I've always loved watching my dogs sleep. The way their little feet wiggle about as if they're galloping along. The little barking noises they make, the growls with teeth showing. My first dog Schaefer used to howl in his sleep. The first time he did it, it was the middle of the night and I was sleeping too. I almost hit the ceiling! He would sleep on the bed with us or in his doggie bed, which was right next to me, so I could reach down, and pet him when he was having one of his doggie dreams.
Schaefer was a happy and glorious golden Cocker Spaniel. He was amazing around young children, so careful, and patient. One of my friends had this beastly little boy, when-ever the beastie boy was around I had to watch carefully to make sure he wasn't digging all the kitty litter out of the cat box or other equally naughty things; like torturing my dog. As I was talking with his parents, I noticed that my Schaefer and the beastie boy had disappeared. I ran into the other room to find the child trying to pull my poor Schaefer up by his ears. Not a snarl or a nip came from Schaefer, just a look of 'Help!" I sure felt like biting that kid! Where were the parents you may ask, they where there in body but not in brain, just living out in La-La land. For the rest of the visit I kept Schaefer on my lap while fending off that little beastie boy. The parents thought it was sooo cute, thank god they didn't visit much.
Schaefer loved balloons, he would play with them without ever breaking them, it was amazing. Which reminds me of our last trip together out to Montauk on my birthday. It was a beautiful mid April morning, the morning sun was warm and the wind had let up from the stormy night before, so we headed off down to the beach. I love that beach in the springtime. You pretty much have it all to yourself, except perhaps the lone fisherman casting his lures out into the waves. While we were enjoying an incredibly beautiful morning on the beach, he found a whole bunch of balloons tied together, and they all said Happy Birthday on them. I could tell he was so happy as he came running up to me with the balloons flying around behind him, he had the mass of string that tied them all together in his mouth. Truly a major score for him! And what a sight it was for me, and it was so funny I couldn't stop laughing as I helped him get up the cliff with the balloons and bring them back to the house to show everybody. It was as though the beach and my dog had conspired together to give me a birthday surprise. I had never known a Dog could bring such magic into a person's life.
As a child I had always wanted a dog, what I got was a turtle. Every time I asked for a dog, mom got me another one of those tiny baby turtles. I had a lot of turtles. Mom knew that having a dog was lots of work and that she would be the one doing most of it, so she always said to me, "When you have your own place then you can get a dog, meanwhile you can play with the neighbors dogs, except for the mangy collie across the street." I loved that mangy Collie, I would go sit by the fence and keep him company, his owners just seemed to ignore him, it was very sad.
My husband restores cars out of his barn, and people come and go all the time. Schaefer loved everyone, I'm sure he'd even love a burglar. I remember the day a couple with a small boy showed up, but the little boy wouldn't get out of the car. They said he was completely terrified of dogs, him and his mom where attacked while he was a baby in a stroller. Since then if there was a dog anywhere in sight he became really frightened and wouldn't get out of the car. So he would sit in the car and watch Schaefer and I play. I would have Schaefer do some tricks for him at a distance from the car.
One day, the boy got out of the car and carefully came over. I held Schaefer, while the boy approached. I told him it was good to be careful around dogs you don't know, but that my dog loved kids and would never hurt him. So he got close enough to carefully reach out and pet Schaefer, while asking questions about dogs. Meanwhile his parents suddenly noticed that he was out of the car and petting my dog. The mother almost started crying, his fear of dogs had been such a terrible problem for them, she was so happy to see him do this.
After that every time he came by with his parents he would ask to play with Schaefer.
I remember they came by a couple of weeks after Schaefer had died. He was asking where's Schaefer. Oh I hated to tell him, the look on his little face, it was just how my heart felt. It was a terrible dark time for me. But you know an awful lot of people loved that dog, I was very surprised when people even sent me heart felt condolence notes.
