Even now, years later, it happens. I can be walking on a familiar trail and I will look back to see if she is following me. Sometimes I think that I see her black form running jauntily in and out of the woods. Although I expect her to race up to greet me, I know her image will soon disappear. As they all do.

Sometimes, as I walk by the bedroom I catch a glimpse of the old cat on the bed, curled up and sleeping. Then I realize what I am seeing  is just a sweater I had carelessly tossed down earlier in the day. And anyway, there is a new cat now who is very much alive and has taken Carly’s place. Emmy Lou has her own personality and spot on the bed, and I wonder if she senses Carly’s presence too.

These ghosts, two dogs and two cats, have stuck by me, as they did when they were alive. The first pet was a large, lovable coon cat named Kennebec (Kenny for short) who endured several moves and the startling addition of a baby, then, years later a much too uncivilized dog. Kennebec’s ashes were sprinkled on an old stump in the woods outside our window. For years, in the fading daylight, I thought I could picture him curled up on top, keeping an eye on us.

The first dog, which we named Pancho after the old ballad “Pancho and Lefty,” had a preference for the muddiest and stinkiest water, turning his fluffy, white fur to a dark and odoriferous shade of brown which required vigorous scrubbing to come clean. When I walk by his favorite swamp, I can still hear the splash of his belly-flop into the water.

The black lab named Sadie is the most recent ghost in our house. Her loyalty was unmatched and her presence remains everywhere. I occasionally find her short black fur, which sticks to everything and used to annoy me. Now, I am grateful for the reminder of my sweet friend.

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