Sweet is the dream, divinely sweet, when absent souls in fancy meet.
-Sir Thomas Moore
I had a dream last night. Most likely sparked by a friend who spoke of a dream he had of his dog who had died last year. I felt a twinge of envy at his dreaming fortune. I used to have a rich dream life; now my dreams are sparse, vague, and melt into fog sooner than my head leaves its pillow.
But this morning I woke with a dream enveloping me, wrapping me in baby blanket clouds of comfort. I was holding Gracious, my first whippet, who died in 2004 at age thirteen.
In life Gracious was a strong spirit. She communicated with my dogdumb disadvantaged self with a shattering eloquence. I knew when Gracious was pleased with me, disappointed in me, when her life was good. She was not called Her Royal Highness for naught.
Not that she couldn't be silly. She could do "woozles" with the best of them. Butt high in the air, head poking, retreating, snaking at a squeak toy, then she would grab the toy, spin in dizzying, repetitive circles and then take off in butt tucked zoomies only to throw the toy, pounce on it, and start the game again. And then she would look at me, eyes afire with fun, and wag her joy my way. And in its purity, in its honesty, that joy was infectious. A person who could resist the spell of Gracious's joy was, well, this will sound judgemental, but a human who was not affected by Gracious's generosity of spirit was, quite simply, unworthy. Undeserving. Pitiable in their selfishness.
Gracious had the best memory of any dog - or human for that matter - I've ever encountered. I nearly lost her at a dog event when she saw a person she had lived with for a few weeks back when she was eleven weeks old. She was a yearling at the time, and she saw her old friend and bolted to greet her. She hadn't seen her for nine months, and had lived with her as a three month old puppy for a couple of weeks, but she was a Special Person to Gracious for her entire life. And I learned to hold on to Gracious's lead extra tight whenever we were somewhere that Lesley might be.
I got Gracious when she was six months old. I was her fifth home. After she had been with me for three months, I went to see a faraway friend for a week. When I returned, Gracious was nearly bald. Her hair had fallen out. I promised her I wouldn't leave her again. And I didn't.
And then there was Linda. All of my dogs adore Linda. Well, so do I! Gracious bestowed the highest honor to Linda: she gave my dearest friend her one and only puppy, Willow. And there was absolutely no question of her gift, or of her pleasure and satisfaction at Linda's acceptance.
And there came reunions of the highest order! Throughout Willow's life, at least once a week Linda would drive the hour to our farm to visit and walk, and Gracious and Willow would revel in the fantasticness of their reunification. Gracious would greet her daughter, and thank Linda and share her glee and light would shine in our small kitchen and we would every one benefit. It was a delicious contagion; a warm smile erupts as I remember.
But my dream this morning was of the quiet times with Her Highness. In life, when Gracious curled next to me, that is, when it was her idea and I was deemed deserving, she shared her deepest heart. Those of us who have completely loved an animal know this sharing. If you haven't experienced this, if your dog is tied to a tree out back, I could write a million words, yet you would not understand, and I am sorry for you. And it was this, exactly this, in my dream.
I held her in my sleep as I had held her for thirteen years. There is nothing quite so soft as a whippet's ear. Dreaming, I absently nuzzled her ear with my fingers. I felt the warmth of her body in my arms. I felt her breathing. It was so very real. I shared her heartbeat again. I embraced her spirit, and I loved her. Finally. Again.
I woke with a feeling of that contagious joy. I had tears, but they were tears of great good fortune. It was a good dream.
Gracious at age twelve, candid photo by Steve Surfman