Pet Ghosts

I wish my dog Jake would come and haunt me.

Things like that happen, I hear. Stories about people who lose a pet they love, and then late at night they feel the bed jump a little, and paws walking up the mattress. A familiar shape, fleeting, at the corner of the eye. Shoes in the closet, mysteriously chewed.

If Jake, my 110-pound Lab mix, were to come back, it would probably be my neighbor Charlie’s lookout, mostly.

“You know,” he’d say, “with Jake gone, you’d think there’d be less poop in the yard.” (There’s kind of a wide open yard space between our houses, and Jake never much cared whether he was pooping in his own yard or Charlie’s. I tried to keep up with this, bucket and shovel in hand, but was not always successful). And I’d say, “Huh. That’s mysterious, isn’t it?”

Maybe I’d start seeing a huge, mysterious shadow figure at night, over by Charlie’s pool, hunched over…you get the idea.

I’m finding, though, that I don’t need an actual ghost to show up in order for me to feel haunted.

I feel haunted when I come home, and I don’t hear Jake’s tags jingling as he trots to meet me.

I feel haunted when I take a piece of food off my plate and try to hand it off under the table, and no one is there.

I feel haunted when I find dog hair, which I’m always finding, because he was that kind of dog. We cleaned the fridge recently, and found dog hair. What the hell?

I feel haunted when no one sticks his wet nose in my face, asking to go out just 20 minutes before the alarm goes off, on a workday.

We lost a cat this summer, too…Simone. Also an old dude. He haunts me when he doesn’t race me to the bedroom, leap onto the bed, and stare at me until I pet him. He haunts me when I don’t hear his awful, anguished cry at mealtimes (God, he had a terrible singing voice…)

For a house with only one animal left (tiny, skittish, purring Koshi), it still feels pretty crowded.

A Blog Post About the Afterlife

Okay, so I wrote this book, Reincarnation Blues, about the afterlife.

Oddly, you’re probably supposed to know a thing or two about something, if you’re going to write a book about it, and I don’t remember ever being to the afterlife. I don’t particularly believe in  an afterlife, either, most days. I’m a huge fan of science and evidence, and science and evidence say there’s no reason to believe in an afterlife. Fine.

As far as the book goes, that’s really no huge deal. It’s fiction. Says so, right there on the cover. And of course it’s not really about the afterlife anyway; it’s supposed to be a comic tapestry about the wild lives and wonders happening around us all the time. It’s supposed to make you value your life and the lives of others a little bit more. If it doesn’t do that, hopefully it makes you laugh. It’s not supposed to reveal what actually happens after we die. I do not have that information.

An afterlife isn’t something we know about. It’s something we want, I think. But there are two great risks involved. One: we abandon our reason, drawing conclusions without evidence, and Two: we start to get kind of silly, with harps and robes and streets of gold. Which make fine fiction, but if you believe that shit for real, you’re basically a grownup waiting for the Easter Bunny.

It’s different for animals, though. Seriously. When it comes to animals in the afterlife, forget science. Science who? If it FEELS true, it IS true. How do I know? Here’s how: eighteen years ago, I had a dog named China, and we were best friends. She would sit next to me on the couch, like a person. I mean, sitting up, facing forward. It was so damn cute. And she made noises like a pig. Anyway, something awful happened. As she grew older, she became dog-aggressive, and had to be put down. It was awful, but what if she had kicked it up a notch and damaged someone’s kid? Well anyway, the whole day before I had to take her to the vet, I kept visualizing her running in a green field with a bunch of other dogs. I even chanted it: “China will be running in green fields, China will be –” blah, blah.

After, I went to get a video at the library, and BAM! The second I walk into the video section, right in my face there’s this video with a picture on the cover, depicting a dog that looked JUST LIKE CHINA — no shit! — running in a green field.

So there’s that. And then this last week, I lost my dog Jake. He was old and in pain, and I had him put down (you are thinking sympathetic thoughts. Thank you. Seriously.) peacefully and painlessly. And I haven’t seen any pictures of him on videos or anything, but I know, I know Jake’s in dog heaven. You know how I know? Because I want him to be there, that’s how.  That’s all the more reason we have for thinking anyone is in heaven. When it comes to animals, that’s enough.

(rambling, rambling…)

I have decided to write more about this tomorrow. Tomorrow: Pet ghosts!



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