What happened was a tragic mistake. One day late in September, unknown to me at the time, an accidental mix of a pesticide and a herbicide was applied to the property to kill the Dandelions. A week or so later Schaefer started acting kind of funny, but then again I had just started working full time so I thought he was upset with me. Still I called the Veterinarian, because his poops where lose, and he's thrown up a couple of times. He also peed on his bed, he's never done that before, I thought it was just an accident. The veterinarian suggested maybe he has worms, so I had them check a stool sample. Nope, not worms. Then one rainy morning I noticed him licking something off the dandelions and he wouldn't come when I called, I had to actually go get him and I saw it was some kind of oily stuff. I had to drag him away from it; he was attracted to the taste apparently. When I got him inside he was acting like he was high and then like his stomach was bothering him. I suddenly realized that licking the dandelions was what was making him sick! So I went out and dug up every Dandelion I could find and the ground around them. I looked like a lunatic out there in the rain ripping up the ground and swearing to the heavens. He seemed to get better after that so I figured he was OK. But I was so stupid by not taking him to the Veterinarian right away. I didn't know any thing about the signs and symptoms of poisoning, or even how deadly it could be. Then about two weeks later he suddenly got really sick, that's when I took him to my Veterinarian and they admitted him over night. I had left him there thinking to myself "he'll be Ok now, they'll fix him up." We had never spent the night apart since I had gotten him 8 years before.
That night I had a wonderful dream of him. We where walking along this beautiful path by the ocean, on the other side of the path was a pristine meadow with green grass and tree's, it was very heavenly. He was all healthy again and we were happily walking long side by side, when two angels approached us. I knew they where angels, even though they where in regular cloths. They said it was time for him to go with them, I said yes, as if I knew he would be leaving me and it was all right because now he belonged with them. I watched my Schaefer travel off with them away across the meadow. In my dream it seemed right. But when I woke up that morning, I remembered the dream and my heart sank.
I called my Veterinarian as soon as I could. First thing she said to me was "Well..." I knew right then what that meant. I got over there fast as I could and she gave me the details. The poison had destroyed his internal organs, and there was nothing that could be done to save him. The only merciful thing to do was to put him to sleep because he was in a lot of pain at that point. So they brought him into the room for me to say good-bye, he hung limp in the arms of the nurse. I remember when he saw me, the look in his eyes and the little wag of his tail. He was so happy to see me. I felt my heart breaking apart inside. And now I wanted to hold him while my Veterinarian put him to sleep. I remember him just kind of falling over against me. And it felt like part of him fell into me, it was strange, but maybe in that moment his spirit joined with mine.
That first night I couldn't sleep at all, I just listened to the clock ticking away all night. The following day we had gone out to Montauk, that night I fell asleep and Schaefer came to me in my dream. I knew he was dead, but I was so happy to see him. He looked so healthy, and I begged his forgiveness for all my stupidity and the dumb things I did. He seemed surprised. He told me that there was nothing I needed to be forgiven for. I was shocked at that kind of unconditional love that I felt coming out of him. He gave me insight from a dog's point of view. He just wanted to know what happened, and I explained the whole poison thing to him. Then I asked him what was it like the moment he died? And then he showed me, I suddenly felt like I was whisked up into this incredible bright light! It was such a wonderful and amazing sensation I can't even begin to describe it. I woke up right after that, I wished I could have stayed with my Schaefer a little longer. But it was an amazing gift just to feel that communication. It was one of those dreams you just don't forget.
Later that day I went for a walk on the beach with my Husband. It was a cold November day and the wind was blowing quiet strong. Strangely enough a whole bunch of black and orange balloons came blowing down the beach, swirling all around us. It was as the beach itself was grieving with me, as the balloons swirled up into the air and out to sea.
The following year those darn dandelions came up again, but they were all twisted and mutated. The Landlord promised that there would be no more spraying of poisons on the property. So every year since then I've dug up all the dandelions by hand, a ritual to honor my beloved Schaefer, and to keep safe the ones I love now.