In the Spirit of Animals

Do animals have spirits?

If you had asked me such a question some years ago, I probably would have given you some theoretical answer based on things I have read in books or seen in movies or gotten from the Web. But the issue became a very real and personal one for me a year ago, with the passing of our family’s dog, as I wrote about in this blog space.

Since the passing of our golden retriever, Marron, exactly one year ago today on 6 April 2015, that question has been on my mind a lot. And a year later, looking back, I’m convinced there is indeed something to the idea that animals have souls just like we humans do.

The passing of Marron back then was about more than losing a pet — for us she was part of the family and we grieved her absence from our lives. And because we were in grief, I attributed that as the reason why occasionally I would feel her presence in our house or yard. I must have just been imagining things, I thought, and let it go at that.

Then late one evening, a few weeks or so after Marron’s death, I was in my upstairs studio working on some writing project. My wife and son had gone to bed an hour or two before, and with late evening/early morning hours often being the only time I can really get any writing work done, I was busy typing away.

In the silence of our home, in this quiet suburban neighborhood at night, you can literally hear a pin drop, both inside and outside the house. Even so, I hadn’t paid much attention to a noise that was coming from behind me somewhere inside the house — from the downstairs front-door area, to be exact. And when the sound finally broke through my concentration, I froze my typing in mid-sentence and I just stopped and listened, holding my breath.

What gave me chills was the fact that it was a sound I was very familiar with: the snoring of our dog, Marron. And it was coming from the very spot where she used to have her bed and where she had died with me at her side. I used to joke when she was alive that she must have had the DNA of bears somewhere in her bloodline because that’s how loudly she used to snore at night. She wasn’t a great watchdog — she trusted humans too much for that — but I used to say laughingly that if any robbers tried to get into our house, Marron’s bearlike snoring would probably scare them off, so we had nothing to worry about.

And though our dog had only been gone a few weeks, here was the unmistakable, familiar sound of her presence right in our home.

I listened to the snoring sound over my shoulder for a long while, glued to my chair in front of the computer, and then could take the suspense no longer. I got up as quietly as I could, tiptoed over to the top of the stairs…and looked down to the front-door entranceway. And as soon I did, the sound stopped.

Of course, our dog wasn’t there and I hadn’t really expected her to be. But how to explain the sound of her snoring? I couldn’t explain it, and kept the episode to myself, chalking it up to my mind running away with me out of the sadness I had been feeling over the weeks since she’d been gone.

But when the sound happened again and again on other late nights, in just the same way I described, I began to think there were other forces at work here. I also decided not to tell my wife about it for fear that she would probably think I had lost my mind and have me committed to a mental-care facility.

One day out of the blue, though, my wife brought it up first without any prompting from me: From the downstairs bedroom, she said, she had sometimes heard the sound of Marron snoring in the front entranceway at night and was sure it was our old dog. The hair stood up on the back of my neck again. It was only at that point (with some relief) that I told my wife I too had been hearing the same thing from upstairs. “So, Marron’s still here with us,” we both agreed, and left it at that.

We often hear stories about people’s relatives coming to “visit” in dreams or in sounds or translucent images after the loved ones had passed away. They say that some human spirits linger for a while in the earthly place where they died before moving on in their spiritual journey. If it could happen to humans, then why not animals too?

The answer to that question was reconfirmed for me not along after the snoring episodes, when I began hearing another familiar sound coming from the same place as before. This time, it was the rustling sound of our dog getting up from her bed. When she was alive, we used to put newspapers on the floor and on top of that a small padded mattress and a blanket as her bed. And whenever she would get up from her bedding, there was always a bit of a rustling sound of the newspapers and mattress and blanket.

After she died, we got rid of her bedding and there was nothing there now to rustle. And yet here was that same rustling sound again late at night, which I would sometimes hear as I was about to come down the stairs to get ready for bed. And like before, I was sure my wife would think I was going crazy so I didn’t breathe a word about it.

And just like before, my wife, unprompted and out of the blue, one day told me she had sometimes heard the sound of Marron getting out of her bed late at night. And replaying the same scene as before, I finally opened up again and said I had been hearing it too.

I guess by that time, most people who experience such a paranormal-type event in their homes would be spooked out of their wits and consider moving to a new abode. But that never even crossed our minds. We just thought that Marron was still staying a while with us before moving on to Rainbow Bridge, as pet owners everywhere call the animal otherworld. It was even kind of reassuring, at least for me, to know that our dog was still kind of hanging around and watching out for us, even if she wasn’t here in physical form.

The sounds stopped coming at some point, a few months or so after Marron’s passing, and the house went back to being totally quiet late at night, as it still is. But to tell the truth, I kind of miss those nocturnal dog noises — and the smile they would inevitably bring to my face whenever I heard them.

So today, one year after Marron’s passing, if you were to ask me if I think animals have spirits like we humans do, I wouldn’t hesitate to answer yes. After all, many spiritual traditions around the world believe in animals residing in the Great Beyond, just like people do, so it seems natural. But more than that, I can tell you from personal experience that there does seem to be life after death where animals are concerned, especially lovable golden retrievers with a strain of bear’s blood in them.

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