Before I begin this very confusing and confusticating tale, I need to start by stating clearly that I do not believe in ghosts. I am firmly convinced that there is a rational scientific explanation for everything, and those things we may be tempted to see as a spirit living on after death of the body are really only misperceptions of other things… and wishful thinking.
In spite of all that, we have a ghost dog living in our house.
I know that contradicts everything I just said, but human beings are like that. Practically everything about this life is shot full of contradictions and impossibilities. So, let me lay out those contradictions as I encountered them.
This house we live in now was built in the 1970’s. It was lived in by a middle-class white family. A woman showed up here ten years ago wanting to look at the house because she grew up in it, and it had been sold when her parents died. So this house is not young enough to be free of potential spirits of those who lived before. But no tragic deaths, the kind that the lore says cause ghosts to walk, happened in this house. Except for the possibility of a family pet hit by a car in this neighborhood.
The first time I saw it was when I got out of the bathtub one evening in early January. As I opened the door to the bathroom, still not having my glasses on, I saw a dog sitting in the upstairs hallway, panting with its tongue hanging out. Now, we do have a dog, but our dog, Jade, is a small yellow-and-white dog. The dog I glimpsed out of the corner of my near-sighted, astigmatic eye with no corrective lens in front of it was a rather large chocolate brown dog. I jumped a bit and looked directly at it. It was no longer there with a speed that gave the lie to the notion that it was a real dog. It had to be a trick of the eye and the goofy old brain. Our mind is wired in a way that makes sense out of every visual stimulus-blob in the best way that it can. I must have misinterpreted some shadow or blob of color in a way that my brain instantly converted into a chocolate-brown Labrador-retriever sort of dog… with a goofy, open-mouthed dog-smile.
So, I didn’t really think anything more about it. I investigate ghost stories and conspiracy theories all the time as a part of the kind of surrealist writing I like to do. I always find those wedges of doubt that smugly allow me to dismiss the Don Knotts’ Mr. Chicken response.
Then, I saw it again. I have to get up in the night to go to the bathroom at least three times every night. About a week ago, I was making one of these necessary nocturnal treks when I happened to look down the staircase in passing. I saw the tail end of a big chocolate-colored dog trotting past on the way towards the garage. My heart leaped. And then I reminded myself we have a dog and she lives on a very different schedule than we do. I went to the bathroom, and then went down the stairs to investigate. The family room door was shut and blocked with a clothes-hamper. We have been trying to keep the dog out of the family room because she has a bad habit of trying to pee on the family room carpet in the middle of the night to mark her territory. There are certain discolored spots on the rug that we have worked very hard to keep dry. And I found our dog asleep on the foot of my son’s bed where she always sleeps. Whatever I saw wasn’t her. But again, I didn’t have my glasses on. I began mulling over the possibility of this post at that point.
Last night made this post a necessity. While returning from my nocturnal pee-break after midnight, I distinctly heard a dog whimpering, coming from the landing of the stairs. I stepped into the landing, and I still heard it. If it was not a dream sound or a misinterpretation of my own stomach growling, then I was hearing an invisible dog whimpering. It didn’t last for more than a minute. Again, the dog herself was nowhere near the place.
Should I be scared? Of course not. Ghosts don’t exist, do they? And even if this one does exist somehow, it was a beloved family pet, more likely to protect us than hurt us. So I was able to get back to sleep easily. But this post became absolutely necessary. If you read in the newspapers that a family in Carrollton, Texas was eaten by wolves in the middle of the night some night… tell somebody about my unfounded suspicions.