When you live in a house of stress and chaos, your sleep patterns go into survival mode. You may not sleep at all. Or, your sleep may be very light as you're always listening for the next shoe to drop. Your dreams may be extremely sparse or come in vividness with disturbing images as your brain tries to offload the tension in your body.
In the past week, I have had some nice dreams--two of which involved Wakiki Beach in Hawaii. But, my dream the night before last was amazingly poignant and so real that I've been thinking about it ever since.
My first mother-in-law loves her dogs. She is a wonderful dog person and I imagine there are humans in this world who have envied her dogs over the years. She has always impressed me because although she completely has dogs as a part of her family, she still lets them be DOGS. She expects them to shed. And get dirty. And go through the trash once in awhile. And bark. And need to go to the vet. Her dogs are big and they have marvelous personalities--no teeny dogs in purses for her.
We had a wonderful conversation when we spent the afternoon together in Savannah at the end of October. We were speaking about our pets and we both expressed our thoughts on my golden retriever, Annie, being 9. That is a meaningful age in that breed and Henry is right on Annie's heels. I said something about how I still miss Oscar the WonderMutt every day. She said that one of her friends comforted her after one of her dog's passings by saying, 'Your pets always return to you.' That eventually, you will have a pet with enough personality traits of a previous one that it feels like you have your friend back again.
I laughed and said that I had not found another Oscar and I just didn't believe it would be possible.
I didn't really think about the conversation again.
Not so coincidentally, my first mother-in-law (who is also a voracious reader and wonderful writer) had given me this book for Christmas a last year or so.
This book had me thinking about Oscar again and what my first MIL had said about your pets returning to you. I found myself longing for a day when Oscar would return to me.
Then, I went to sleep.
I had a wonderful dream in which I realized that 1) I have put Oscar on a pedastal; 2) the older my Henry grows, the more like Oscar he becomes and 3) Henry and I have rekindled our relationship since my youngest went to her new home. No doubt about it, the child made Henry nervous--he has a good read on people and he knows when you have ulterior motives. Annie, on the other hand, knew something was wrong, but her mothering instinct took over and she tried to hover around the youngest at all times.
In the book, Enzo is a dog who narrates the story. He laments often that his communication is gestures only; it's all he has and he uses them.
In my dream, that was the main theme. That dogs have gestures to communicate with you and it's special when they seem to know what they are doing. Oscar was the king of these gestures. He would make a noise similar to a sneeze when he vehemently agreed with whatever you asked him. He also knew the sound of my car (without even needing to hear a garage door open to know I was home) and would greet me every day when I came home. He loved to rest his head on my lap. He loved his treats. He loved his bones. He loved to ride in the front seat of my car & would very often try to sit in the driver's seat before I could get in myself.
As I was dreaming, I realized that Henry shares many of these similarities to Oscar. And, when I tried to contradict the connections by saying how stubborn Henry is and how much of a horse's patoot he could be, I literally saw instances of Oscar throughout his early life with me where he was similarly patootish (he dragged a piece of lingerie into the living room in front of my to-be mother-in-law [the dog lover] when she visited our first apartment) and stubborn (he would sit down when he tired on a walk and REFUSED to move--I once had to go home, get a baby stroller and go retrieve him.
Henry has always been a mellow, yet stubborn, boy. Part of that, I know, is because Henry has had to be in charge when my husband is away--he tries to step into the alpha role when my husband is gone. But, much like Oscar, when I am in a good place, in control of myself and my emotions and able to be the dog mom I enjoy being, all is right with the world and it becomes, "Dad who? We have a dad? I LOVE my MOM." Which I much prefer, frankly.
I am so glad I realized this now. Henry is 8. He's a larger dog than Oscar. He's a lab rather than a shepherd mix and we have things we may look forward to like hip and joint issues or even the C word. It is a gift that I had this dream now, before it's too late to appreciate having my sweet boy in my midst with many wonderful qualities I enjoyed in my Bubba Boy, Oscar.
Oscar and Henry both stand as proof to me that it is wholly possible for another creature who had no one in this world to find a group of someones and claim them as his own. That they will love and accept love from ones who had been strangers. That they will cling to, accept, trust , celebrate happy times and mourn the losses.
I'm so thankful for the gift of these canines and that I have a chance to make up for lost time. When the girls were tiny, when my husband was deployed, when we went through my husband's health crisis and the failed adoption, I have had major moments where I've not been able to be a good pet owner. However, I now think that I'm much more aware of how wonderful it is to understand that they react to our energy and be more cognizant of how hard these stresses are on them.
They have been very patient and forgiving with me and I'm very grateful for that and for the dream.