One of my favorite places to walk with my dog is a small cemetery just a few minutes from our house. It’s quiet and I enjoy meandering amongst the gravestones, reading the inscriptions and wondering about the lives of the people buried there.
I worry sometimes that it might be disrespectful, me and the dog, trodding around on top of people at rest. So when I take Bandit, I stick to the paved roadways to avoid him peeing on every marker.
Today I took Bailey with me for the first time, and we had a lovely walk. We’ve been having problems with her and Bandit, serious conflicts that have resulted in him being hurt and her having to be boarded on the days when I’m alone for 12 hour stretches at time with three dogs who don’t get along. She’s a fantastic dog, but she and my youngest collie absolutely clash, and their fights are getting more frequent and intense. (It’s a long story; you can read more on my personal blog. I’d write more about it here, but it’s been such an emotional couple of weeks I haven’t had time to process it all.)
Bailey was wonderfully calm as we wandered around. I wasn’t sure how she’d react; she’s still a puppy, even at 11 months old, and the tall monuments, waving flags and workmen removing leaves could have been quite upsetting to her. But she was wonderful. She even took time to sniff two spinning pinwheels, items I would have expected to send her into a tailspin.
Then we came to the grave of Kali Ann Poulton.
Here in Rochester, NY, the story of Kali Ann Poulton is well known. She was 4 1/2 years old when she went missing on May 23, 1994 from her apartment complex in East Rochester, NY. On August 8, 1996, neighbor Mark Christie confessed to killing her and hiding her body in a water tank at a factory where he had been a guard at the time of her disappearance. It’s a story that captivated the hearts of everyone in our city for years, even after her body was laid to rest.
Her grave is marked with wind chimes and colored stones and other mementos. Nothing out of the ordinary in the cemetery and certainly nothing you would expect to spook Bailey.
Except that as we neared the gravesite, Bailey’s entire demeanor shifted. She got ansty, she barked, she whined, she pulled on the leash. She sniffed the headstone and surrounding area in a way that made me wonder if she’d found a chipmunk.
I chalked it up to the windchimes, although we have windchimes at home and she’s never noticed them before, despite the fact that they’re almost over her head when she’s outside. We walked on.
After about 15 minutes or so, we started to head down another pathway when Bailey started running ahead and jumping, coming back, running ahead, again and again. I wasn’t sure where she was headed, so I indulged her. We jogged over a rise and towards a large shrub, Bailey leading the way the entire time.
On the other side of the shrub: Kali Ann Poulton’s grave.
I’m not a ghost hunter and I’m skeptical of spook sightings and stories of spirits. But clearly Bailey detected something at the grave of this little girl that I couldn’t see. So what does one do in a situation like this?
I prayed for Kali Ann, prayed for her family, and told Bailey that if she could somehow see Kali that it was OK to play. And then we moved on.
Are there spirits in the cemetery waiting for visitors? I don’t know. I didn’t have any feeling someone or something was there, no hair standing on end, no cold breeze (other than the freezing wind already blowing). But something specifically at the place in the cemetery kept drawing Bailey back, and in her very Bailey-like way she talked to and played with whoever or whatever it was.
I’d like to think, though, that God speaks to us in random circumstances. I’d like to think that God used Bailey to draw me to that place so I could pray for this girls’ family and pay silent respect to a small child whose life was cut short by evil. Perhaps today her spirit need to romp with a pup.