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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Animal Ghosts

[Republished from one of my MySpace blogs]

There are people who swear that animals don't have souls. How bleak an afterlife that would be, with no animals! The idea is nonsense, I know. Sometimes they return as ghosts; sometimes they reincarnate. I have personal experience of both.

My cat Sam, when alive, used to love to jump up on to the bed next to me with a resounding thud. After he died, I would sometimes be sitting on the bed, and there would be a sudden thud beside me. Or when I was outside I would catch a glimpse of his silhouette looking down from the edge of the roof, another of his favourite activities. In life, of course, he was clearly visible when he was there. In death, he would show himself only long enough that I knew it wasn't a mere trick of the eye or a moment of wishful thinking, and then he would vanish. I felt he was playing a cheeky game with me.

For some years I attended a meditation group in which the host's cat, Specks, liked to participate. Jim would spread a towel across his lap to stop her ecstatically flexing claws from digging into him, and she would lie there quietly for the whole meditation. Specks grew old and eventually died. One night as I came out of meditation, just as I opened my eyes I saw Specks sitting on the low coffee table. I was startled fully awake, and she was gone. Jim said others had seen her too. 'She tends to look bigger and paler than she was in life,' he said, and I nodded. That was exactly how I had seen her. But why was she on the table? He grinned. 'She wasn't allowed on it when she was alive.'

My Scotch Collie, Lassie (unoriginally named by her previous owner) was a motherly soul although she never had puppies. She mothered her human family instead. When my sons were little, if I scolded them severely she would place herself between them and me and growl at me softly. Lassie adored me and would never have hurt me, but it was her way of telling me I was overdoing it. As far as she was concerned, they were her kids too! She was similarly protective of their father and me if she thought we needed it. She had been dead a long time – years – when I was working late in my study one night, pushing myself even though I was tired, a bad habit I had got into. Something made me turn around and look behind me. I saw Lassie in the doorway, perfectly clearly – but I saw her in that classic way ghosts are described: I could see through her. It was very strange; I could both see her in every detail, and see the room and its contents through her, at the same time. She was coming in the door, head forward, looking purposeful, and I realised she was telling me it was high time to go to bed. This was not a matter of moments; I stared at her for some time, amazed but not at all scared. After all, this was my dear Lassie! As soon as I got over my surprise and understood her message, she quietly disappeared.

A later dog, Suey, a German Shepherd, never showed herself to me after she died, but I would hear her. I worked from home when we had Suey, and she had the habit of following me about the house during the day, when there were just the two of us there. I wasn't always prompt to trim her claws, and as she followed me they would scrape audibly on the wooden floors. After her death, for months she would still follow me around, as I knew by the comforting scrape of her claws behind me. Eventually it happened less and less. I didn't really notice when it stopped altogether.

This was the way of it with most of my friendly animal ghosts. Not all of my pets did return to haunt, and Lassie only came that one time long after her death, but mostly they would be very present for a few weeks or months, then less and less so and then not at all, like a gradual fading. I suppose they stayed attached for a while and then moved on. Usually my children perceived them too, in exactly the same ways I did, over the same length of time. Sadly for him, their father never did. He didn't exactly disbelieve, but for much of his life anything intangible was an unknown world. I think he sometimes felt we were having illusions, our subconscious minds arranging to comfort us for the deaths of these beloved pets.

Indeed, might it not have been so? It seems all too feasible — were it not for my experiences at second hand. I work as a psychic reader, and sometimes this takes the form of mediumship. I use a big crystal ball. I am more clairsentient than anything else, so instead of scrying, I place one hand on the crystal and with the other I hold my client's hand. I shut my eyes, and then I see images behind my closed lids and hear messages in my head. Anything and everything can come through when I do this; I am just a channel for whatever the Powers That Be choose to present to help the client. Sometimes a guide will arrive to give a message. Sometimes dead relatives or friends will come. Often the client will ask to be put in touch with specific people who have passed on; sometimes they turn up unasked. These are experiences of great love, which, being clairsentient, I feel in my own body. I am often moved to tears — never by grief, but by the depths of the loving.

I always describe to the client what I am getting. I don't know these people! I have to double check. The client will confirm, 'Oh yes, that's my grandmother,' or perhaps will say, 'Oh no, that sounds more like my aunty'. It delights me when, occasionally, a deceased pet comes through. It makes the clients very happy too. I've encountered both dogs and cats, and once a horse. These animals appear healthy and happy. They are always glad to be communicating with their human friends, but not grieving in the slightest. They have absolute trust that they will be reunited in the spirit world; it's not in question, and there is no impatience.

I suspect they have ready access to this world anyway, even after they have fully passed on into spirit. They don't give the impression that these assisted meetings are rare reunions; they don't seem to have been fretting for the person. Animals when living are so psychic, they can be aware of things a great distance away. Why should it not be so after death? This I don't know for sure; I speculate on the basis of my observations. I have no doubt, however, that animals do have individual souls.

Some people firmly believe there are only collective animal souls, one for each species. Some of the people who think this base it on their own psychic experiences. I think they have encountered archetypes. There are nature spirits associated with the various life forms. There are individual spirits for the individual manifestations of any form — a single plant, a specific animal — and there is also the archetypal spirit of 'dog' or 'wolf' or 'wattle tree' or whatever.

But that's another story….


  1. It would be nice for his best friend (who is also Dave's dad) if Sam came back from time to time. I have never experienced anything like this myself and unless I do, it will be difficult for me to comprehend it. But it is a nice thought, and I can imagine Sam curled up on the sofa, one morose eyebrow raised as he tells his best friend it really is bed time now.

  2. Well, I did of course republish this piece here because of your post about Sam, in the hope it might be of some comfort to know of these things happening.

    But even for those of us who do have such experiences, there is still grief for the loss of a loved physical presence in one's life, whether a person or an animal. You can't hug a spirit!

    And for many, if it's outside their view of reality, it might be so freaky to become personally aware of 'ghosts' that that would outweigh any possible comfort from the experience.

  3. I can imagine. I wonder how I would react myself...

    I thought that Sam might have inspired your republishing of this post - thank you. Most comforting was that I could imagine exactly what Sam would be doing were he to come back, which makes me smile.

  4. Interesting post. I can't say that any of my animals have come back to visit me, but I'm sure that my grandmother did once. (While I was teaching a drama class, which was a funny time for her to choose.)

  5. I love spooks and related stuff. Nice write up and interesting reading piece.