Dreams and Dogs

by Don Wierenga 6/8/2003

I have some reoccuring dreams that focus on certain topics but usually with a different twist. For example, golf. I miss a tee off time, or I forget my clubs, or I’m totally outclassed by my partners, or the course winds it’s way through city streets. Or running: I’m totally exhausted before I start, I win a marathon without breaking a sweat, or I run the race with a painfull injury.
There are others: Staff meetings at school, the locker room before a high school football game, packing scraps of wood to take to a Glen Lake vacation or giving an inspirational lecture (sermon) on religion. I’m usually impressed with that one! Or the back yard of the second home I can remember.

However, the one that always has the same ending centers around my first dog, “Skippy.” Brother Bob will dispute that it was my dog, but since it is one of my very earliest memories, let’s assume it was my dog, given to me on my 5th birthday by Uncle John Boerema, my favorite rich uncle. Skippy ( I think it was a “she”) was a mixed breed terrier, mostly white with one very brown eye patch. Eliot payed me the highest possible compliment when he recently told me he missed me, “you are allways available when I want to do something . . like going bowling or playing golf.” Skippy was always there for me. Sort of like the feelings I had for Skippy. No matter how much I ignored or neglected her, she was always there, and I began to assume she would always be there.

In reality, six or seven years later, Skippy disappeared. No one every knew, or didn’t tell me, what happened to her. Mostly, I believed she just quietly went off someplace and died to save me the grief of having to think seriously about it. In my dreams she always comes back and is fed and cared for by my dad. Somehow my negligence is quitely forgiven and life goes on. Neither Skippy or my dad seem matter. There are a few variations that include memories of my best friend across the street or scraps of food dleiberately left on my plate (so I wouldn’t have to eat them) knowing that Skippy would (literally) clean my plate. But always after an absence of several days she would reappear and my dad would act as if she had never been gone. I didn’t have to acknowledge her dissapearance or my neglegence. It’s my one dream that always has a pleasant, though non-conclusive ending.

This got me thinking about the other dogs in my life. In my teens, Bob bought a Boxer he named Kim. A beautiful, proud, intellegent dog. As a pup her ears were clipped. I remember the bandages and wondering why she needed to look as other Boxers were “supposed to look.” She was a part of the family during my high school years, after Bob had survived years of Tuberculosis treatment, and I thought all of life revolved around cars, sports and girls . . and me. Again, my dad, brother Gordy Bob and I shared the pleasure of Kim. I did little help with her care. Kim developed a large syst or tumor on her side. I can’t remember how or where she died.

Prince, a little golden cocker spaniel was the first pet we bought for our family. She quickly became my dog, simply because she was not allowed in the house and I spent more time in the garage than other family members. On occassion the girls and I would sneak her past Ginny into the basement, my shop, where she would roll in sawdust and shake her way to the back door . . . a dead give-away that she had entered the forbidden domaine. Other things happened in that shop. The chemistry lab was apparently most enjoyed by the girls when supervision was absent. And the mouse experiment produced some exciting moments when fears circulated that the main character had kicked off the cover of its cage and escaped to the main living quarters. It was also headquarters for school experiments, including and elaborate time line.

Prince had a thing about mail trucks and one day was injured when her anger brought her in contact with the rear wheel. She yelped her way to the back door and we all tried to comfort her. I ended up taking her to the vet, who prescribed tender loving care and much to our relief said she would recover. She did. She had, what we all tried to convice ourselves of as a cozy warm coop in the garage. Deep down we knew she really wanted to be a part of the family in a cozy, warm real house with her family. After she became sick I took her to the vet who explained that it would not be in her best interest to prolong her life. I asked him what I should tell the children. He said it would relieve her pain and that she would be buired under a large pine tree in the back of the clinic. It sounded good, but when I left I couldn’t locate ANY trees on his property. I think I was probably too chocked up to be of much comfort when I came home without Prince.

Our next dog was a family decision and his name was arrived at by family vote. Wilhelm was chosen to honor the German heritage of our minature Schnowzer. It was quickly condensed to Willy which really did suit him better. He was a feisty little guy and by vote it was decided to not clip his ears, even though that was the “in” thing for schnowzers. Willy, too, was not given free reign of the house and when we moved to the beach the furnace room became “her” room. It was warm, but I’m sure not the most pleasant place to spend the day. She was very anxious for us to get home from work, and did get to run loose in the early evening. Every once n a while she would extend her boundry and on rare occassions stay our over night and even be gone for a day or two. We never knew where she went, but it always brought back “Skippy memories” and she always did reappear. During this period Deb got her first dog, whom she named Dylan and Willy and Dylan often shared adventures. One day both dogs were gone for a longer than normal period of time, long enough to make us worried. Willy returned first, semingly excited and agitated. Not long after a lady stopped by the house and said she recognized Dylan Lying on the side of the road. He had been hit by a car. I rushed to get him and placed his still warm body in a cardboard box. Deb was devasted and in her anguish went down the bluff and sat in the water at the shoreline. In her grief and through her tears she found an Indian arrowhead. I often wonder what happened to that relick and from that point on arrow heads always reminded me of that incident. She insisted on viewing her beloved puppy one last time before I buried him. I chose a spot across the street, high up a hill, under the largest tree I could find. I think I could still locate the tree, I often went there to visit and think about how important animals can become in a persons life.

Willy lived many more years, and in his old age was allowed to come to our bedroom so long as he remained on my lap. He was not a lap dog, so it usually became too much of a hassle and he would end up back in the basement. Willy developed a cyst on his back that over a period of several months kept getting larger. The vet said it would not heal and that only I would know when it was the humane thing to put her down. The day came and I think Willy suspected the most. In the car, on the way to the vet, she kept extremely close to me, almost insisting on getting on my lap. not at all normal behavior. I carried her into the clinic and the Doctor asked if I wanted to hold her while he gave the injection. I did and he said he would leave us alone for our last few minutes togehter. Willy died quietly and peacefully as my tears fell silently on her shiny grey coat as they now fall on my keyboard.

There were other dogs in the family, Deb’s Aeron, Cindy’s Dunedog that brought more joy and tears to the family. Then along came Keeper! Keeper an Alaskan malamute puppy was to become the “keeper” of our grandchildren, but she grew too big, too fast and it soon became apparent this was not the family dog they had hoped for. Keeper became my dog and one more time I got to share the garage with my own “puppy”. Keeper continued to grow and grow. We bonded immediatelywith hopes of living out our old age and retirement together. She is beautiful and waits patiently for me to open the door in the morning where she is now (reluctantly) allowed to come into the kitchen while I make coffee and prepare for our morning walk/run on the beach. It would be hard to tell who enjoys that the most!