In honor of Halloween, I’m taking a break from my usual equine subjects to tell a ghost story. Growing up, I had a fascination with the supernatural, particularly those of the “true tales” variety. I waited and hoped, in vain, for my own ghostly encounter. As I became an adult, I continued to look for evidence, but increasingly logic took over. I still heard interesting accounts, and when the subject hit “reality” TV, I was drawn in – but there always seemed to be a logical explanation to all of it. And then, this happened …
First, a brief background. Late in life I got my first dog. Actually, I lost two puppies (one to Parvo and one to a congenital defect) before I got Brita. She was the Lassie I’d always wanted – what some dog people would call my “soul dog”. And I was her one person.
When Brita was twelve, she was diagnosed with a terminal illness, and given an expected survival of just six months. I was devastated! But, we worked hard to manage the illness, and six months turned into two years before I finally had to say goodbye.
The decision to let Brita go was only slightly sped by the fact that her constant companion of fourteen years, my mom’s dog Kelly, took a sudden and drastic downhill turn. Kelly had only days, and Brita would be no more than a couple of weeks behind, so we decided to let them go together. That was on a Sunday, with the next day being the President’s Day holiday. Here is where my story begins …
I went to work that Tuesday. I was in a horrible state, but couldn’t see any reason to sit around the house feeling sorry for myself. I’d hoped that work would distract me, but I spent the morning reliving Sunday, and quietly crying. As lunch neared, I needed to get out of the office, but didn’t want any company. We had talked about taking the two younger dogs on a trip. We had not traveled with dogs since Brita’s diagnosis, and it seemed a good way to cheer us all up (my Brittany was also grieving). I thought of this as I pondered lunch, and I made the decision to visit a nearby bookstore to look for dog-traveling books.
I was slightly cheered as I now had a mission to focus on. I gathered my things and left a little early, to beat the lunch traffic. I exited the office suite, looking for the keys in my purse.
The door out of our office suite exited to a very short hall, almost a landing, that then opened into a long dim hall to the left, and the second floor balcony on the right. Have you ever had a moment where you started into a space and, without looking, had the sudden feeling that someone was approaching? As I stepped out of our short hall, peering down into my purse, I had just that feeling. In one move, I reversed my step and looked up to my left with “Excuse me!” on my lips. But there was no one there.
As I peered down the dim hall, a bit puzzled that no one was actually there, I noticed an unusual glow where the long hall made a turn. It looked somewhat like the end of a flashlight beam, but with no source. As I wondered at the cause of this odd light effect, I noticed that it seemed to be moving closer to me. I stared, wondering at the cause, when the light began to take form. As it got within a dozen feet of me, I felt myself stiffen. The light had taken the shape of my own beloved Brita – trotting along, head at mid-level, tail curled up above the back!
At this recognition, I snapped my gaze straight up and avoided looking down. My grief was clearly making me crazy! Keeping my gaze up and ahead, I turned to the right and headed to the restroom, slightly shaking. As I approached the next corner, I dared to look back, hoping to see nothing and settle my mind – but there was the apparition trotting in a perfect heel! I snapped my gaze up again and marched into the restroom and the first stall, refusing to look back.
As I turned and sat down, the apparition “crawled” under the stall door and “sat” in the corner by the door – as Brita had always done when I had her with me on the occasional working weekend or evening. This time I just stared at it. It was not, as they portray in movies, a slightly transparent version of the real life Brita. The form was clear enough to recognize as hers, and the slight variations in tone mimicked her markings – but it was more of an overall golden glow, almost like an image projected onto nothing. If this was a trick of my mind, why couldn’t I make it go away?
I left the restroom and headed down the stairs, the apparition descending two steps ahead, tail up, just as Brita always had in life. I got in my car, and the apparition settled in the passenger seat, sitting attentively looking forward. (In life Brita would get car sick in the back seat, so she always rode in front, even if we had other passengers.)
As I drove to the shopping center, I’d periodically peek to my right. The apparition was always there, with a profile that indicated an open mouth and slight tongue loll. By the time I reached the store, I’d stopped worrying and began to wonder at this odd thing that was happening to me. Walking across the parking lot, the apparition was by my side. Curiously I watched people passing us, with no one seeming to react. I began to feel just a little enjoyment in this very strange and personal experience.
I went to the travel section and began browsing. When I found the first book I was after, I looked around for the apparition. In the corner of the travel section was the play area for little kids shopping with their parents. There was the apparition, poking around through the toys and little playhouse. For the first time in a very long time, I found myself smiling. I found the second book, turned to the apparition, and said “Let’s go!”
When I turned from paying for my books I didn’t see the apparition. But when I climbed into the car, there it was on the passenger seat. I smiled on the way back to the office, looking at the apparition at every stop. Whatever this experience was, it certainly was unique!
The apparition followed me back up the stairs and into my office. As I sat down, it crawled under the desk and to the back corner – Brita’s favorite spot to sleep while I worked. I smiled again, with tears in my eyes.
That was the last that I ever saw of the apparition. I didn’t stop grieving for my girl; but from that moment I stopped living with the guilt that had lingered through her two years of illness, and then enveloped me like a heavy cloak the day I let her go.
You can conjure your own explanation for what happened that day. Overactive imagination? Subconcious wish? I’ve probably thought of them all. I’ve certainly seen the kind but doubting looks on the faces of friends who couldn’t believe it to be anything but a trick of my mind. Perhaps they’re right. But it can never be proved, either way, and it was enough to reawaken my childhood fascination with the spiritual world.
Whatever it was, a ghost or a trick of my mind, I cherish the event as a symbol of the spiritual bond Brita and I had – and in the end, that is all that matters.