True Ghost Stories: There's No Place Like Home
An Unlikely Addition
Anyone who has ever shared their life with a pet knows that the hardest part of that relationship is when the time comes to say goodbye. Ed Scott knew that feeling all too well. He and his family had been forced to have their mixed-breed dog, Pandy, euthanized when old age began to take its toll on her.
Not long afterwards, a dog would enter their lives who would not only help to fill the void left by the pet they had lost, but also show them that love is eternal. Their story was sent to me by Ed's wife, Janet, and it was one I could not pass up. It is a perfect illustration of how the bond between humans and their pets can withstand anything, including death.
After Pandy passed away, the Scott family had no desire to own another pet. The pain of losing the dog who had brought such joy to their lives was just too great. None of them ever again wanted to experience that level of grief. Janet recalls that a sense of sorrow had cast a dark shadow over their home in the weeks that followed Pandy's death. She says that, at least for her, the depression had been so overwhelming that just getting through each day was a struggle.
It was their daughter, Emily, who first broached the subject of getting another dog. At eleven years old, she had bounced back from the loss of Pandy a bit more readily than her parents. In spite of her constant pleas to find a replacement for the dog they had lost, Ed and Janet remained resolute in their decision to never again own a pet.
One day, while Ed was mowing the front lawn, that resolution would be tested when he noticed something moving around underneath one of the hedge bushes. In the years that they had lived in the house, Ed had discovered more than one oddity in that exact spot. Toads, a curled up caterpillar that he swears was the size of a saucer, and a dead cat had all been found there at one time or another.
On this occasion, Ed pulled back the overgrown branches only to discover a scraggly looking puppy staring up at him. It seemed to be very young, its eyes barely open. The pup was sitting down, but its body was wobbling back and forth. Not knowing what else to do, Ed reached down and scooped up the forlorn creature.
He noticed right away that the puppy was infested with fleas, he could see them crawling all over its fur. Although he was no expert, Ed could clearly see that this puppy was in distress. He rushed it into the house where Janet took over from there.
Janet remembers her husband bounding into the kitchen that day holding the most bedraggled looking puppy she had ever seen. She says that there was no way of knowing what color it was because the fur was so filthy. Even so, when Ed handed her the little bundle that he had been cradling, its tiny tail had wagged. Janet knew right then that they were doomed.
She was horrified to see the multitude of bugs that had taken up residence on their tiny guest. She immediately ran a warm bath in the bathroom sink and began washing the dirt and insects off of the puppy. She recalls having to let the water out again and again as it turned brown with all of the muck that was coming off of the little dog. Throughout the tedious process, Janet says that the puppy remained calm without so much as a whimper.
Eventually the water ran clear and the puppy seemed to be free of most of the grime that it had collected. Only then could they see that the puppy was brown and white with a few black patches thrown in for good measure. Now that it was clean, Janet told Ed that she was going to take the straggler to be checked over by their veterinarian. It seemed too young to be out on its own and neither of them knew how to go about taking care of the bedraggled puppy.
The Scott family had seen more than their fair share of the veterinary clinic when Pandy was living. The woman at the front desk on the day that Janet brought the puppy in had recognized her on sight. After Janet explained the situation to her, the receptionist said that she would work them in, but that it might take a while. With that, Janet and the puppy took a seat and waited for their turn.
When her name was finally called, Janet took her new charge into the exam room. After giving the puppy a good looking over, the veterinarian determined that she was a female around two months old. She also told Janet that the animal was severely dehydrated and malnourished which was why she had appeared, at first glance, to be much younger.
The vet gave the puppy her booster shots and a flea treatment. She also suggested some pet foods that would quickly put weight on the puppy's tiny frame. When the time came to pay the bill, the clerk asked Janet for the name of the pet--without hesitation she had blurted out the name "Myra."
As Janet drove home that day with Myra in tow, she realized that she was--like it or not--a pet owner once again. It had not been something that she had wanted, but looking down into the eyes of the puppy who sat quietly on the passenger seat; she knew that she had made the right decision. She could tell from the moment that Ed had brought the puppy into the house that Myra was special. Janet would learn over the coming years that she had no idea how true those thoughts would turn out to be.
A Faithful Companion
Emily had been at school on the day that Myra first arrived at the family's home, so she was delighted to find out that they would again be welcoming a dog into their lives. The little girl and the frail puppy bonded without hesitation. Fortunately for Myra, no one was immune to her kind eyes and gentle disposition.
