I was a practising veterinary surgeon for more than 40 years, eventually specialising in companion animal medicine with a particular interest in behavioural problems. I use the word ‘interest’ specifically because I had no formal training in animal behaviour. There was no such training in those days but I have been presented with very many behavioural problems over the years some of which left me completely confused and unable to offer anything but common sense advice. There was the ‘rescue’ greyhound that had a passion for biting incandescent light bulbs. The owners had to remove all light bulbs within six feet of the ground which only left those on the ceiling and even one of these turned out to be vulnerable to the dog’s appetite. A visitor to their home found himself standing underneath a lightbulb hanging on a flex attached to the ceiling. To everyone’s shock and surprise, the greyhound leapt up the guest’s back onto his shoulders and snapped off the bulb. It was obviously a remarkably precise manoeuvre on the part of the dog because it never suffered any injuries to its mouth.
I could only suggest halogen bulbs set into the fabric of the home — or candles. In most cases it was a matter of altering the animal’s routine in one way or another that eventually cured or, at least, reduced the problem. I have had several owners who were convinced that their pet was telepathic until I was able to demonstrate that there was nothing supernatural or psychic about the animal’s behaviour. It was a matter of the extraordinary differences in the senses, usually hearing and smell, that accounted for their apparently inexplicable behaviour.
As far as such paranormal episodes are concerned I have always been a sceptic. Not blind scepticism, I have always been prepared to consider a paranormal explanation but, until ten years ago, I had never found evidence that such supernatural phenomena exist.
At a particular London dinner I found myself sitting beside the Head Librarian of a prestigious City library. He was a bachelor who shared a house with a married couple in Sanderstead in South London. He did not drive, finding a local taxi to take him to the nearby Underground station and the Tube train took him within a hundred yards of his library. He owned both a cat and a dog who were cared for by his housemates on his regular trips abroad demanded by his work.
He was first informed of a curious behaviour by his dog by the housemates. The animal had full run of the house and every night he would take up a position just inside the front door and his master would arrive almost exactly 18 minutes later — to his great excitement.
Wait a minute! The librarian did not drive and took the first available local taxi from the Tube station on his journey home. There was little predictability in the hour of his return. The man had many friends in the City and often attended events of many different kinds at the end of a working day. He may arrive around seven o’clock or not until one in the morning - but the dog was always there, about 18 minutes before he opened the front door.
Dog’s sense of hearing is almost incomprehensible to most of us but to detect the sound of a particular car engine 18 minutes away from a small cul-de-sac
- and not always the same taxi engine - begins to beggar belief.
But the experience does not end there. As previously mentioned, he attended many international seminars, conferences and the like across the world and his housemates had noticed that, while the dog had its own bed in his master’s bedroom, he always slept on his master’s bed when he was away. On one occasion the librarian found himself in New York with an extra day’s work to do so delayed his flight home by two days. He rang his housemates to inform them of his change of plans to which they replied “We know!”
“How do you know? I only made the decision eight hours ago. You are the first people in England that I have told of my change of plan.”
“It was Jake, the dog.”
“What do you mean ‘it was Jake’? What on earth has Jake got to do with my travel plans?”
“He’s asleep on your bed! He never sleeps on your bed if you are going to be home that night.”
The three friends then began to keep detailed records of Jake’s sleeping habits and my friend, the librarian’s, nights away from home - and every entry matched up. I would like to say that my scepticism has been demolished but it still hangs there in the back of my doubting mind like Miss Haversham’s wedding dress.
Hamlet had it right when he said “There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”