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A Message from Moby
An excerpt from Ghost Stories of Pets and Animals

Brent Jansen had been having the trip of a lifetime, backpacking with college friends for five weeks through the length and breadth of Ireland. He and his buddies wandered from the weird volcanic formations of the Giant's Causeway in the north to Blarney Castle with its famous stone in the south, from the majestic cliffs of Slieve League in County Donegal to the mysterious ancient tomb of Newgrange in Glendalough. All the along the way, they enjoyed Ireland's food, music, people and, of course, pubs. They sat in dozens of pubs and quaffed hundreds of pints, Beamish stout and Harp lager, joining forces with Irish whiskey and "Scrumpy Jack" cider in a happy blur of Celtic joy.

And now, fresh from a pilgrimage to the famous Guinness brewery, Brent lay in his bed at Dublin's cozy Tathony House hostel. Tomorrow, it was back to London and from there the long transatlantic flight home to Calgary. As much as he'd loved Ireland, the young man looked forward to getting back, with his bag full of photos and his head full of stories.

It didn't take long for Brent to fall asleep that night (he had thoroughly sampled the Guinness family's fine products). But he didn't snore peacefully for long. At about two o'clock in the morning he began to dream, a dream more immediate and vivid than any he'd had before: a vision of the death of one of his oldest and dearest friends.

In his dream, he found himself in the familiar surroundings of Calgary's Nose Hill Park, a little piece of unspoiled wilderness in the midst of modern housing developments, not far from his parents' home. Brent often spent hours hiking through the park, enjoying the quiet and solitude. The dream sight of its foothills terrain -- wild grasses and scrub rustling in the dry summer wind, the evening sun throwing its long shadows -- filled him with a mix of happiness and homesickness. But something wasn't quite right. Everything looked familiar but somehow different. When the dream revealed his pet cat, Moby, loping through the familiar grassland, he realized what he was seeing.

"I was down almost at cat level," Brent remembers, "not seeing through Moby's eyes, but still somehow experiencing what he was experiencing." The big old platinum Siamese was moving unusually fast for his advanced age -- over 16 years and counting, with more than a touch of arthritis in his back legs. Brent's parents were cat-sitting; he had left strict instructions for them not to let the aged but feisty tomcat out. Moby was far too rickety to deal with any trouble his temper might get him into.

Brent knew his dream was actually happening. As the vision continued, the reason for the old cat's painful sprint became clear.

"He was being hunted," says Brent. "There are lots of coyotes in that area, and they take what they can get. They can't usually catch cats, but Moby was a pretty easy target: old, fat and slow." The cat tried to make a run for it, but adrenaline can only make up for so much. Brent could feel Moby's exhaustion, feel the pain in his legs, feel the electric panic of a frightened feline. Worst of all he could feel his childhood pal losing steam, and with the cat's senses he could hear, smell and even feel the canine predator closing in. Yards behind, feet, inches...

It was all over in an instant. The golden sunshine of a clear mid-July evening in southern Alberta vanished, replaced by the close darkness of the Dublin night. Brent awoke suddenly, disoriented, his heart pounding.

"I knew Moby was dead, and I knew that I had watched it happen," Brent says. "It was an absolute conviction."

The strange dream left him mystified and disturbed but, oddly, Brent didn't feel upset by Moby's death itself. "Maybe it was the certainty of knowing," he speculates, "that sort of calm that comes when there are no questions or loose ends. I knew he'd been killed, but I also knew that he was beyond the reach of pain and suffering. I think it would have been worse if I had arrived home and he was just gone."

After the flight home, Brent's parents met him at the airport. He says, "They didn't waste any time in letting me know about Moby. After the hugs and kisses, picking up my luggage and getting on the road home, my mom turned around in the front seat and looked at me with a really strange expression. She said, 'Honey, before we get home, there's something you should know...'

"I just put my hand on her arm and said, 'I know, Mom, Moby's gone. It's okay.' Her eyes went wide. She just stared at me, half-stammering, not knowing what to say. She asked, 'How do you know?'"

Brent told them about the dream he'd had in Dublin, and his amazed parents confirmed that the times matched up perfectly. Moby had gotten loose at more or less exactly the time that Brent had his vision. Brent's mom had been grilling steaks on the barbecue. She wasn't used to having a cat around the house and had absentmindedly left the patio door open when she went in to answer the phone. The veteran tomcat had seized the opportunity and literally headed for the hills.

"Mom started to cry a little," Brent continues. "She felt really guilty and embarrassed for letting the cat out. They hadn't stopped searching the neighborhood until they had to leave for the airport to pick me up. I just said, 'Don't worry, it's okay. He's gone and it's over. It was his time. There's nothing you could have done.'"

When Brent got back to his parents' place, he went straight out to Nose Hill Park. With no difficulty, he found the exact spot he'd seen in his dream, the spot where Moby died. He couldn't see any blood or bones -- "Coyotes are pretty thorough," he says -- but he sat there for a long time, meditating and reflecting on his seemingly supernatural experience.

Brent still visits that spot often. He sits amid the wild beauty of the Rocky Mountain foothills and thinks about the day his old friend somehow reached across half a planet for one last moment of connection.

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