Halloween is fast approaching, and even though it can’t begin to compare with the sheer bowel-wrenching scariness of the current government shutdown/debt ceiling debacle we have Ted Cruz to thank for, I thought I’d give it a nod with a ghost story from my past.
About seventeen years ago we moved into an old house in Texas which was built in the late 1800s. It was constructed partly of limestone blocks that had been hand-quarried and featured an upstairs room running the length of the house. This had served as a sort of dormitory for the boys in the family. The house is quite small, but it held two families of ten kids each over the years. When we moved in, it was just the two of us and we marveled how those early folks had managed to thrive in such small quarters. By the time we bought the place, all the modern conveniences were there, but outside there was a remnant of an old outhouse.
A reminder that we had it pretty good, so no complaining allowed.
Eight months prior to our move to Texas from California, we had to have our 16-year-old long-haired Chihuahua, Lolita, put to sleep. We had one other Chihuahua, Pepe, and a mini-Dachshund, Rudy, who made the trip with us, along with four big Collie-mix dogs. All six of them and the two of us traveled together in our Econoline van. When we stopped at rest stops it was like the clown car at the circus. We opened the back doors and the dogs just kept on a’coming.
About a month after moving into our new (old) house, we’d turned in for the night in the bedroom downstairs. Not long after turning out the light, we heard the sound of a little dog running across the wood floor. It came from the adjoining dining room and ran toward the door to the porch, which was at the foot of the bed. It stopped there, scratched the door two or three times, and then ran back across the room. This happened several times over the course of the next hour.
Pepe and Rudy were soundly asleep under the covers. It wasn’t them running through the room. The big dogs were outside. The hair on the back of my neck stood on end. What the…?
Just about every night thereafter the same routine occurred. Sometimes it started right after lights out, and sometimes it wasn’t until one in the morning. A couple of times, soon after turning out the light, I would hear the “ghost dog” (as we’d started to call it) get up from the sofa near the bed, shake its ears enough so I could hear them flap and then jump down to the floor.
We had become friends with one of the “kids,” now in his late 70s, who’d grown up in the house and we nonchalantly inquired if the family had a little dog at any time in the past. He said no, they hadn’t.
Then it dawned on us that when we moved we’d brought along Lolita’s old dog bed. Why, I can’t say. And then we realized that we’d stuck it in the dining room which was serving as a catch-all until we could get everything sorted out after the move. That’s where the activity seemed to be emanating from.
So we took the dog bed and put it upstairs in the dormitory room. It wasn’t long before we would hear ghost dog come clicking down the stairs on her nightly run. She also was heard rustling in the wastebasket next to the desk upstairs while my husband was working there.
I took to sleeping with a little flashlight I called my “ghost buster.” Whenever the activity started, I would take the flashlight from the table next to the bed and scan the room on the off chance I’d finally see something. All it did was stop the activity—for a bit. Some nights I would hear her drop what sounded like one of our other dogs’ Nylabone chew toys on the hardwood floor. When I lit up the room, there was nothing there.
Other nights, Lolita (by this time we figured it had to be her) would bonk around under the bed like she used to do when she slept in her dog bed under our bed back in California. We would even hear her tripping over the extension cord on the floor. Sometimes Rudy and Pepe would look up after hearing her, but they never growled or seemed disturbed by any of it.
This went on for almost a year until the terrible day that Pepe was bitten by a rattlesnake and died hours later on my bed. We were grief stricken.
Maybe a week or so later, we heard two little dogs running around upstairs, like they were chasing each other. There was more rustling in the trash and just double the activity in general.
Then, the noises gradually subsided and finally stopped altogether.
I’d had a dream (or visitation?) from Pepe the morning after he died. He used to wake me up by standing on my chest and licking my face. That’s what I awoke to—or dreamt I was waking to. He was backlit by white light and I was crying, I was so happy to see him.
Then he faded away and I realized I was awake and he was gone.
But maybe he wasn’t. Maybe he hung around with Lolita for a while before they both went off to doggie heaven together. Maybe…