Last night, at some ungodly hour, I was fast asleep, Rion was curled up in a tight ball next to me and Randal was just coming to bed, when the saddest sound started: "ah-ooo-oo-ooo-ooh". It was the dog. Rion had lifted his head and was suddenly howling, the saddest, lowest, deep howl I've ever heard (having shared my home with a beagle for many, many years, I know from howls, so to speak). It was absolutely a heart-breaking sound. Plus he is a Jack Russell terrier and they are not known for being howlin' hounds. Nor has Rion ever howled before (at least not while we've been home). Anyway, needless to say, lights went on, caresses made, soothing words spoken, then we all went to sleep. ...Or not. (Maybe Rion did. He is a dog, after all.) Randal and I lay there for a while, feeling saddened by the whole event. First of all, why did our dog howl at that point, and second, why did his howl sound so sad? Like all good parents, we want our child to be happy, and we certainly don't want him being haunted by ghosts (figuratively-speaking, of course) late at night.
However, tonight, walking home from work in the 5:00 late dusk, I started thinking about it more and decided there must be a more rational explanation to the howl than your average canine angst. The first conclusion I reached was that it was obviously 3 a.m. when this happened, an hour well-known to be the hour the demons come out to play. Could our little darling snookums be possessed? ...While this would certainly explain certain other bizarre aspects of his behaviour - eg., the wild tail-chasing that ends up with him collapsed bent backwards at a strange 90-degree angle that should logically also include the ability to fully rotate his head (a la Exorcist), and the strange litany of grunts, whines and half barks in which he engages when he is displeased with our behaviour (especially if we've made him stay in the kitchen while we eat dinner in the living room) - there were certain holes in my theory that could not be ignored, not the least of which was that I had no idea whether it had actually been 3 a.m. at the time of the occurence and in fact it was fairly likely it wasn't 3 a.m., considering the fact Randal was just going to bed. 1 a.m. was a more likely possibility, and neither demons nor witches tend to be out at that hour.
A more likely conclusion was the second - that Rion was merely communicating with the house ghost. See, we have a resident ghost. Generally, he isn't scary. He's mostly helpful. Mostly he confines himself to the kitchen, but recently he's made some forays into the bedroom. One night, Randal went to turn on the light hanging over his computer (which is in our room). The light went on, then dimmed suddenly, before going out. Upon further inspection, Randal realized the light wasn't even plugged in. Also, for the past few weeks, whenever he takes his computer out of "standby", the computer speakers start crackling and playing staticky radio, even though he doesn't have a radio program on his computer. I have attributed these (and now the dog's howling) to the Kitchen Ghost (as I fondly call him). The Kitchen Ghost has a microwave fetish. He is especially fond of setting the microwave for 1 min 20 seconds, and he does it all by pressing just two buttons, not the four that it takes me to set the same time. At least I only ever hear two beeps from the microwave before it starts running. For a while, we set a glass of water in the microwave, and that seemed to hinder the Kitchen Ghost's plans. He stopped microwaving for many months. But he is back since earlier this fall. One day I was making dinner and I had put a bowl of broccoli in the microwave, ready to be steamed when the rest of the dinner was almost ready. Everytime I turned my back, that darn ghost started setting times on the microwave. It must have tried about 6 different times - me constantly whipping around, hoping to catch a glimpse of him in the act but never managing that, then turning the microwave off again. I even asked the ghost very nicely that if he was going to help with dinner, to please wait a few more minutes before starting the broccoli and then to do it for two minutes.
In fact, the more I think about it, the more I'm sure it's the Kitchen Ghost who let the bats in. Yes, it's the only logical explanation, window screens be damned.
Even now, as I type, Rion is sitting on the arm of the couch, perched like a gargoyle surveying his domain. Every once in a while his nose shoots straight up into the air and he sniffs very intently, staring up at something I cannot see (I also can't smell anything worthwhile at this moment other than the tortellini I will soon be eating for dinner, but I'm sure there's no relation there). He's no doubt communing with the spirits that I and the microwave can only imagine are there. I imagine the Kitchen Ghost will soon filtrate into most aspects of our lives in this apartment, eventually forcing me to rename him (I suppose it's not very fair of me to have restricted his potential haunting activities to one area of the apartment, at least not without asking him about his abilities first). I'm just hoping somewhere along the way, he will learn to do the laundry for me.