Somewhere in a distant, peaceful meadow, there is a time and a place for dogs. All of them.
I saw Jumper last night. She passed away last year but I often think of her and last night I saw her again, in a dream. I was in the country in this dream, possibly at the place we used to live. Or a place with many similarities. The road was a wide meadow, or there was a wide meadow beside the road. Along that meadow I ran. I was on an errand and was running into town. Why drive when you can run, right? In the vast, winding meadow the dogs could run with me.
Town was several miles away and Buddy and Nightingale were running alongside me in the tall, course grass. They would run to the sides and get ahead of me, as the dogs are apt to do, and at once point I lost track of Buddy. I was worried about it for a time but kept running. Maybe he'd gone home. Nightingale was there, looking back at me periodically and leading the way.
As I began to get into town I lost track of her also and considered turning back to find the dogs. I decided to push forward into the little town to go to the store and run my errand. I'd catch up with them on my way back home.
In the center of town I passed a group of stores but the store I wanted to visit was a little farther, a couple of blocks away. People were scattered about and there were cars, but I am not sure that anyone was driving them. Maybe others were walking or running like me.
I found the store I wanted to patronize and I went in. It was somewhat like a country store but more of a convenience store. People were lined up at the cash register and I had to pass them in the line to get to the items I wanted to purchase. I believe I was looking for mascara, of all things, but while passing the candy isle I began to think about buying something sweet. Towards the end of the line was a woman with both hands full of all sorts of things. There was space between her and the last person in line and as I went by her I had to pass very closely between her and one of the aisles, as she took up a lot of space with all her items. She made some sort of snide remark to me as I passed by.
After that I decided to give up on looking for the mascara and forgo buying candy. Maybe I just wanted to hurry back outside to get my dogs so I left the store. I was still on the streets of the small town and as I proceeded to walk back home I did not see the dogs anywhere. I was worried and I believe I was just walking, not running, as the dogs were not with me. I thought of Buddy and where he'd gotten off to along this journey and wondered if Nightingale would show up to walk home with me.
Next I was in a strip of meadow alongside some brick, country ranch homes. I had a sense that my dogs were with me but I couldn't see them. Rabbits were everywhere, jumping around in the grass. I looked up and Joan was walking in the grass ahead of me. I had the feeling of knowing that Nightingale was there with us but just out of sight, probably chasing some poor rabbit.
Then Jumper and Buddy walked up to me. Yes, Jumper had now joined us and she looked wet, tired and dirty. She was panting and smiling. I can always tell when my dogs are happy and smiling. Jumper showing up like that was a common sight from our days in the country, as she would be a mess when returning from a run in the fields and meadows. She was often wet from taking a dip in the pond.
Jumper lay down and I began to pet her wet belly. "Look Joan," I called out. "Jumper is here!" Joan looked back and though I was right there with her, and Jumper was wagging her tail, Joan could not see her. I didn't see Buddy or Nightingale either at that point. Next thing I knew I was alone in my bed this morning, waking up.
I awoke form that dream with sort of a bad feeling. Tears came to my eyes. Nightingale came down the hall, shaking her ears, and laid on the floor next to my bed. This is unusual behavior for her as she will usually sleep until I get up, but I took it as a sign that she wanted to go out. As I let the dogs outside, into the fenced in back yard, I asked them if they'd seen Jumper.
Earlier this week I had another dream about dogs. This dream was much more disturbing to me although it was hardly a nightmare. The bad feeling I had after this morning's dream quickly faded and, though it was eerie, it was replaced by a good feeling about the visit with Jumper. Still, I am left in a melancholy mood as I contemplate the meaning of these dreams.
In this other dream I was in a room with people, some I knew from years past, and there was another dog with me. This new dog appeared to be a brown bulldog, medium sized like my others. This dog was super friendly, as all my dogs have been, and was sitting on the couch beside me in this crowded room. My dogs are not usually allowed on the furniture. There was a man there that I had worked with on occasion and I remember telling him that I'd gotten this dog when Buddy passed away.
