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 meticulously clean. 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 below. In a review of Sheridan's first book in, 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. Further Reading 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, 1991. 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 Books, 2004. 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, 2009. 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," Dale Kaczmarek, "Animal Ghosts," Ghost Research Society, 1998. 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.
Photo by Gordon Smith, New South Wales, Australia, 2005. Photo by Christopher Laursen, Gudhjem, Bornholm, Denmark, 2012. Photo by Jim Wegryn, Grand River southwest of Lansing, Michigan.
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