It’s a dream, but the images are sharp as daylight. I’m on one of our well-traveled byways, nearing a crosswalk on Summerfield Road. Shenzi is about six feet out on her leash, and she inexplicably ambles out into the road a few feet before I am there, disregarding all her training. I pull back on the leash and she is a little slow to respond. Then I see cars are dangerously closer and she is still out a few feet on the roadway.
Now I pull more emphatically on the leash, but Shenzi, again inexplicably, digs in. I easily overpower her, but as I pull her to safety toward me I see the leash and her collar are kind of tangled at the top of her head. No squeals or cries, but as I reel her in I confront a horrid sight.
She is looking directly into my eyes but her left eye is grotesquely swollen and bulging and beginning to leak fluid. Then the leak becomes as a dam breaking and she is gushing, hemorrhaging fluid as her eyeball appears to be coming out of its socket.
I am stunned, the “Oh my God!”s swirling and cascading through me, where they share space with, “I HAVE TO GET TO THE VET RIGHT NOW, what am I GOING TO DO, I’m a mile from home what am I going to do OHMYGOD HER EYE HER EYE!
Then I hear a voice, Shenzi’s voice, crystal clear, if a bit pained and urgent. It is not audible, in my ears, as words formed from her voice, but it is conveyed and understood in my mind, my heart, directly from hers, and it is resounding.
And it says, as I watch her eye go through its rapid deterioration, her other eye gazing still directly into mine: “I love you. I love you so much. I love you…”
Not “What have you done to me? How could you? Why did you pull so hard? Oh my God!”
But “I love you. I love you so much. I love you…”
When I was training to be a gestalt therapist before my life headed off in a different direction many decades ago, the basic approach to dreams was to have the client inhabit every person and sometimes even various objects in the dream, under the theory that every part of our dreams is a projection of ourselves and our unconscious wants, conflicts and needs. I’m none too sure today how true that is, though the process tended more often than not to yield rich fruits for contemplation and discussion.
In therapy, that can be enough, however literally “true” the underlying rubric is.
So there may be some material in this dream worth exploring from an intra-psychic standpoint. But even if I do, I doubt it will tell me anything near as powerful and affirming of certain large truths as what this dream conveyed directly to me.
Dogs. I’ve had three of them in my adult life. Their lifespans laid end to end now total about 45 years, Shenzi, both of her warm large brown eyes happily intact, occupying the last 10 of those.
I doubt I will ever be without a dog, so long as I maintain enough of my faculties in my dotage to have anything to say about it.
You dog people know whereof I speak. The loyalty and devotion, the unfettered joy, the romping, the ridiculous tails, the comic noses and their mysteries of olfaction. The willingness to be foolish and to forgive, always to forgive.
Dogs are humbling, inasmuch as in relationship with their companion owners, they are so unrelentingly willing to be humble themselves, their needs simple, their motivations laid bare, their hearts pure as a babe’s.
So I was humbled this morning to be reminded so clearly and powerfully about the love and forgiveness this creature holds for me in her heart.
And rather than see this dream as some manifestation of conflicts around power and will in relationship, I take it instead as a postcard from the other side, a fierce love note depicting—and thereby encouraging—a fierce love that will endure any hardship and mishap, never failing to keep at least one eye, if not both, on the prize of affirming to all those dear to us in this life, and to life itself, ““I love you. I love you so much. I love you…”
EPITAPH TO A DOG
Written and inscribed on the monument of a Newfoundland dog by Lord Byron (1808)
Near this spot
Are deposited the Remains of one
Who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferocity,
And all the virtues of Man, without his Vices.
This Praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery
If inscribed over human ashes,
Is but a just tribute to the Memory of
BOATSWAIN, a DOG
To err is human—to forgive, canine.
Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.
If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.
Dogs are how people would be if the important stuff is all that mattered to us.
Any man who does not like dogs and want them about does not deserve to be in the White House.
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Deep appreciation to the photographers!
Elizabeth Haslam, whose photos (except for the books) grace the rotating banner at the top of this page. Some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing, see more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lizhaslam/
Library books photo by Larry Rose, all rights reserved, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Shenzi photos by Andrew Hidas, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing, see more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewhidas/