Ghostly Animal Encounters: The Haunted Shelter
Anyone who has ever shared their life with an animal will tell you that their pet is a member of the family. But what about the millions of dogs and cats that end up in animal shelters every year? The fortunate ones will be adopted into loving homes, while for others it will be the final stop on their life's journey.
This story was contributed by a woman named Karen Davis who volunteered for nearly a decade at an animal shelter in Ohio. Due to the subject matter, she did not wish to reveal the name of the facility since it is still in operation. This is her recollection of some of the strange and otherworldly encounters that took place there over the years.
The Last Stop
Karen says that she decided to become a volunteer after visiting the kennels one day with her husband. It had been her first time being inside an animal shelter and she was shocked by the number of dogs and cats that were housed there. Row after row of kennels and cages were filled to capacity with unwanted animals that were awaiting adoption.
As they spent time with some of the animals, Karen had struck up a conversation with one of the shelter workers. The woman had shared with Karen that they were always in need of volunteers to walk the dogs and help out around the place. Although she had never worked around animals before, Karen felt compelled to offer her services. She decided to take the plunge and proceeded to fill out the necessary paperwork as well as setting up a time for orientation.
Karen had to put in a certain number of hours observing other volunteers before she could take over the reins and work on her own. After a few weeks of training, she was officially a shelter volunteer. What was to come would prove to be a learning experience that she would never forget.
It had been explained to Karen right off the bat that the facility was a kill shelter. The staff stressed that they euthanized animals only as a last resort, but it was a necessary part of operating an animal shelter. The realization was that the shelter was almost always filled to capacity. It was a sad fact that for every animal that came through the door, one had to go out in order to make room for the new arrival.
Karen would not be responsible for putting animals down; she would, however, usually know ahead of time which dogs and cats were scheduled to be euthanized. This was one of the hardest parts of the job for her; an animal that she had grown attached to would be alive and well one day and gone the next. Try as she might, Karen could never quite get used to the constant sense of loss.
At this particular shelter, animals were usually put down on Mondays with another day being added later on in the week when necessary. Karen says that the entire atmosphere at the shelter would become somber on those days.
Dogs who normally barked non-stop would fall silent as the animals that were being euthanized were led to the room in which their lives would be ended. Later on, the kennels would erupt as the dogs began to howl as though they were mourning those who were no longer with them.
Karen had been told that this was a common occurrence, but she had not believed it until she witnessed it with her own eyes. The behavior of the dogs had made it clear that they were well aware of what was happening. More heartbreaking for Karen was the realization that an animal's time in the shelter was short and many of the mourners would end up meeting the same fate.
For all of the sadness that working in the shelter brought, there were also times of joy. Karen loved taking the dogs out into the side yard and playing fetch with them. It was a time when they could forget everything that was going on around them and simply enjoy life. After their exercise time was over, Karen and the other volunteers would make sure that the dogs were settled in for the night with a chew toy to keep them occupied as they drifted off to sleep.
One of Karen's responsibilities as a volunteer was to wash the multitude of blankets that were used to make the dogs more comfortable in their kennels. It was a task that seemed to never end. The facility had its own laundry area which was adjacent to the room in which the euthanasia procedures were usually carried out.
Karen had been warned that a number of strange occurrences had taken place in the back rooms, but they were not a cause for alarm. She hadn't worked there long and had usually been accompanied by another worker when she had laundry or cleaning duties.
One evening when Karen was loading blankets into the machines, she would have the first of many encounters that would convince her that not every animal left the shelter when their allotted time came to an end.
Those That Remain
Karen remembers that she was removing blankets from the dryer when she suddenly heard the sound of a cat's loud purring. She looked around, but could not find the source of the steady rumble as it continued to fill the room.
Although the shelter did allow a couple of cats to roam freely in the lobby, they were not supposed to be in the back rooms since they were in close proximity to the large dog holding area. Karen thought that she might have an escapee on her hands, but she couldn't seem to locate the mischievous feline.
