Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Animal House

I had another one of my bizarro dreams the other night and I still can't get it out of my mind.

In the dream, I see my late mother sitting at the kitchen table in our home. I see her in profile and we exchange some words, but I can't remember what they were.

She nods toward the hallway and I see the spirits of our various pets who have gone on to their reward. Now, it's not the actual pets--Casey, Schnapps, or Phoebe--but somehow I just know it's them.

The animals are fighting amongst themselves and bouncing all over the hallway. I have one distinct image of a mulitcolored lamp from my childhood being tugged by some unseen force. As I watch, a cat becomes visible pulling on the lamp with its teeth.

I start talking to the spirits. I am very upset, close to tears, and I tell them that we loved them all very much when they were alive, but we really need them to get along in the after-life.

I don't remember much after that, which is probably just as well as the little I do recall has got me spinning in circles.

I thought about it later and I decided that when I was telling the animal spirits that I loved them, I was really talking to my mother, telling her that I loved her. My mom has been gone for nearly five years now and I don't think I've ever dreamed about her--or if I did I can't remember it.

As for the appearance of the pets, I'm a little uncertain. I went to a party earlier that night where I saw people I hadn't seen in years, so perhaps that was the spark for the return of the long-deceased animals. But I don't think they represented people from the party.

I'm wondering if the pets were a stand-in for my actual family, and I was asking my relatives to get along. We can be a pretty fractious bunch, but I don't think we're different from most families.

I also feel guilty about how I used to yell at Casey, a dog we had when I was in college and who died on Easter morning when I was working at the Pocono Record.

I was--still am--a very angry person and I took a lot of my problems out on Casey. He was wild and undisciplined, but that was no excuse for the way I behaved. I was flat out mean to him on many occassions and I deeply regret it.

A Friend Indeed

We had fun together, too. I remember during one of my many bouts of unemployment when I used to walk him every afternoon. He always used to come to me first to take him out and one day I decided I would beat him to the punch.

So I closed the door to my bedroom, put on coat and hat and opened the door--and there was Casey looking at me, ready to go.

My mother loved Casey so dearly. She thought she could never love another pet after we lost our other dog, Schnapps, but Casey proved her wrong. She grew so attached to him and I hate myself when I think of how I used to yell at him; I see now that I was hurting her, too.

I have no excuses for my behavior, other than to say I was going through a very bad time both physically and emotionally, which is pretty lame as I think of it. You should rise above your problems, not sink into rage. It's the coward's way.

My father always warned me that the trouble with dogs is that you get so attached to them and then they're gone. The energetic puppy bouncing off the walls suddenly becomes the arthritic old hound in no time at all.

I remember when Casey became so old I would come home and instead of getting up and jumping all over me, he was just lay on his side and thump his tale on the floor.

His back was giving out and we were encouraging my mother to have him put down, something she would not even think about.

"I'm not going to murder my dog," she'd say with great emotion.

Thank God she didn't have to. On Easter Sunday my father went out to the porch and found Casey had died during the night. He quietly bought my mother out and I will never forget the strangled sob she made when she looked down on her beloved pet.

We had Casey cremated and planned to bury him at my aunt's farmhouse in the Berkshires, but we never got around to it. However, when my mother died--another case of losing someone much too soon--we put Casey's ashes in her casket and I like the idea of them being together for all eternity.

In one of my favorite movies, The Thief of Bagdad, a blind man says of his dog that "he is like all dogs--he gives more than he ever gets in return." And that is so true of Casey.

So Casey, please forgive me for the way I acted, and take good care of my mom. No one could do a better job.


Calamity Jen said...

You brought tears to my eyes, Rob.

I'm sitting here next to Ferris. He's only 1 1/2 years old, but he is a short-lived breed. I can't imagine being without him.

As for losing my parents, I can't even bear to think about it.

Rob K said...

Yes, it's painful, but I guess we have to thankful for whatever time we have with the ones we love.

And don't think about losing your folks. Enjoy what you have right now.