I had an odd dream last night. Doubtless it was more jumbled and confused than most dreams, mainly because I have slept so little of late, my mind was attempting to cram in all it could in this rare bit of R.E.M. sleep. But I want to share with you the very best part of that pastiche of a dream.
Elvira was our dog. In many ways, I guess you could say that she still is, although she has been dead for a few years now. Our current “Wonder Dog,” Princess, is not treasured any less than Elvira, just differently, and for different reasons.
Elvira was a foundling pup, just barely 6 weeks old when she came to us. The elderly couple who had found her had cared for her for about two weeks before that – she had been discovered, shivering and whimpering in the bushes beside their house after a thunderstorm one evening. She had been either lost or abandoned, but once the couple found her, she never looked back. The Vet that we took Elvira to when we took over her care – (we kept the name “Elvira” that the couple had given her) – told us that she had not had enough time with her mother, and that we would likely have to teach her how to be a dog.
On the contrary, Elvira taught us how to be more human, more loving, and showed us what a shepherd is. She was evidently, as near as we and the Vet could determine, a mixture of Shetland Sheep Dog – possessing the lovely “feathers” of a Sheltie – and a German Shepherd, as she had all the coloring and markings of that breed. She was in size about half-way between the two standards. First and foremost, she was a shepherd, through and through.
She became a part of our family near the beginning of the more serious and critical parts of my illness. Elvira, from the moment she joined us, took it upon herself to watch over me. And watch over me, she did. Almost all the time, wherever I was, Elvira was. As I walked down the halls of the different homes in which we lived while Elvira was with us, she stayed near and shepherded me to make sure I made my way safely. She slept by my side on our bed, or she slept on the floor by my side of the bed. She came to us because our sons wanted a dog, and we decided it was time. The boys loved her, as we all did, and she loved all of us, but I was not merely one of her family, I was her “job.”
The dream I had involved ghosts, my mother, and Elvira. What I remember is that it was nighttime, and I was in bed, alone, except for Elvira, who was stretched out, lying directly by my side. I suddenly heard, coming from downstairs, the sound of our piano being pounded upon – just random notes – as a child might play, and it startled me. I felt that it must be ghosts (our recent experiences with a ghost undoubtedly added to this mind-creation!), and while I was somewhat scared, I was not terrified – more curious – but unwilling to get out of bed to investigate.
Elvira was instantly aware of the noise coming from downstairs, but she did not seem upset by it. Normally she gave some sharp barks when she heard an intruder, and was on the alert – either staying with me in all-out protective mode, or racing to interrupt any intruder she might detect. In this dream she was not at all disturbed. She merely jumped off the bed and apparently went downstairs to inspect.
While she was gone, I got out of bed and crossed the hall to my mother’s room, where she was in bed, but not asleep. I asked her, “Did you hear that noise from downstairs? Is it ghosts?” She raised her head a bit to look at me and smiled, and said, “It could be. But everything’s OK. Don’t worry about it, just go back to bed.” So I did.
I remember lying there for quite a while, wondering where Elvira was. I wanted to feel her near me again, feel her warmth and protection. After what seemed like an eternity, I felt her jump up on the bed, and with a “chuffing” sound she often made after finishing up a chore, she stretched out against my side once again. I reached down with my left hand and arm, and caressed her face, her head, rubbed her neck, and ran my fingers through the soft hair on her back and sides. It felt so good, so perfect. Everything felt right, for the first time in a long time.
I awoke this morning still caressing her; I could still feel her next to me, the weight of her body against my side. And the feeling of her hair still tangled in my fingers. And I wept. I wept – with remembrance, with grief at her loss, with joy for her visit with me, with the chance to feel her by me once again. I will hold on to this dream-memory as long as I can. She was a member of our family for almost 17 years. She was a treasured and steadfast friend and companion. I loved her, love her still, and I will never, ever forget her. I am weeping as I write, but I am smiling, too. God blessed us with Elvira. She was the embodiment of the abundance of enough. . .