Dogs and Paranormal Events – a canine conundrum
Ok, ok I admit it. I am afraid of a fly. Electric fences and delivery men also scare me. Unexplained things that go bump in the night don’t bother me a bit.
For years I have heard Mary tell the story of her husband’s death. She was home asleep. He was in the hospital twenty miles away. Her husband’s two German Shepherds began to howl, a sad, mournful howl that immediately woke Mary from sleep. She noted the time on the bedside clock. Ten minutes later a doctor called from the hospital to say that her husband had died ten minutes earlier. She dismissed the time as a coincidence. That is until she got out of bed, and both dogs who had barely acknowledged her existence before began to follow her around like Sophie and I do now.
That story got me to thinking about dogs and ghosst and death and the like. We had our buddy Lots o’ Dog die this year. We were there– Sophie, Mary and I –when Lots died. It was so fast and she so happy we could see that, so none of us ever expected to see her as a ghost. When Pip died a few years ago, she came back to say goodbye before moving on, but she DID move on. I decided with Mary’s help to look up what people have to say about the paranormal and dogs.
Humans like to believe that their dogs can detect unexplained or invisible presences, guided by our special canine sixth sense. It’s exciting, and a comfort for some people to think we dogs are sensitive to a departed relative or friend. According to Peggy Schmidt, author of the book “Tails of the Afterlife,” there isn’t much hard evidence. What evidence there is anecdotal at best—like Mary’s story. Ms. Schmidt chronicles multiple instances of unexplainable actions by dogs that apparently interact with something, or someone, unseen.
For instance, she writes about a woman named Del Johnsen who left seven dogs and six cats when she died. Many people have witnessed what they believe to be her daily visits to her pets. They even report seeing the animals suddenly gather in one spot, cats arching their backs and purring, dogs flopping over for a belly rub, wriggling in enjoyment, all of them sitting at attention and staring into the air before resuming their activities. Ms. Schmidt says her Jack Russell terrier Pixie has repeatedly reacted to ghosts present in local buildings rumored to be haunted.
Some people say our so-called sixth sense may simply be the result of our super hearing, exceptional nose, and how our eyes view the world that allows us to detect small movements that escape human attention. Our senses are keener, different, than yours: Our eyes detect more delicate movements; Our sense of smell is 1,000 to 10,000 times more sensitive than a human’s. We can hear much higher frequencies, and at four times the distance of a person with normal hearing.
Pet psychologist Marti Miller believes that both dogs and their owners possess the ability to perceive the paranormal. “But humans judge or deny what they are feeling,” says Miller, from Austin, Texas. “Dogs don’t judge what is going on in the environment. While human minds start to analyze what is happening, dogs don’t do that.We can feel the barometric pressure change and may react by shaking, panting, salivating and feeling anxious, or maybe not react at all.”
Miller says dogs’ varying reactions to a shift in the atmosphere or unrecognized sound or movement can stem from early traumas, such as being caught in a rainstorm, hurricane or tornado, or from “a cellular memory that they have brought with them to this lifetime.” For dogs, “sensing the supernatural is natural because they don’t judge it. People could see auras or spirits, but they either don’t believe they exist or think that if they do exist, we could not see them.” Animal Planet’s series “The Haunted” included episodes with instances of family dogs reacting to the apparent presence of spirits, reactions that have no easy explanation for the out-of-the-ordinary behavior.
Scientific studies on dogs’ senses offer debatable evidence of dogs’ psychic and sensory perceptions. In his 1999 book, Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home and Other Unexplained Powers of Animals: An investigation, biologist, and author Rupert Sheldrake presents a five-year exploration into canine behaviors. His work based on the experiences of thousands of dogs and owners whose arrival home at unexpected times did not surprise their pets, who reacted with anticipation. Sheldrake concludes that “there is a strong connection between humans and animals that lie beyond present-day scientific understanding.”
When watching your own dog during activities in your household, or when you take him visiting, you may see him fasten his attention on something you can’t see or hear. You may shrug it off as anxiety or reaction to an unfamiliar smell. Or just maybe, you suspect your own pooch is communing with the unseen.
Because most dogs can’t talk to offer their own explanations, there’s no way to know what exactly is going on. The simple answer, according to Miller, is people don’t know what dogs see and don’t see. But she adds, “If you observe a dog standing in the corner, barking at nothing visible, then there’s a pretty good chance that he’s barking at an entity, spirit, or energy that doesn’t belong there.” I know for one thing – if something or someONE out there is after that bone I buried, you can bet I know it! HAPPY HALLOWEEN! Hagar out for now.