As had been the case with his wife and daughter, Ed had fallen for the furball that had quickly taken over their house. Since he had been the one who had instigated her rescue, she held a special place in his heart from the very beginning. Theirs would be a bond that would only grow stronger as the months turned into years.
Over time, the family's tender loving care had transformed the scruffy puppy into a beautiful young dog. Myra's coat had filled out, along with the rest of her, which had earned her the nickname "Butterball."
As Myra improved physically, her personality began to blossom as well. The once quiet, reserved puppy who had viewed her new family with quizzical eyes, was now a bundle of energy who kept her humans on their toes. They would quickly learn that if Myra was out of their sight, she was probably into mischief.
Seemingly by design, in order to balance out Myra's wild side, she had also been blessed with an understanding of human emotions that neither Janet nor Ed had ever witnessed before in a dog. If any one of them was feeling ill or down for whatever reason, Myra would be the first to pick up on it.
Sensing the slightest shift in the dynamic of the household, Myra would immediately pinpoint who was having trouble and focus all of her attention on them. If someone was sick, the dog would snuggle next to them in bed or on the couch until they were feeling better. During her watch, Myra would steadfastly refuse to leave her patient's side, choosing to follow them everywhere they went. Her face would be a mask of worry until whoever was under the weather had made a full recovery, no matter how long it took.
Likewise, Myra seemed to know when someone had experienced a particularly bad day. She would hone in whoever seemed to be upset or stressed and shower them with attention until they snapped out of it. Janet says that whenever Myra was attending to one member of the family, all others were lost to her. It seemed that she had made it her life's goal to ensure that her chosen one felt better and could not focus on anything else until her task was completed.
Myra's devotion would be tested to the extreme a couple of years after she had settled into her new life. It was around this time that Janet was diagnosed with breast cancer. A bilateral mastectomy would be necessary followed by weeks of grueling treatments. When Janet was released from the hospital, Myra became the most devoted a nurse anyone could have asked for.
Every part of Janet's body ached when she was finally allowed to return home. She had lost considerable weight and had little desire to eat. The hospital stay and treatments had weakened both her mind and body. Janet admits that were many times that she thought of giving up, but the love of her family kept her going.
As the days passed by, Janet began to regain some of her strength. Ed and Emily took the best care of her that they knew how and Myra, as expected, never left her side. When Janet would have to rush to the bathroom to be sick, sometimes several times a day, Myra would sit on the cold floor beside her until she was able to stand up.
Janet also recalls numerous occasions during the early days of her recovery when she would fall asleep and not want to wake up. She remembers, time and again, Myra furiously licking her face until she had no choice other than to open her eyes and face what lay ahead.
In time, things began to get easier and Janet started to feel like herself again. It had been a long, hard road, but she could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. She knew that she had turned a corner when Myra moved on to other activities. Janet figured that if her constant companion had decided that the patient was going to live, then it must be true. Myra seemed to know, before anyone else, that life would go on.
All Good Things Must End
After months spent recovering from her bout with cancer, Janet was finally able to put the battle behind her and get on with life. This meant endless days spent tending to her home and family with Myra always there to help out when needed.
Things hadn't always been easy for the family, but they had managed to persevere. Years passed by quickly, as they tend to do, and each member of the household had experienced their share of ups and downs along the way. Ed had faced a few health issues of his own over the years, but nothing seemed to keep him down for long.
Emily had graduated from high school and was attending a community college while holding down a part-time job at a local restaurant. Myra, too, had grown older and the signs of aging were beginning to indicate that her time was winding down.
Myra had never been large in stature, but she had carried herself like a dog twice her size. It was when she was around twelve years old that the family began to notice that she no longer strutted around the house like she owned the place. Her movements had slowed down and she didn't take an interest in everything that was going around her the way that she had always done in the past.
The dog that had come into the family's lives quietly and without warning left them in much the same way. Janet remembers waking up one morning and finding that the dog bed that she and Ed had always kept in their room was empty. That was unusual, but certainly nothing to be concerned about. Moments later, when she went into the kitchen to put on a pot of coffee, she discovered the reason for the vacant bed.
It was there, lying next to the back door, that she found Myra. Janet could tell right away that the dog that had been such an intricate part of their family for well over a decade was no longer with them. All of the life was gone from the furry creature that had been an unstoppable ball of energy in her heyday.
