by Christopher Laursen
article | extraordinary experiences
Why Not an Animal Afterlife?
January 8, 2013
It is the dog returning, the same dog or a different one,
a shadow dog I cannot clearly perceive,
it has no definite form or color...
Swedish poet Artur Lundkvist from
Journeys in Dream and Imagination, 1991
Like people, animals seem to be able to come through in many ways
after they have died. A good friend of mine from Ottawa had a feline
apparition that regularly bounded across her apartment’s hallway. She
had lived in the century-old apartment building for many years, and saw
the shadowy cat a few times a year.
“Out of the corner of my eye, I’d see this black shadow zip across the
width of the hallway. I used to write it off as shadows from the sun, but
every time it happened, it was in the same spot, but at different times of
the day.” Her immediate thought, whenever it happened, was that it
was a black cat. “My first roommate said, ‘Oh yeah, I see it too. It’s our
black cat.’ And we’d joke about it.” My friend received further verification
from subsequent roommates who also saw the ghost cat. The greatest
substantiation of what she saw came when a maintenance man was
replacing the fire doors in her apartment. When he was done, he came
to speak with her. He turned around, and then looked back at my friend.
“Oh, do you have a cat?” he asked, describing a black cat darting
across the hall. Having a visitor witness the phenomenon excited my
friend, and she called her roommate over and had the mystified
repairman repeat what he saw. Interestingly, he saw the cat from a
different position than people would usually see it in the hallway. “It
would never occur to you in the depths of your mind that it was
anything other than a cat,” she told me.
Animal apparitions and afterlife contact is not all that uncommon.
Famed medium Allison Dubois (who inspired the popular TV series
Medium) wrote in her book Don’t Kiss Them Goodbye that passed on
pets figure significantly in the readings she does. In one memorable
reading, Allison saw a bird perched on the finger of her client’s recently
departed mother-in-law, and the client confirmed that her mother-in-
law’s bird died around the same time she did. “Although I knew dogs
and cats crossed over,” Allison wrote, “I wasn’t aware that birds could
come through from the other side.”
Maybe everyone will be reunited with the pets they loved once they die.
My Mom certainly believes so. She recently recounted to me a variety
of experiences that she agreed to share here. Her beloved collie, Katie,
died in April 2006 from lymphoma. This was quite hard on my Mom who
lives on her own. In the years leading up to Katie's death, two of her
cats had died: Kitty and my own cat, Mookie, adopted by my Mom
when I moved to Ontario. After Katie's death, it was very sad for me to
think of my Mom returning to an empty house every night after work
and going for walks alone.
But she wasn’t completely alone, I later found out. A week after Katie
died, my Mom heard two distinct barks in her house. “I know her barks
like you would know your kid’s voice,” my Mom told me. “It was like her
saying, ‘I’m still here, I’m okay.’” The signs continued on in the ensuing
weeks after Katie’s death. Early one morning, my Mom awoke to hear
Katie lie down in her crate in a room down the hall; the crate creaked
as she did so. In August 2006, my Mom heard the sound of Katie
shaking out her coat in the sitting room. The audible evidence that
Katie was still around the house was further verified for my Mom in
several dreams she had, where she would be visited by Katie and find
that she no longer had the lumps from lymphoma.
When I was younger, after my childhood cat Sylvester died, I remember
lying on my parents’ bed on a warm afternoon. I felt what seemed to be
Sylvester jumping on the bed, doing circles and resting on the bed near
me. I just left my eyes closed. It made me smile. Of course, there was
no cat on the bed when I opened my eyes, but I felt that Sylvester had
curled up next to me one last time. My Mom has had such experiences
as well. Maybe the most interesting experience occurred after Katie’s
death in the wee hours of morning. She heard Katie come into her
room, turn around to lie down on the floor beside her and smack her
lips as if she were going to go to sleep. Then she felt her old cat Kitty
come under the blanket (something her cat was prone to doing when
she was alive). She reached her hand under the blanket and could feel
Kitty’s tail and her rump. She felt Kitty sniff her hand. “It was like I was
having a dream, but it was more than a dream,” she said. Whether this
was a dream or something experienced while she was awake, the
animals’ presence comforted my Mom.
“But what really blows me away are the actual things that have shown
up in my house after Katie died,” my Mom said, recollecting how she
had found individual pieces of Katie’s fur. “They seemed to come when
I was most upset and needed to know that she was okay. The hairs
would always stick straight out so I could see them.” One long collie
hair appeared on her sweater, and another time, she found one on the
upper part of her dining room curtain. Perhaps the strangest finding
during this time was when she opened her clothes closet a few weeks
after Katie died and found one of Kitty’s claws sitting on the carpet just
inside the closet. This was especially unusual since Kitty had been
dead for two years. I should mention that my Mom keeps her home
In November 2006, my Mom adopted a new bounding spirit into her
home – an energetic collie puppy by the name of Holly. My Mom
maintains a very detailed journal of these experiences, and in the year
following her adoption of Holly, she regularly found pieces of cat litter
around the house - very strange since she hadn't had a cat in about
three years at that point.
