DEAR DR. FOX: In your recent column, I read the story of a cat that continued to do a "fandango" at the foot of her owners' bed after she passed. We have a similar story.
Our Great Dane, Miley, lived to be 11 years old. Three days after her 11th birthday, it was necessary to end her life. She had developed a mass in her abdomen several months prior, and it became apparent that she was ready to move on. Our vet came to the house, and in the most dignified and humane way, allowed our girl to go to sleep peacefully.
Miley was a brindle weighing in at about 120 pounds with quite a nice set of jowls and some rather large floppy ears. After a nap, she would rise, do a "dog down" stretch with her front legs and then stretch her back legs individually. Then to get her ears and jowls JUST RIGHT, she would shake her head violently, making the most unique sound: flap, flap, flap, flap.
The day she died, my husband and I sobbed nonstop from noon until 8 p.m. We finally went into our silent kitchen, me sitting on a stool at the counter and he standing against a wall. Neither of us spoke. It was as quiet as a tomb. Then out of nowhere, we heard FLAP, FLAP, FLAP, FLAP. We looked at each other and each said, "Did you hear that?" My husband and I are both well-educated professionals who don't delve into hocus-pocus nonsense, but we do acknowledge facts when we hear them.
Miley has now been gone two years, and she has only paid us the one visit. There will never be another Miley. She truly was our best friend. -- D.M., Bonita Springs, Florida
DEAR DR. FOX: This is in response to one of your recent columns: I had a similar experience with our precious cat, Gracie. She was with my wife and me for a little over 18 years. We rescued her as a kitten from the middle of a heavily trafficked street.
We loved her dearly, and she returned that love many times over. My wife said she had chosen me, and I guess she was right, since Gracie chose to be with me wherever I was in the house. When she passed away last November, our hearts were broken.
For days after that, I could be in my recliner and feel her jumping on the arm of the chair. The most interesting thing was at night when I was in bed: I could feel her jump on the bed, as she would do in life, and walk over to curl up between my feet for the night. This happened several nights before it stopped.
I have no answer for this. Perhaps it's just in our minds because we don't want to let go, but we were comforted by her several visits. I'm sure God knows how much any pet is missed, and this helps with the pain of loss. -- W.S., Archdale, North Carolina
DEAR D.M. AND W.S.: Many readers will appreciate you sharing these after-life experiences with your animal companions. D.M., the fact that there was a second witness in your case, namely your husband, helps debunk the notion that grief can cause semi-hallucinatory states and trigger conditioned memories of the deceased.
Over the many years that I have been writing this column, I have received many accounts of after-life manifestations of companion animals. Even living animals who shared the home with the deceased pet have responded to such visitations, as documented in my books "Dog Body, Dog Mind" and "Cat Body, Cat Mind."
With hearts and minds more open to animals and the world around us, we may indeed experience the miraculous and discover the power of love. This is evident in the many animals who know when their owners are coming home and engage in remote sensing.
All things in our lives change, but there is one illuminating thread connecting everything: This is love, in all its myriad manifestations -- from the molecular to the emergence of consciousness, to empathy and beyond. As my friend the late Father Thomas Berry famously asserted, "The universe is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects."
(Send all mail to email@example.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.
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