As she returned to the chores at hand, Karen noticed a black and white cat enter the room and curl up on a pile of blankets that she had placed in one of the laundry baskets. Karen assumed that this was the cat that she had been unable to find earlier. Since she still had work to do, she decided to let the cat rest for a while before attempting to return it to its cage.
Karen busied herself tidying up other areas of the shelter while she waited for the final load of blankets to be ready to fold. She returned to the laundry room when she heard the buzzer that indicated that the dryer had shut off.
When she entered the room, Karen noticed that the little black and white cat had been joined by a grey tabby that was now nestled beside it. As much as she hated to disrupt the sleeping felines, she would have to move them in order to find out where they belonged.
As Karen reached down to gently nudge the cats from their resting place, they faded away right before her eyes. Karen knew that she hadn't been seeing things. There had definitely been two cats lying together on the blankets a split second earlier. They had looked just like any other cats until she had attempted to touch them; only then did their forms become transparent before disappearing altogether.
Karen abandoned the laundry and sought help from one of the shelter staff who was cleaning in the overflow section of the facility. When she told the man about the cats, he knew exactly what she was talking about. He informed her that what she had seen was just the tip of the iceberg.
The man said that ghost animals had been spotted in the building for as long as he could remember. He related that, on more occasions than he could count, he had heard the sound of dogs running on the concrete floors in the kennel area when all of the animals were secured in their pens.
Karen would eventually discover that other volunteers and staff members had seen and heard things in the shelter that they could not explain. One worker shared an experience in which he was mopping the area outside of the big dog kennels when the overhead light began to flicker on and off. At the same time, a toy ball appeared out of nowhere and rolled across the floor in front of him.
The man recalled that the hair had stood up on the back of his neck as the ball rolled past him and out of sight. The kennel residents had also been aware that something had invaded their area. He told Karen that at the moment that the lights began to dim, the dogs had suddenly begun to bark frantically and jump against their cage doors. He explained that it was the same behavior that they exhibited whenever a new animal was introduced to the kennels.
In another instance, a volunteer said that she had been sitting at one of the office desks one day when a stack of papers suddenly fell to the floor for no reason. The woman claimed that it appeared to her that something had walked over the top of them, causing them to slide off the desk.
During her inquiries, Karen would also learn that several workers had heard a dog scratching on the inside of the door where euthanasia was performed. When they investigated the room; it was always empty
Karen also heard that an animal control officer had been in an outside enclosure one afternoon when he saw a dog lying in the grass that he was certain had been put down weeks earlier. He had brought the animal in himself and recognized its unique markings.
When the man tried to get a closer look, the dog stood up and walked through the chain link fence as if it wasn't there. The dazed officer watched as the dog proceeded to disappear into the trees that lined the property.
After hearing some of the other stories, coupled with her own experiences, Karen was convinced that many of the animals who had spent their final moments at the shelter had remained there in spirit. This was the only thing that made sense to her, given the multitude of strange events that had taken place there.
Long before I heard Karen's story, our veterinarian had shared with me that she had seen phantom animals in her clinic on numerous occasions. After seeing more than her share of unexplained phenomena, she had come up with an unconventional way to set wayward souls on the right path.
She said that when an animal died in her care, whatever the cause, she would always ask the owner to let their pet know that it was time to go home. The theory behind this was that an animal that dies in an unfamiliar environment might not understand how to find its way out; hearing the voices of their loved ones guiding them home allows them to leave the clinic and continue on their journey.
So, Do Animals Have Souls?
There are people who will be quick to tell you that this is a ridiculous notion and that animals do not have souls. Based upon my own experiences, as well as the numerous accounts that have come my way over the years, it is clear to me that the spirit of an animal is as real as yours or mine.
Animals differ from us in that they live each day with no thoughts of tomorrow. They exist in the moment and normally don't realize when their lives are coming to an end.
Shelter animals, more than most, live on borrowed time. Whether they choose to stay in the last place in which they laid their heads, or remain there simply because they don't know how to leave, we cannot know. Perhaps the answer, like so many others, is hidden in the thin veil that separates this world and the next.