and they’re all allowed to sleep wherever they choose. Sometimes, it’s up on the pillow next to Neila.
So, she reached over to give the dog a bit of a cuddle before drifting back to sleep. As she lazily stroked an ear, she encountered something she never thought to find again – an ear with a distinctive “V” carved out of it, thanks to a dispute with another dog. Dennis was the only dog who had ever had such an injury.
Neila smiled, pulled him close, kissed the top of his head, and went back to sleep. In the days that followed she began to pull herself out of her grief.
So, is Neila certifiably nuts? I don’t think so; she’s one of the most mentally stable people I know. Was she really awake, or just in that half-dreaming state between wakefulness and sleep? I don’t have an answer for that either.
Was it Dennis? Neila swears that it was. I’d like to believe that she’s right, but even if she’s not, the main thing is that she began to feel better.
When I lost Gloria, my main source of comfort was a belief in the Rainbow Bridge. I’ve always thought that even if it’s not mentioned in the Bible, a kind and caring God would have heard of the concept, decided that it was a good idea and built it after the fact. I wanted to believe that Gloria was somewhere that was a place of happiness. A place where old or ill dogs would be restored to youth and health and where she would play happily until the time came for me to join her.
I ached after losing her. It was a very real pain, not just emotional – I felt it in every tired, sore bone in my body and in every tear that burned its way down my cheek. I didn’t know how to go on.
One night, I dreamed of the Rainbow Bridge. It was such a realistic dream – I could feel the soft grass under my feet as I approached the Bridge and I could smell the flowers and feel the warmth of the sun on my body. And I could see Gloria on the other side, her ears perked up as she recognized me and broke from the pack of other dogs she’d been playing with – some of whom were other dogs I’d lost. As I was about to cross the Bridge and take her in my arms, I woke.
Sometimes I wonder if something had gone wrong with me in the night and what I dreamed was actually a “near death” experience. Of course, maybe it was just an exceptionally vivid dream. Either way, I woke crying, because I had wanted so very, very much to hold Gloria again.
I dragged myself out of bed and stumbled over to the window to open the curtains. And there, in the sky, was a double rainbow.
Coincidence? Almost certainly. Comforting? Definitely.
Do the ghosts of our dogs come back to comfort us? Many of us want to believe that they do. I suppose that most supposedly paranormal experiences have a logical explanation. But in the face of an overwhelming loss, logic often takes a back seat to what the heart wants to tell us. So whether “ghost dogs” are real or just a manifestation of what our minds want to tell us, it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we get the comfort we need to move on without our dogs.
I hope you have enjoyed these “non-scary” ghost dog stories. Happy Halloween, everyone!