Every year around the end of October, I do ghost tours and tell spooky stories. It’s a good time of year for it – they say it’s during the harvest time that the veil between the living and the dead is the thinnest, and some of the stories I’ve heard really make me wonder.
There have been countless tales from a whole lot of people about their experiences with the supernatural, but one really made me rethink the power of the animal/human bond.
I spoke with a woman who adopted a big Shepherd mix from us years ago and she told me that she knows her boy is still with her. His name was Charlie and he was loved like no other. He slept in bed, ate the best meals and had a wonderful life.
When he passed away, the family was devastated, as you can well imagine -- not only the human family, but the canine family as well.
Charlie had a brother, a lab named Tucker. When Charlie passed, Tucker stopped eating, stopped playing, stopped wanting attention. He was clearly depressed and nothing his mom and dad did could seem to snap him out of it.
He was grieving for his brother and I can’t imagine how helpless his mom and dad must have felt. It would have been one of those times when you wished animals could understand human language. My heart went out to all of them.
Because Charlie had been so big, his mom told me it was never difficult to tell when he hopped up on the bed. And wouldn’t you know, a few weeks after he passed, his mom felt the bed move in the middle of the night -- just as though her boy had jumped up with her.
She knew it couldn’t be Tucker (he slept on the floor and never got in bed) and she had no other animals in the house. She remembers freezing and whispering, “Charlie?”
In the next second, Tucker was up in the dark room, barking and dancing -- happier than he had been in weeks.
The following day, Tucker spent his time in the bedroom, lying right where he and Charlie would always rest during the afternoons.
After that, Tucker was a changed dog. He ate. He played. He kissed his family.
And the odd nocturnal mattress motions never happened again.
Tucker’s mom said it was as though Charlie had come back just to make sure Tucker was okay and gave him permission to go back to normal.
But the story doesn’t end there. It was a few years later that Tucker’s mom wanted to get a playmate for him and she found Roscoe, a Rottweiler/Lab mix puppy who is awful ornery, but very lovable.
Shortly after he arrived, Roscoe started growling in the middle of the night -- seemingly about nothing, as far as his mom could see. The only explanation she could come up with was Charlie, so she said, “Roscoe, it’s fine. It’s just Charlie. He won’t hurt anyone.”
After that, Roscoe could be caught sleeping next to Charlie’s ashes.
It’s a tale that would make my retired chemistry-teacher father roll his eyes and talk about subconscious memories fresh from sleep. Others might just shake their heads, ignore the big implications, and move on.
But it made me stop and think. Not only about the after-life and the stories I’ve heard about spirits sending us messages, but also the remarkable bond that humans and animals can have.
I’ve often said that the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter makes friendships for life, but now I have to wonder if it might even go beyond that. Charlie came from us and he’s very much still with his mom and his brother for whenever they need him.
Maybe that kind of unconditional love really can go beyond the boundaries of space and time, and this physical world.
It’s definitely a heart-warming thought.
We’ve got a lot of sweet babies in the shelter right now who I know could provide that same kind of devotion and loyalty to a lucky person, so if the time is right and you’re looking for a four-legged friend, stop by the shelter.
You never know, your own Charlie might just be waiting to give you a love that could last several lifetimes.
Jennifer Vanderau is the Director of Communications for the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter and can be reached at: email@example.com. The shelter accepts both monetary and pet supply donations. For more information, call the shelter at: (717) 263-5791, or visit the website: www.cvas-pets.org. CVAS also operates a thrift store in Chambersburg. Help support the animals at the shelter by donating to or shopping at the store.