Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Truth or Scare

Have you ever had a dream so vivid and realistic, that when you woke up you were convinced it was real? I have a lot (and I mean A LOT!) of dreams like that. And usually they are about random things, like being in love with someone I barely knew from high-school, or being angry with my mom over something stupid. Indeed, they are so real that I often spend the next day contemplating what they meant and if they truly have any significance. And then dwelling on their content usually ensures a repeat dream that following night. It becomes a very hard pattern to break.

Usually, though, these dreams are obviously harmless enough. They usually just inspire hours of day dreaming and contemplation. But sometimes, the dreams aren't dreams. Sometimes these all to real nightly visions are bad; they are the nightmares.

For a lot of people, nightmares involve you in a scary situation; sometimes accompanied by the ones you love (which makes the nightmares all the more scary!) A lot of people report nightmares of being chased by someone, or being in a situation where the lives of you, and your loved ones along for the ride, are in mortal peril. For me, these are all true. But the loved ones who I'm usually accompanied by, are my dogs.

Of course I dream about other people (friends and family) in them too, but my girls always make a regular appearance. They are usually in the fight or flight scenario too, which makes these nightmares all the more scary. In a lot of the nightmares, we are either being chased, or trying to escape something (like a tornado). They are always off leash, and I always find myself having a hard time getting them to come with me and to then stay by me as we run away. They usually dawdle, or move too slowly...or sometimes they are paralyzed by fear. I always snap awake just when something really terrible is about to happen, and grope in the dark for their furry bodies. I find them (of course) and breathe a huge sigh of relief. Feeling Shelby's warm weight as she rests against my legs, and Heidi's naked pink belly (as she sleeps upside down on my other pillow) always brings me out of the nightmare induced shock and panic and back to reality.

My nightmares lately, however, have grown into more specific visions that directly endanger their lives; versus endangering all of our lives for example.

Last week I woke up from a nightmare so vivid, that if I think about them, I can still see the images as clear as day; as if they had been permanently burned into my memory. Even though the odds of you all thinking I am completely insane for dreaming this (not to mention now typing it for the world to see) are pretty high, this is the dream: Shelby was flying a jet. Yes, that's right. FLYING A JET. We were out in the back yard of my old house and she saw birds in the sky. (She LOVES chasing anything up there...sparrows, planes, clouds...the MOON...) The next thing I know, she is in a jet chasing the birds through the sky. I of course was frantic. Not because I was thinking how my dog couldn't possibly fly the plane correctly, or hold the stick because of a lack of opposable thumbs, but because I was afraid she was going to crash. So the next thing I know my mom and I are running through the streets of some city (Boston?) looking for a building large enough that I can stand on the roof and flag her down. I ended up trying to run up the ramp of a parking garage trying to get to the roof when I saw a plane collide with something in the air. Although it was another plane, I undoubtedly knew Shelby's was next. She then ended up crashing, and I found a fireman running down towards me with her in his arms; charred, wet and shaking. I screamed and went to grab her. That's when I woke up.

The next one I had was about Heidi. This one was more real to me, as the circumstances in the dream were ones that could in fact, happen. (Although I know Shelby is smart enough to fly a plane, I doubt anyone would grant her access to a cock-pit.) I dreamt that I found Heidi on my bed, and her eyes were rolling back and she was unable to stand. She kept falling over, as if she were drunk. I yelled for my mom and said that I was bringing her into work (our 24 hour facility) to have her looked at. The doctor who saw her was a man, but isn't an actual doctor that I work with (yeah, I have no idea where this guy came from). He took her out back, and they put her in oxygen as she wasn't breathing properly. They then said that they needed to tube her to assist in her breathing, and showed me pictures of some scan (a ct? glorified x-ray?) that showed that she had a blockage in one of her veins in her liver. They needed to do surgery, but she would be OK. That's when I woke up.

I think this second one was brought on by the fact that I had brought both girls in that day to work and had them get their annual physical and had had blood work done. I was nervous about their results because it had been so long since the last time they had had any done (Sept '08). I usually try to do it every 6 months (because they are on raw, and I am a hypochondriac so I think f they are going to get something, at least I can catch it early) and I had only waited because money was so tight due to my short leave from work earlier this year. I felt like a TERRIBLE mother, so as soon as I did have a little money, this was the first thing taken care of. (Yes, my sneakers still have holes in them...)

The reality of the situation is that their blood work actually looks good. Some of their stuff was a bit off, but I also normally fast them before having it drawn and this time I had fed them breakfast. The numbers weren't off so much that their doctor was concerned, so I figure I'll stick to my same routine and have it done again in December. Of course if anything comes up with them between now and then, we will recheck it, and compare it as we now have a baseline.

So as I wonder about my own dreams, I also wonder about theirs too. I think they must have the ability to have clear, vivid dreams as we do, they remember them? Do they seem so real that the line between dream and reality sometimes get blurred? Do they spend hours after waking up wondering what all of those crazy sleep-induced images meant? (I don't think so, as they are often role models for the ability to live in the present.) After reading a lot of Patricia McConnells work, I share her belief that our dogs (and many other animals) do share our emotions, both primary (fear, joy/happiness, anger, etc.) and secondary (jealousy, etc.). But I wonder if their emotions, like ours, affect their dream-lives as well. I wonder if their night visions are permeated by smells and sounds rather than visual images. I don't think anyone out there can argue that dogs don't dream. Anyone who lives with dogs have witnessed first hand their somewhat active sleep habits: thrashing limbs, twitching whiskers and noses and whines and growls. Who knows whether they are having an enjoyable dream of chasing squirrels, or a terrifying nightmare where their lives (and their loved ones too?) are in danger.

But although I may never know what my girls are dreaming about, or how those dreams affect them, I can rest assured that they are happy and healthy; and knowing that helps me sleep better too. Even when the nightmares come, I awake knowing that they were just "scary dreams" and the truth is my girls are still by my side; usually sleeping peacefully.


  1. Love the sheltie dreaming photos today! Your Heidi reminds me so much of my Ginger whom we lost May 18 at 12 1/2 years old. Your dogs are beautiful and, as all shelties, fun!

  2. Great sleeping photos!

    Glad to hear your babies' bloodwork came back OK.

    Anyone who doesn't believe dogs have emotions/dreams must not have a dog!

  3. I love laying in bed in the morning remembering my dreams. Many have come true in a wonderful way. It's even better to change a bad dream from a good one ~ getting your power back! I'll check out your blog again. Thank you!
    Diana & the Entais Collies