Last night my dog Buddy came to me in a dream the way sometimes dearly departed souls visit you when you least expect it and the experience is so visceral, so deep that it both hurts and heals.
I was in the country with a friend checking out a farm for sale. I exited one of the many tattered barns and as I came around the bend Buddy was just standing there. He appeared as a hologram floating in the mist, in the fog.
It had been 7 years since we last were together. I thought of him every day and while most of the thoughts were happy and provided me with wonderful memories of our life together; there were always those waves that washed over me at night - a tide burying me somewhere in the sand.
But now he stood in front of me and the hologram transitioned into all of Buddy and his beauty - just the way I remembered him -- healthy, handsome and goofy of course.
Buddy was quite a character. He was my birthday present when I turned 30 ( a Flat Coat Retriever we adopted from a shelter) and shortly thereafter I received a diagnosis that rocked my world. I was sick for years and Buddy was right there with me all the way.
He didn't care that I lost all sorts of weight, suffered from terrible migraines that left me half blind and bedridden. He didn't care that my hair was falling out or I was depressed and barely able to find the energy to go for a walk.
He stuck by me and as I grew better he joined me and his dad on camping trips and hiking all sorts of trails on the Eastern coast. We brought him everywhere with us so he had a solid understanding of people and how they interact and the ways of the world. But like most dogs he had his wild and uninhibited side. He chased a family of skunks into their den and well let's just say they all partook in his communal shower. He got us kicked out of a campground because he decided it would be a good idea to visit each and every site/trailer to say hello and see if the hosts might offer him a hot dog or even better a steak. He ran onto a lake that was thinly covered in ice, fell through and started swimming away from the shore (I snaked out on the ice and rescued him but we both came close to dying).
He opened a knife drawer, took out all the knives - somehow did not cut himself and then he ate an entire Challah (bread), knocked wine on the floor to wash it all down (hiccups included). The one time we left him at daycare with no choice - he managed to jump a 6 foot wall and ran all the way home (20 minutes away crossing major intersections). He ate everything and anything - there were socks and underwear coming out of him like a washer/dryer. He farted so bad you had to clear the room and not come back for 30 minutes (and he smiled with pride each time).
But mostly he was a wonderful, warm companion and my son.
One night at the age of 13, in the middle of the night after a great day of swimming in the lake and running in the woods - he collapsed from a massive stroke - no warning, no chance to say a real goodbye (whatever that is ) and he was gone. I remember not wanting to leave him and that given he had not deteriorated from Cancer or some other disease, his beautiful face, glistening coat - were still in tact. The light had left his eyes but his soul had departed to a far better place.
I went through the same process as everyone - wondering if he knew how much I loved him and wishing I had said thank you more - thank you for enriching my life the way only a dog can.
In the dream - he came to me and we hugged - I held him as close as I could never wanting to let go but he was being summoned and I could hear the calls like a whisper in the wind.
He told me he was in a safe and happy place with other dogs. They all watched out for one another and they played and shared their peanut butter/cheese/cookie Kongs.
He told me he loved me and missed me as much as I did him and that although it was rare for him to be able to penetrate the wall between our world and his beautiful place of peace; he was able to do so for fractions of a second from time to time.
Then he walked away and vanished into the white, into the blue, into a place I have never been.
Maybe forever but I hope not because forever is far too long.
Dogs are a gift. They are only with us for a short time but in that period they teach us what it really means to love and to be in the moment. They make us better people.
Bless you Buddy.
And to my readers everywhere - Bless the precious souls you have lost. I hope they visit you in your dreams if even for a second.
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