The Animal Doctor by Dr. Michael W. Fox

Evidence of Life After Life?

DEAR DR. FOX: I enjoy reading your column, and saw the recent question from N.V. regarding deceased pets.

My beautiful Kokonut, a mini schnauzer, crossed the rainbow bridge on July 19.

She was 12 1/2 years old at her passing, and fought a brave battle against melanoma for almost one year.

She gave me “the look,” and I knew it was her time. Her fairly new vet, Dr. Block, helped her cross over peacefully at home with a candle, mala (prayer beads), feather and prayers. I miss her every second of every day. She was my first dog and we were very connected.

Almost immediately after her passing, I would awake to a soft “woof” during the night. I was not dreaming, and it was definitely her bark. During the day, I would hear her sigh, something she did before taking naps.

The week after she crossed, I was going to run some errands. I made my bed as usual, pulled tight. When I returned a few hours later, her indentation was on the comforter. Almost one week after that, I felt her jump on the bed and snuggle in the crook of my legs, something she had not done since she was a pup.

These visits brought me great comfort and helped me begin to heal. On Aug. 22, Kokonut sent a new fur baby to me: Karma. He is a mini schnauzer rescue, approximately 2 years old. Kokonut has not made a visit since he arrived, but I know her spirit is within him.

While losing her was one of the most heartbreaking experiences in my 60 years, she left me a better-educated owner. Karma is on a fresh/raw diet, healthy and full of life. I take an integrative approach with his care. -- J.P., Boca Raton, Florida

DEAR J.P.: Your account of after-life manifestations of your beloved dog accord with many identical accounts posted on my website (drfoxonehealth.com). See my review: “Animal Spirits: Companion Animal Communications From Across the Grave,” posted under the tag “Spiritual Issues.”

I address this question of life-after-life from various perspectives as a scientist, philosopher (phenomenologist) and rational skeptic. The hypothesis that such experiences come from our grieving, conditioned brains, i.e. hallucinations, is null and void when these many accounts and shared existential experiences are examined. They support my theory that the bond of affection between humans and other species can transcend time and space, and endure after death. Such generally comforting “visitations” often stop when the survivor ceases to mourn and, as in your case, bonds with another animal.

For some, this raises the question of reincarnation or a “group soul” -- an esoteric realm which I neither accept nor reject. I prefer to focus on existential reality and the quality of life we can best provide for domesticated animals, and those in the wild who continue to suffer because of a cultural lack of reverence and respect for all life.

I am glad that your new canine companion was a “rescue,” and wish more people would adopt rather than support puppy mill commercial breeders.

DEAR DR. FOX: I appreciated your recent column on cat’s predation on wild birds.

I have a neighbor who harbors maybe 10 cats in a housing plan whose rules on numbers of cats is not enforced; thus, I am on the front lines of combating not so much the cats, but my neighbor’s ”cat neurosis.”

Perhaps you could address the core problem: some humans’ mismanagement of their relationships with cats, which is not environmentally sustainable or considerate of those who live near them. -- S.R.P., Uniontown, Pennsylvania

DEAR S.R.P.: Many people in communities across the U.S. are confronting the kind of neighbor you are dealing with.

Such neighbors are emotionally dedicated, but their compassion is misguided and can cause more harm than good when the cats are not neutered and continue to multiply. And even well-fed cats will kill birds and small mammals. Feral cats in many areas are decimating defenseless wildlife species, many now endangered. Recent documentation in Australia indicates that some 100,000 need to be exterminated as humanely as possible.

On my website, you will find some articles addressing this problem in the U.S:

-- “Most Feral Cats Can be Rescued and Recover from the Wild Outdoors”

-- “Outdoor Cats, Wildlife and Human Health”

-- “Releasing Cats To Live Outdoors: Humane, Environmental and ‘One Health’ Concerns”

Do look these over, and feel free to share them with local property owners, community leaders and public health authorities. Get support from any local conservation organization, such as the Audubon Society and the national American Bird Conservancy, who also have useful materials to encourage people to keep their cats happy and healthy indoors.

(Send all mail to animaldocfox@gmail.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)