My childhood friend died a few years ago.
She lived around the block from where I lived and we used to do the normal stuff that kids do.
We rode bikes, climbed trees, played with our Barbie dolls and roller-skated to the corner store for Slurpees and penny candies.
The other thing, the biggest thing we had in common was our love for dogs.
We had our own dogs, but we didn’t stop there.
If we saw dogs, we asked to pet them. We’d play with the neighborhood dogs and walk them. We would go to the library and check out books about dogs.
We collected toy dogs and wore t-shirts with dog decals and long before it became fashionable we used to wear our dog’s old collars around our wrists or even around our necks.
Then my friend died- it was unexpected and it was a cruel death- I can’t say more then that. Not because I don’t want to, but when I think about how to describe it I can hear dogs howling.
And my heart breaks all over again.
My friend’s childhood home was sold and the profit went to her sons and I guess life moved on for us all. It just moved sort of sideways in my case.
One day I was out walking my new puppy. He was a little guy at the time, so we didn’t go far. Just around the corner and that’s when we met the family that had moved into my friend’s house.
The Mom was a nice young woman, she was around my son’s age and her children were very small. They asked to pet my puppy and we chatted about her new house.
” I think the family who lived here were really into dogs- ”
It seemed best to not say anything about my friend or the fact that her back yard had been designed for her dogs- there was a dog run, a well built dog house, trees to lounge under. It was pretty much a great place to hang out if you were a dog and you owned a few children.
Besides, this family was on the edge of making a life and my new neighbor was so excited to share her story with me.
Me and my friend and her last dog to live in that yard didn’t need to be part of that story- or so I thought.
She went on, ” they must have been big dogs, but it’s great. We promised the kids we’d get them a dog when we got the house and look at that yard. It’s going to be wonderful for them!”
I’m sure of it, I said with real enthusiasm.
About a month later I saw my now familiar neighbors out walking their two new dogs and we stopped to chat just at the end of their driveway.
She asked the boys to take the dogs in for water and they sort of turned into this mass of fur and barking and laughing kids bodies all mushed together and they burst across the yard and I flinched just a little when I hear the gate to their back yard click open and then bang shut-still, it was great.
” I was wondering, ” my neighbor asked ” what you know – I mean if you know anything about my house or maybe knew the people who lived there.”
” Well. Yeah. I do. What’s up?”
” We love it here, don’t get me wrong. But when the people you know lived here- did they ever see anything, I mean, this is going to sound-”
” I know the house is old, so I was wondering if there were any stories about it. ”
It was an old house, but it wasn’t that old. I was curious. ” What kind of stories?”
She took a breath. ” Did, I know this is going to sound awful. But did any children ever die here?”
” No. And I know that for a fact.”
” Well. It’s just that sometimes in the evening when I let my dogs out for their run in the yard- over there by the trees. I saw, I think I saw a little girl. And then she wasn’t there.”
She could not say it. She could not say the word ” ghost “.
I couldn’t either. I was distracted. I was hearing something- dogs barking- but of course the dogs I was hearing weren’t the ones in her yard or my yard or any of the yards around us.
They barking, I think, from a long time ago.
My friend had passed away in her early late 40’s. She loved her sons she loved her new home which was 60 miles away from her childhood home. I couldn’t imagine her as a ghost coming back to this house.
And let me tell you, me and my friend had very active imaginations where anything was possible. That was an attitude we took into adulthood with us.
” I think, ” I said ” that this was a great place to play and grow up. I think a lot of kids used to come over here with their dogs and they played with the kid who lived here. See those trees where you saw the, um, the little girl? There was a tree house there and somehow the kid who lived here and her friend got a full grown Malamute up there and a year old Retriever. They never told anyone how they did it. The problem was they couldn’t get them down and the Fire Department had to help them all out of the tree house.”
” You’re joking.”
” No. It was actually a big deal. And the four of them were really stuck and I think even the dogs were embarrassed. So they never brought it up with anyone except with each other.”
” So the girls in the tree, the one who lived here- they both grew up. They didn’t, they grew up. Right?”
” Yep. They did. ”
” I know what I saw.” she said firmly this time.
” You know, I believe you. But whoever or whatever you saw- it’s not a bad thing. I think you’re seeing something…I think you’re seeing a happy moment for someone. That’s what I think.”
” I can live with that. We can live with that.” she told me.
And as far as I know- they still are.