The death of Sammy, our dog of 12 years, was a significant moment in the lives of my wife and I. Significant for me, as it was the hardest, saddest, and loneliest thing I have ever experienced in one massive dose.
We cried a lot, Ann felt a great deal of anger over it, and we both missed him terribly. A month later, when it was a bit easier to put together a thought, Ann told me she was doing a timeline. She looked up the gestation period for dogs, the weaning age for puppies, added them together and started the clock on the day of Sammy's death. She marked the calendar as the right day to find Sammy reincarnated! I did not know how I felt about this- I still don't.
About a month before the date she had marked, I had a wonderful dream. It was crisp and clear- beautiful in every way. In it, Sammy was bounding and playing around me and I was hugging him repeatedly every time he approached. There was no sadness. In fact, my heart was bursting with joy! It was a truly wonderful dream, and probably just what I needed. The end of the dream took a strange turn, though. I was hugging him again, and right in front of me his fur changed color. I stared at his orange brindle coat as it changed into a black short haired curly or wavy look. For the first time in the dream I was troubled, but then a disembodied voice said “ It's OK, it is still Sammy.”
I woke with a start- not knowing what to make of the very first “prophetic” feeling dream of my life! I told Ann and she got excited. Her day for finding the reincarnated Sammy was just a month away. We would look for a black puppy. I figured it wouldn't hurt to entertain this line of thought, though I had and still have my doubts.
A week before school started, with the stress of my teaching assignments in the future and the emptiness of the house after the summer visit was over with the grandchildren, I decided to give myself a break and go thrift shopping in Columbus. Ann was eager to join. Our shopping would take us up the southern part of town into the western part of town. While driving in South Columbus, Ann suggested I should look for the no-kill shelter that helped us when we found an abandoned puppy years ago. She showed me her calendar, with the date circled. Today was the day to find Sammy reincarnated! The roads we travel would take us by a hundred streets that look like the street that shelter was on(as I recall, the shelter was a nondescript house in the middle of other houses with little signage). We never did find the shelter. Ten minutes into south Columbus, we made what was to be our first and only stop of the day at a Goodwill in a desolate looking neighborhood. The occasional grocery bag took the place of the tumbleweed.
As I got out of the car, I noticed a female dog. Heavy with milk and emaciated, she poked around the asphalt for garbage. I pointed her out to Ann, who immediately went about following her. Without thinking, I whistled at the dog. We got her full attention. She and a neighboring dog started barking at us as she changed direction and headed into a dirt yard with the other dog.
This environment was less than welcoming. Aside from the barking dogs, we only shared this moment with empty space and oppressive heat. The single patch of shade was reserved for the barking dog on a chain. The row of apartments the female dog gravitated towards were boarded up and in such a state of disrepair that even I, a transplant Appalachian of low standards, found them wanting.
Ann was undeterred. Nothing scares her. She followed the dog to the sidewalk and inquired of a neighbor the owner of the female. Armed with this information, she proceeded to step up to a door of an apartment with a four foot high wall of garbage bags and windows that were cardboarded over. I stood at a distance, only driven to approach by fear for Ann's safety.
The door opened a crack and the female dog, followed closely by a little black puppy, raced in. My heart jumped at that. A 20 something young man with a shaved head, arms full of tatoos, and eyes squinting against the sun met her at the door. Ann broached the topic of a puppy. At first he denied having a puppy, acting deeply suspicious. He wanted to know who told her that he had puppies! She again indicated her enthusiasm for a puppy. Finally he relented and told us that he passed them to a friend to be sold at the flea market. Then he told us of one runt that he was holding on to because it looked like the mother.
I knew then that we would be leaving with that puppy. Ann set into negotiation mode, and wore him down! He brought out this incredibly tiny and skinny puppy- head all in black and body black with wavy brown stripes.
Up until this moment everything felt weird, like a pre-written story we were just walking through. When I saw the puppy with his brindle (wavy black like the dream) I got chills. At what point do you accept a magical thing if you are a rational person? At that point, evidenced by the powerful prophetic dream and Ann's exact date to find Sammy reincarnated, I felt helpless to be carried forward in the story. There was a sensation like my mind giving in-not accepting but not denying.
Do I believe in reincarnation? I don't know- I am an agnostic in perpetual search of the answers. Is this Sammy reincarnated, or is this the heavens hearing our great sadness at our loss of a friend echoing into the universe just bumping things along and making things right? All I know is that he shares many of the quirks of our lost loved one, and gains new ones every day. We are grateful.
Life is a miracle- we don't have to look far to see that. This experience does not provide answers, but presents new questions to me. If anything was learned, it is that I need to open myself to the flow of things, the flow of life. I will love this animal, and accept his love in return. Oh, and I will try to listen to my wife more!
|His fur is very black, so this is overexposed a bit to show his features! His blue eyes have since turned to orange/brown.|
|Here he is standing on Ann's calendar.|