Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Dream of Dogs

Last night I had a strange dream, in that while it was a nightmare, it wasn't as bad as they usually are.

The dream took place in the house where I grew up in Spring City, which is a very frequent location for my nightmares.

House where I grew up, 1987

There had been a big family dinner or something and all my aunts and uncles from my dad's side were there (but none of my cousins.)  They'd all left except one of them, whom I will just say is the only one I don't get along with.  There were piles of dirty dishes everywhere, and the only food left was partially eaten broiled flounder.  For those that don't know, seafood and I don't get along either.  I hadn't eaten at all, and I was responsible for washing ALL of the dishes and cleaning up the place while the adults sat in the living room, smoked and drank beer.  Never mind that my mum does neither anymore.

Ok, so far, this was familiar ground.

And like usual, I kept shifting back and forth from the little boy I was to my current female self.  Now, my parents had a dishwasher in the 70s, but they rarely used it, as it was LOUD.  So I had to wash them by hand.  This would take hours, as there were literally dozens of plates, serving vessels, and a forest of cutlery.  It all smelled of broiled fish.  The sink was small, so I knew I'd have to wash, dry, refill the sink, wash, dry, ad-infinitem.  Again, this is a common nightmare.  Usually this nightmare includes my older brother, usually as a teen, laughing and throwing things at me, and/or dropping dishes and blaming it on me.  Not assisting of course.  Dishes are "women's work" even though whenever he says this, I'm a young boy.

But not this time.  In fact, in last night's dream, he wasn't around at all.

So, I'm scrubbing, sweating, getting fish down my cleavage (I don't know how either) when the dream takes a turn: a small German shepherd mutt enters the room.  It's Rusty, my grandfather's dog (both died in the 80s.)  Rusty was a small mutt of some kind, and didn't much like me.  However, he was wagging his tail and wanting attention.  So I dried my hands, and squatted down to pet him.  I wasn't surprised to see him, even though I knew he was long gone.

As I petted him, my dog Nittany (died in 2016) walked into the kitchen and we did our usual greeting ritual where she snaked over onto her back and I scratched her tummy. It's really hard to describe. Nittany was neither young or old- kinda in between.  She was glad to see me, and when she righted herself to her feet, she gave her standard big sneeze.

Nittany getting a tummy rub

There I was with Nittany and Rusty, when I saw another German Shepherd walk by.  I stood and walked into that room, and saw Sheba.  Sheba was one of the dogs from when I was growing up.  I think she died in 1979.  She moved slowly (hip dysplasia) and gave me a good sniffing while Nittany gave her a sniff as well.

Sheba in our backyard, mid 1970s.  Back where the swingset is there, later was the location
 of the burn barrel where I burned my girl stuff in 1983

This made me wonder- where was Sabre?  Sabre was my favorite dog growing up.  He died of cancer in August 1983, a week after I burned all my "girl stuff."  I went over to my mum, who was like she was when I was a teen.  The living room smelled of cigarette smoke, stale beer, and fish.  I asked her where Sabre was.  She said "he's about to die, so we locked him up."  She said this without her Scots accent (which was really weird.) I I asked where, and my dad yelled at me to get back to work, and the relative commented about how I was "good for nothing."  After some back and forth and threats, I was told that Sabre was down in the cellar locked up.  I went down the rickety wooden steps (which I think were original to the house) and Nittany followed me.

Now, this house was one of the oldest in Spring City, having been built in 1848 (there was a stone "plaque" on the outside of the third floor stating this.)  The basement was unfinished and not very big.  In the back of it was a white painted wooden door, through which was the "coal cellar." (You can see the door to the coal chute in the picture above, just under the porch.)  I unlocked the door, opened it, and out slowly walked Sabre.  However, he looked terrible.  This hair was stiff and matted, and his massive tail wagged slowly.  He and Nittany sniffed each other hello.  Sabre was so much bigger than Nittany.

Sabre.  I think this picture is late 70s.

I petted Sabre for a bit, and he nuzzled into my breasts.  He then looked at me with fogged over eyes and walked back into the coal cellar.  I left the door open, but I knew he wouldn't follow me back up the stairs.  This is where he lived now- waiting for the mercy of death.

I was so angry as I watched Sabre lay down on the cold stone floor.  I ran back upstairs, Nittany following, to confront my parents.

But that is where the dream ended.  I woke up feeling a mixture of deep anger and sorrow.

Nittany visits my dreams occasionally, usually to be petted, sniff me and lick my face.  However, it's been decades since I've seen Sabre and Sheba.  Rust showed up once a few years back before Nittany died.  Seeing them was bittersweet.  I knew they were long gone, but there they were.  It was as if seeing them was my "reward" for doing all that work.

I was very close to Sabre. He often saw me dressed as a girl back in the early 80s.  He didn't care.  Probably because, unlike my parents, I let him sleep on the couch.  His death (along with the end of my feminine dreams) really plummeted me into the deep depression from which I never recovered.

Still, I miss my puppies.  I'm glad Nittany still visits.  While Sabre and Sheba were my parents' dogs, Nittany was mine, and I loved her.

Nittany complaining about the humidity on a hot summer walk.

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