RULES and REGULATIONS/Pets and Paranormal Investigation:
Pets and the paranormal -- always a topic of great interest and a topic of great debate. As the host of the Paranormal Pets Radio show, I get to discuss one of the most fascinating topics ever: the role of animals (generally pets) in society, specifically in the role of indicators of the paranormal or supernatural. It's a fascinating subject for me as I am an animal advocate, rescue person, and I identify more with animals as friends since humans can be rather enigmatic. (I will say that both humans and animals can be equally as fascinating in their behavior!)
I have come across several other investigators who have watched animals working in the paranormal or who, occasionally, will take a pet into the field with them. The questions arise, then, as to 1) Do animals actually sense the paranormal? and 2) Is it OK to take animals on investigations?
To the first, I would say that, yes, animals CAN sense the paranormal. We do know that animals are more sensitive to weather and have warned of impending earthquakes and hurricanes. They are used to predict seizures (I have an acquaintance with a specially trained "seizure sensing poodle" that is sanction as a working dog). Both of these situations are not normal, or, if you will, paranormal. Dogs have also been recorded throughout history as sensing the supernatural -- gods manifesting, ghostly intrusions, jinn/angels, and more. I have read and posted accounts on http://www.starkimages.homestead.com/paranormalpugspage.html) of dog sensitivity dating back to the Greeks and Romans; the Egyptians even used the jackal as the psychopomp for the dead.
The biases against animals are unfortunate. Animals are usually classified as not possessing reasoning abilities and for their lack of language skills.
To look at both of these issues, I would argue that animals do not have human reasoning skills, perhaps, but that they still have an ability to think. Recent studies concerning dogs, in specific, include:
"Scientific studies in recent years show that dogs apply earlier learning to new situations, perform selective imitation, and understand human gestures and new words."
For animals in general:
As for animal language skills, while animals may not speak in phrases or with verbs/nouns/adjectives as we do, they do communicate. Insects have formed an intricate communication system with one another that can detail a variety of ideas. (There are tons of entries, but I shall detail just this one. I encourage others to research this remarkable behavior:
The question of human-animal communication does come in a variety of forms. One is the owner's understanding of their pets' behaviors. The other may relate to the animals' trust of their caretakers.
Additionally, one upcoming episode of Paranormal Pets radio show will feature discussions on animal sensitivity. The guest, Shana, a long time researcher in the field, believes that animals are wonderful sensitives because they of the reasoning skills that they have -- animals live in the moment and they answer stimulus with true response. Humans tend to over think an event, sometimes missing the paranormal entirely, or over-assuming that an event is paranormal to begin with.
On a personal note, it is quite obvious to me when Odyssey, the paranormal pug, wants something. I met my boy when he was 4 weeks old and was allowed to visit him on weekends until I could bring him home at 8 weeks. He is the only pug I have seen nurse to this day, and I saw him with his 7 siblings (my mother got "puppy fever" from my visits and adopted his brother, Crescent). Odyssey is now 13.5 years old. My family agrees that he is, perhaps, one of the brightest pugs we have ever had. He observes his surroundings, is in tuned with me, his human servant (apparently), and is personable. For quite some time, and on occasion still, I would be invited to an event and asked to bring Odyssey with me.
Odyssey is a paranormal pug in many ways. He was supposed to die over 3 years ago of terminal cancer, but when I went to a Buddhist medicine service on his behalf and had an experience (I felt an incredible energy), the cancer went into remission and has not returned. (Granted, this is after he had the tumor removed, and another surgery to fix some irritation from the first. These cost me more than 2 or 3 PhD classes; plus Ody went to two vets (holistic and regular), and an additional specialist). Four years later he looks quite good for someone who is "dead" -- he eats well for a dead guy, too!
