In my book “Haunted Waters” I wrote about the story of Pooh and Paddy, two pets who were owned by my friend Paula McDonald. When Paddy died, he was heard at the door, not only by Pooh and McDonald, but also by a local nurse.
A little while ago, I got an email from Daniel Penney, originally from Carbonear. Penney had read the story in my book. He, too, had a ghostly pet story, but had never really shared it. After reading about Paddy’s ghost, he thought there might be a bit more to his own experiences.
In 1992, Penney came home from school to find that his parents had got him a kitten.
“He was black with smokey-grey highlights going through his entire coat, so I decided I would call him Smokey,” says Penney. “He became a pet unlike we have ever had and we bonded closely to him as well as family outside the household and neighbours.”
Smokey would usually sleep with Penney in his bed.
“If he had been outside late and someone let him in the house while I was sleeping, he would push the door open in my room and hop on the bed,” remembers Penney. “Usually when he did this he wasn’t quite ready to settle in. He would start by sitting by your chest and if you didn’t acknowledge his presence he would start to purr so hard and loud you could see him rock back and forth. If I still ignored him, hoping he would let me sleep and go to sleep himself, then he would bawl ever so lightly, just enough for you to hear him.”
If Penney did not give Smokey the attention he wanted, he would poke his owner’s arm. Penney would have to pet the cat till it fell asleep, in order to get any sleep himself.
“He and I were inseparable,” says Penney, “and if I went for a walk outside anywhere he would tag along with me.”
In 2007 the beloved cat grew feeble and sick. Much to the dismay of the family, there was little they could do, and the cat had to be put to sleep by the veterinarian.
“I brought him home from the vet and wrapped him in his favourite blankets, laid him in a wooden box my father had made for him and we buried him in our backyard,” says Penny. “After 15 years we were all devastated, and our lives and home felt empty. I felt so guilty for putting him to sleep, even though I knew it was the right thing to do.”
That evening, Penney fell into bed, exhausted. But he could not get to sleep right away; the bed felt empty without Smokey. Eventually, he fell asleep.
“During the night at some point I rolled over in bed and for a split second I opened my eyes,” describes Penney. “It was then I felt like something hopped up on the bed behind me. Being used to always having Smokey hop on the bed while I was sleeping, I automatically thought it was my other cat named Rusty, who was only five.”
“I heard the purring and decided to pet down who I thought was Rusty so he could go to sleep and let me sleep,” says Penney. “But when I awoke and rolled back over it was Smokey and he was looking right at me. I proceeded to pet him down like always, but when I reached out to pet him he disappeared like he was never there.”
Penney sat up in bed. He tried to figure out what had just happened.
“Though I was grieving, I felt at peace,” he says. “As I was lying back down in bed to turn in, Rusty entered my room and hopped up on the bed and fell asleep. I’ve never seen Smokey ever again.”
Penney acknowledges that some may say he just mixed up one cat for the other, though the two cats were of very different colours.
“I can’t help but wonder if Smokey came back just to make my mind at peace, by letting me know he was OK and at peace himself, or if it was just lack of sleep with a mix of grief,” muses Penney. “If it was just a mix of grief and lack of sleep then the only thing I cannot explain is the weight I felt in my mattress, and the tugging of the sheets like it used to feel when he sat next to my chest.”
People have strong bonds with their animals. I am certain Penney is not the only person in the province with experiences involving a deceased pet. If you’ve seen a ghost cat, dog, or even a phantom hamster, let me know.
Dale Jarvis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.