One January morning in 2010, my Mom awoke to a 5 a.m. alarm and
as she stood up from her bed, she heard the sound of a dog's feet
approaching her bedroom in the hallway. She thought it was Holly and
saw the outline of a dog in the dark. “I bent down to pet her as she
walked by me,” my Mom recorded in her journal, but my Mom “didn't
feel her,” and thought the dog went into a large carrier that she keeps in
her bedroom, but she didn't hear the dog enter it. She went to the
bathroom and put the light on, and her dog Holly was lying in the sitting
room on the other side of the house from her bedroom, looking at her.
Was it an apparition of Katie that my Mom experienced?
These are extraordinary experiences. Numerous people have reported
having such experiences after their pets have died. For example, cat
enthusiast and writer Dusty Rainbolt encountered so many stories of
people encountering apparitions and signs of their cats' presence after
they had died, that she wrote a book, Ghost Cats, based on these
accounts in 2007. Another animal lover and naturopath, Kim Sheridan,
has written two volumes on animals and the afterlife, the most recent
due for an upcoming release. And the parapsychologist and painter
Raymond Bayless collected many accounts in his 1970 book Animal
Ghosts. Some further books and accounts are included in the links
In a review of Sheridan's first book in about.com, the reviewer
concluded that “This book should offer much-needed comfort to those
who have either recently lost a pet or face the imminent loss of one. It
offers compelling anecdotal evidence that life after death indeed exists
for the animals we love.” My Mom expressed how grateful she is for
these types of books in finding that others have also had such
experiences. The meanings of these experiences are extraordinarily
powerful and personal to those who encounter deceased animals.
The ghostly black cat that darts across the hall. A bird perched on the
finger of a deceased relative in a medium's reading. Apparitions and
physical evidence that deceased pets remain present. These are but
three types of experiences people have had involving animals in ways
that do not work within conventional explanation.
Such uncanny encounters with animals is no doubt an area worthy of
further study. If you have had any such experiences, please feel free to
share them in the comments below, or send me a message and I will
consider including your account as part of my documentation of
people's extraordinary experiences.
There have been a flood of books published on this topic especially in
recent years. Overall, I have not included consoling books that speak
on a Heaven for animals, but rather those in which people recall
encounters with pets that had died. I cannot comment on the quality of
most of these works as I haven't read them myself, but some
preliminary research has pulled together this list. There could be an
insightful analysis made on the content and impact of these books.
Here are some of them in chronological order:
Raymond Bayless. Animal Ghosts. University Books, 1970.
Patricia Edwards Clyne. Ghostly Animals Of America. Dodd, Mead
& Co., 1977.
Bill D. Schul. Animal Immortality: Pets and Their Afterlife. Fawcett,
Scott S. Smith. The Soul of Your Pet: Evidence for the Survival of
Animals After Death. Holmes, 1998.
Ginnie Siena Bivona, Mitchel Whitington, & Dorothy McConachie,
editors. Haunted Encounters: Personal Stories of Departed Pets.
Atriad Press, 2004.
Darren Zenko. Ghost Stories of Pets and Animals. Ghost House
Kim Sheridan. Animals and the Afterlife: True Stories of Our Best
Friends’ Journey Beyond Death. Hay House, 2006.
Joshua Warren. Pet Ghosts: Animal Encounters from Beyond the
Grave. New Page Books, 2006.
Dusty Rainbolt. Ghosts Cats: Human Encounters with Feline
Spirits. Lyons Press, 2007.
Joan Ranquet. Communication with All Life: Revelations of an
Animal Communicator. Hay House, 2007.
Penelope Smith. Animals in Spirit: Our Faithful Companions'
Transition to the Afterlife. Atria Books/Beyond Words, 2008.
Elliott O'Donnell et al. It's Raining Cats and Dogs: Ghostly Pets,
Phantom Felines and Haunted Hounds. Global Communications,
Peggy Schmidt. Tails of the Afterlife: True Stories of Ghost Pets.
Schiffer Publishing, 2009.
Jenny Smedley suggests that faithful pets can reincarnate and
continue to be faithful companions in her book Forever Faithful:
Dogs That Return, John Hunt Publishing, 2009. Brent Atwater
makes similar claims in "I'm Home!": A Dog's Never Ending Love
Story, CreateSpace, 2011.
Mary Beth Crain. Haunted Pet Stories: Tales of Ghostly Cats,
Spooky Dogs, and Demonic Bunnies. Globe Pequot, 2011.
The Haunted is a show on the Animal Planet speciality TV network that
"explores the connection between animals and the supernatural realm."
And some further reading online:
British parapsychologist Simon Sherwood on black dog
apparitions commonly recorded in the UK.
Sue Demeter-St Clair’s article on animal apparitions.
Stephen Wagner, "Animals and Ghosts," about.com.
Dale Kaczmarek, "Animal Ghosts," Ghost Research Society,
Laura Simpson, "Heavenly Encounters: Animals in the
Afterlife," care2 make a difference website, 22 Sept. 2011.
Barb Mallon, a medium, writes about encountering animals in
the spirit world.
This article, revised and expanded here, originally appeared on Sue
Demeter-St.Clair and Matthew Didier’s Paranormal Blog on 13
December 2006 and has been reprinted on the Paranormal Studies &
Investigations Canada (PSICAN) website.
Christopher Laursen shares the experiences
of a friend and his mother that suggest that
animals survive death. In one, a ghostly cat,
in the other signs from beloved pets. A
thorough bibliography shows how many
people are reporting such experiences.
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