Suffice to say, I know this pug. He sleeps curled up in my arms every night, or with his head on my pillow. We have a strong bond; I understand him pretty much all of the time and can usually interpret him quite well. Take, as example, whining behavior. Ody rarely whines, but when he does it may be that he wants up on the bed, down from the bed, he wants a drink of water, he wants to go out, or he is in pain. While these are a variety of responses to a single sound, his body behavior indicates the true nature of his communication. If he whines and stares at the bed, he wants up. If he whines while he is on the bed and appears to be in no distress, he wants down. If he walks to the water dish and whines then the dish is empty. If two other pugs are playing and he whines, then he wants to play with them. If he walks to the door and whines, he wants/needs to go out. If he paces, appears uncomfortable, or acts strangely, I take him to the vet.
As a slight aside, there is some speculation that different animals, like humans, may have differing levels of sensitivity. My guests on Paranormal Pets have confirmed this, as have other paranormal investigators in the field. If we are individualistic with our abilities, then why wouldn't the same hold for animals as well?
The second form of communication between humans and animals is the psychic connection. The most recent episode of Paranormal Pets Radio is directly about this topic. My guest was Karen Anderson who communicates with animals that are both living and dead. Off the air, she did a session for me with one of my pets (not Odyssey). She was remarkably accurate and I had told her none of the information. So, I find this to be an interesting topic but one that I am currently learning more about. This would be along the lines of parapsychology and inter-species communications and a great study for a ghost investigation team interested in ESP or animal ghosts.
Now to address the second question asked in the introduction to this essay: is it OK to take animals on investigations? As the founder of the SPIRITS of St. Petersburg, my team has indulged me in voting Odyssey as the official animal consultant for the group. While I have done approximately 400 investigations into haunted sites on my own or with the SPIRITS team over the past 13 years, the pets have been on about .02% of them. In ten years, I have taken Odyssey to approximately five sites to do about seven investigations (a couple are longer-running rechecks). I have taken Odysseus and Achilles, my 3 year old pugs who are brothers, on one investigation.
I do not see taking an animal out to a haunted site as a problem AS LONG AS THE FOLLOWING PRECAUTIONS ARE OBSERVED:
1) Note the nature of the animal. If he/she does NOT like to travel, do not take them out. If they enjoy traveling and meeting people, then that is a step in the right direction.
2) Note if the location has access to animals to begin with. If homeowners have animals in the home, and these days many do, ask about the animal's seeming sense of safety. If the animals is constantly stressed, then this may not be a good location to introduce another animal. If the animal is unharmed by an entity, then that is a better indicator that a pet investigator may be safe.
3) ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS pre-investigate the site before taking an animal into the field and do an thorough inspection of the property. I learned this from experience for my own teams' safety, and for Odyssey who took an impromptu swim in a small below-ground pool. Fortunately, our team calls for no one -- human or animal -- to be left unattended and he was fished out quickly none the worse for wear, but a little wet. Since then, I check the inside AND the outside of the property much more carefully for the sake of the pet.
4) Make sure that the entity is NOT hostile. Odyssey, Odysseus and Achilles have each been on cases but not before the property was inspected by team sensitives and investigators for any sign of hostile activity. They are allowed to go on rechecks only. This means that the SPIRITS has done a full investigation to begin with. Homeowner reports are also filtered in for pet safety in regard to animals already on the property (if their own pets were harassed) and the behavior of the entity in general.
5) The property MUST BE animal approved -- the home or business owners must be informed. There should be no surprises bringing a pet along. Odyssey's presence, for example, is actually requested for some of the long-running rechecks that we have done at one property.
6) If you bring a pet, you must be prepared to watch over him/her. If the animal shows signs of distress, they should be removed from the property immediately. As an investigator, the pet IS your responsibility as would be the safety of any other investigator in the group. The responsibility for the pet is more so the owner's as the animal trusts you to keep them safe. DO NOT abuse that trust.
7) Do NOT force the pet into an area where he or she does not want to go. Once I know the layout of a property, it is not unusual for me to allow Odyssey, Odysseus or Achilles to lead me. I will sometimes drop the leash entirely to let the pet roam where he wishes (though I am following behind). If there is an area that the animal avoids, note it but do not force the animal back to the area or into the room. My philosophy is, if it's not good enough for my pets, it's not good enough for me.
8) Be sure to know where emergency vets are in case of emergency (though this would likely be physical trauma more than spectral). I also request my "human team" to give me emergency contact information should they fall into distress. As I am the one who brings the pug, then, I must be equally responsibly prepared for my own pet's well being.