Janet woke Ed and told him the bad news. Emily, who had been sleeping in her bedroom, was awakened by the sound of her parents' sobbing. She, too, wept as Ed wrapped Myra's body in a blanket and laid her on the back porch. He then went to the garage and came back with a shovel and a utility box that would act as a makeshift coffin for their dog.
Emily picked flowers while Janet prepared a soft bed inside of the box for Myra to rest upon. They placed her body on top of the bedding and then covered her with flowers. When Ed was finished digging a grave under the big shade tree in the back yard, he retrieved the box that held Myra's body and lowered it into the hole. Overnight, their family of four had now become three.
And Here I'll Stay
When their dog Pandy died, the Scott family had been plunged into a world of grief that they never wanted to relive. Now, in the days after Myra died, they found themselves back in that very dark place. Everywhere they looked they were reminded of the little dog who had been such a huge presence in their home.
Emily was the first to notice some strange occurrences in the house following Myra's death. She told her mother that she had been awakened, more than once, by the sound of a dog's heavy panting. She recognized it right away because Myra had always, ever since she was a puppy, panted for no discernible reason. It had been annoying at times, but the family had become accustomed to it. It was one of the things that Emily closely associated with Myra and now she was hearing it on a regular basis.
Janet admits that she thought that Emily's story was simply wishful thinking. They all missed Myra and wanted to believe that she was still with them, but it wasn't possible. She would soon have a change of heart when she also heard the phantom panting. She had been standing at the bathroom sink brushing her teeth one morning when she was startled by the sound which arose from nowhere and filled the room.
Like Emily, Janet had recognized the heavy panting the moment she heard it. It was so real, in fact, that she felt she could have reached out and touched Myra if her form had been visible. Whatever the explanation, Janet is certain that her dog had been with her that day in the bathroom.
One by one, each family member began to report on their daily encounters with Myra. On one occasion, Ed had been suffering from a flu bug that had forced him to spend most the night running to the restroom. He would later tell his wife that Myra had been by his side the whole time. He said that, although he couldn't see her, he could feel Myra's body leaning against him on the cold tile. Ed also heard the familiar panting and claimed that he could even feel her breath as she rested beside him.
In spite of the fact that none of them ever saw Myra during these encounters, they have no doubt that she was there in spirit. Being a practical thinker, Janet tried to convince herself that anything they were experiencing was simply energy that Myra had left behind. Even though she wanted to believe that, she knew that it wasn't true.
She had also felt the dog's breath on her hand one night as she was lying in bed with one arm dangling over the side. It was hard to describe to someone who had not known Myra, but Janet says that there had been no mistaking the sensation. Myra had done the same thing countless times while she was living.
Many people have shared with me their stories of visitations from lost loved ones, including pets, but Myra's case is a bit different. Usually, spirits who wish to remain close to the ones they leave behind only do so for a short period of time before moving on to the afterlife. Myra, however, has yet to give up on her old life.
The Scotts lost Myra, in body anyway, nearly three years ago. Still, her presence is something they are aware of everyday. Janet says that the panting has continued for years along with a few other quirky habits that were unique to Myra. One of those is a high-pitched bark that will erupt from time to time in the house. The sound seems to bounce off of the walls and ceiling when it occurs.
Myra had never been particularly vocal, but there were a few things that would set her off. One occasion that would cause the dog to throw her head back and bark a blue streak was the presence of another animal in her yard. To this day, Janet says that if a squirrel so much as climbs the tree in the backyard, a warning bark will sound. Myra had loved people and would do anything to protect them, but she had a very low tolerance for other animals. In Myra's mind, the house belonged to her and she had never hesitated to lay down the law to interlopers.
Janet and Ed still live in the house that they shared with Myra. They plan to remain there, with Myra, for the remainder of their lives. Janet relates that friends and family who visit the house are aware of the dog's lingering presence and take it in stride. Myra's specter is nothing to be feared, nor is it something that the Scotts wish to be rid of.
Although Janet does worry that they might be keeping Myra's spirit from moving on to its final destination, she hopes that this is not the case. The family prefers to believe that Myra is still calling the shots, just as she had done in life. They feel sure that she will continue on with her journey when the time is right. Until that day comes, she will always be welcome in the only home that she had ever known.