I also told the man that Buddy passed away when he was 12 years old. After talking with him I took the new dog and went outside, where Joan was waiting. I didn't see Nightingale in the dream but sensed that she was around.
That dream was so disturbing to me that I still get a bad feeling about it. You see, Buddy is 12 years old right now. Joan is no longer here with the dogs and me, although we all get together fairly often for picnics and such. I know I am dreaming about the past when Joan is in my dreams, especially when I'm in the country with all the dogs. My fear is that I am dreaming of the future also with premonitions of more of the dogs passing.
I'm sure these dreams have an origin in my anxiety about my dogs, especially Buddy, growing old. For years I've had nightmares about something happening to him. When we lived in the country there were many close calls, often involving cars on the winding, country lane, that would send chills down my spine. We built a fence and usually kept the dogs in it when we were not walking but sometimes they would get out and run free.
I have to admit to also letting them out to run free sometimes, as a car passing on the road in front of the house was only an occasional thing. There were other dangers nearby but I didn't always worry about them when the dogs gave me that look that said "I need to run free for awhile."
A two lane highway where a car would zip by every minute or two was not far away. Danger lurked in the fields and woods behind the house. We always feared other animals that could be a threat to our precious pets, like wild dogs, but never saw anything like that out there. Deer, groundhogs, rabbits, mice, rats, ducks, geese, feral cats and squirrels were among the abundant wildlife in our little area but these animals were not as much a threat to our dogs as the dogs were to them.
Once I ran into the woods following the yelps of my Buddy, obviously in distress. I found him with his right front paw caught in a small, leg hold animal trap. I was so afraid he'd broken his leg but when I freed him he ran home. Buddy was always getting into some mischief when we lived in the country.
Jumper is now back in those meadows and fields, Running Again. I know this and I know that is where Buddy will return when he eventually leaves. He is in great health, we walk a couple of miles a day and the vet says he should have some good years ahead of him. I'm looking forward to a lot more time with my Buddy. Since the first day he showed up at our trailer, hot and panting from running on a summer's day, he has been in my heart.
For the first couple of weeks he stayed with us he slept on the porch and I picked ticks off of him. He was half wild but over time allowed me to get close. Buddy still can't picked up without a fight, a big one, but he has become domesticated along the way. He's even been citified in the last few years since we moved from the country into town. The name Buddy means friend and he is my best friend. Nightingale is my love dog and my girl.
So yes, in my dreams I sometimes miss Joan, miss Jumper, miss living in the country. I don't miss the way I used to feel or that I used to have to get numb, when not working, to cope with the strange discomfort within me. Now that I can be myself life is much, much better, I will have to admit. But there was some good in my past and I've always had a good heart. It brought me these wonderful animals and a relationship or two that, although they changed dramatically, helped make my life complete.
I've always picked up strays, as my mother tells it. Buddy and Nightingale were strays, appearing out of the blue and needing loving homes. Joan, I believe, was a stray also but in a way perhaps it was I that was the stray. Either way you look at it, I took the part of providing care and a warm home to all of my strays. That is sort of what my parents did to me when they adopted me. Giving a home to a stray always seems to work out wonderfully, in my life.
Joan is still being taken care of, even though she isn't in my home anymore. I have to believe that. We saw each other a couple days ago and we reminisced about the time we spent in the country. A simpler time when the dogs, and a need to not be alone, were the things that brought us together. She talks now of wanting to get another trailer in the country. This time she would be living alone and, while I feel badly about that, it's the way it has to be.
Still, I am going to keep an eye on her, make sure she is taken care of. Others in my life will have to just understand that. I don't abandon people and I don't abandon my dogs. She will be moving back to my town soon, to a small apartment not to a country trailer. We will be able to take walks together in the park with the dogs.
I am thinking that we all have a place in life. We all end up where we are for a reason. Whether we have found it yet or not, we all have a home out there waiting for us. Somewhere in a peaceful,rolling, green meadow there is home that will be there forever. It is quiet, beautiful and it is a place for all dogs.