9) Do NOT overuse pets on investigations. As mentioned above, the pugs have gone on .02% of my investigations. Overuse may result in stress for the pet.
What are the results of my pet investigators? Since Odyssey, Odysseus and Achilles are the three who have been on investigations that are pretty heavily screened, the results are mixed.
Odyssey: Not much of a response on any of his cases but one. At a haunted hotel, Odyssey was uneasy in one room of the structure. I carried him through the room the first time to get to an area on the other side. Returning, I had set his leash down and allowed him to follow me through the room. When I stopped to take pictures, Odyssey refused to stop. He kept a steady walking pace, ignoring my calls to stop (which is rare for him) and got to the exit. Immediately outside the door he sat down. This was the room where EVPs had picked up crying and where some reports came back that people were uncomfortable.
At my own home, Odyssey was present for three ghostly manifestations, but he responded only to one. Two family members crossed through here to communicate their deaths (on two seperate occasions) and, while I sensed it and got the message, Ody did not seem to respond to these visitors. One time, however, when a spectral column of smoke manifested mid-room, I was alerted to its presence when all of my pugs (including Odyssey) started to whine. The smoke dissipated but may have been the spirit of the former homeowner. She has not been back, to my knowledge, since that one time.
[Below: Odyssey on investigation. On this case he found very little. However, to show his alertness, Odyssey did find the mini-refrigerator in the office. It was the only interest that he showed the entire investigation and he did try to paw at the door to get in (he doesn't even do this at home). The fridge is not haunted, but they did have some nice leftovers in there, so I'm pretty certain that I know what Odyssey was really hunting].
Odysseus and Achilles are "in training" to a certain degree. While they LOVE to travel and visit, they are young (even at 3 years old) and a lot to manage as a pair (they are pretty bonded brothers). Of the two cases, only one showed results. Odysseus is caught on film staring at a door; he turned around to look at the camera, back around to look at the door, and about a minute later the door opened part way on its own. Showing the property owner the video, he did say that activity happened with the door but had no reason as to why the door opened on its own. Both boys were together and clowning around at the start of the investigation when both froze, growled and started at the same spot behind a counter. This lasted for 3 seconds or so, and as quickly as they started, they stopped. This is VERY unusual behavior for them (they are very active) and for it to happen in sync with both is pretty phenomenal. We later learned that the spot where they were staring was one area which the entity, in life, had spent much time. The same spot produced a "shrinking orb" in three photos (though this evidence is more debated than the pugs' behavior!)
For those who do EVPs, pets are not usually conducive for them. A former teammate worked with Odyssey and even agreed with the premise of his being on investigations; after dismissal from the team, this person later publicly complained that the pugs were too noisy for EVPs. (This is why I prefer pets to people some days -- at least I can guess at what a pet wants; humans remain a mystery). Yes, of course pugs (or pets in general) are, or can be, noisy. As a pug enthusiast, I can tell you that these little dears are *supposed* to make noise -- snorts, snoring, snuffles, and so on. They are a noisy, but expressive, breed and that's why I like them!
As I type this, Odysseus and Achilles are sleeping on the bed and snoring loudly enough for me to hear across the room and over the keyboard.
However, as the pets go on a minimal amount of investigations, I believe that some accommodations should be made for them,. For this team, animals come on a second or third recheck of the property. We have attempted EVPs by that point, and it is possible that more spirit communication could be facilitated by the presence of the pets than without it -- with entities, it is hard to know. So, for those who are out there for EVPs, take a sound print of the pet and edit pet noises out when reviewing EVPs. On my own recordings, pet noises are quite obvious. Otherwise, make special arrangements to do EVPs without the pets present. It is a simple enough thing to do.
These days, I rarely do investigations alone, but if I am alone I do not take the pets with me as a matter of their safety. In addition, on active investigations, I rely on the input of my team to also determine the safety factor of a location and as addition guardians of the pet. If someone decides to use a pet on an investigation, PLEASE use common sense and think of the pet's protection first.
Published investigations with pugs: