The night before I took the Mud Doggo in for surgery I had a dream that I remembered the next morning. I was in a tiny rowboat in the ocean on dark and cloudy night, far enough out to not see land, but close enough to see a lighthouse warning ships away from sharp rocks and rough waters. In my dream I was wet, alone, and exhausted, rowing to the limit of my endurance and making little progress against the tide and winds, when suddenly the light in the lighthouse went out.
I brought Maggie home for the first time just about five and a half years ago. Although we struggled to connect at first, she eventually became my constant companion during a time in my life when I sought to diminish my connections with other people, distance my relationships, and ensure that I wouldn’t leave a hole too large in anyone’s life when I passed. Even with my dog I struggled and made conscious efforts to develop Maggie’s relationship with my brother and other people.
But the Mud Doggo’s optimism, ceaseless curiosity, and relentless nature earned my respect, broke down my defenses, and bridged the gap that was the distance I tried to put between myself and everything else in my life. She never worried about what I was doing because she might need me. The Mud Doggo worried about what I was doing in case I needed her – the guardian of my broken heart.
My hands were raw from rowing for hours. I could feel the cold salt spray on my face and the cold soaked through to my bones. The waves constantly tossed my boat and my numb arms would slip from time to time, missing the water with an oar. When the light in the lighthouse went out, I was plunged into complete darkness and robbed of any sense of direction by wind-driven rain that had suddenly come howling in. I did not know where I was going. I didn’t even know if I was pointed in the same direction I was a few seconds ago.
I dug down deep and put my oars back in the water, trusting that there would still be ocean ahead of me. My tiny boat pitched and rolled in the waves and I couldn’t see a thing. I wanted to feel sorry for myself but I couldn’t. The only thing I could do was to dig in my heels and row harder. I’m not sure I ever actually awoke from this dream. In the morning, I put Maggie in the car, drove her to the clinic, told her to behave for the vet, and to go with the technician. Then I went on with my day.
Thinking about the dream I had the night before made me think of something Theodore Roosevelt wrote in his diary seven years before he became President. In one terrible day, he lost both his mother Martha and his wife Alice. He drew a large, black “X” for that day and wrote only “the light has gone out of my life.” In life he never spoke his wife’s name again and did not allow anyone to mention it in his presence.
My dream may have been a little overdramatic. I had every reason to believe that Maggie would be just fine – and she was. When I entered the vet’s office to pick her up, she was still a little loopy from the anesthesia and started whining until the vet tech opened the door to let her come to me. She came to tell me that she had been taken advantage of, turned around to go say goodbye to all of the veterinarians and technicians, and then walked past me and around the other corner to say goodbye to the receptionist. All of her goodbyes said, she then went to sit by the front door to go home.
The guardian of my heart. The light of my life. May you ever find a friend half as true. May you yourself ever be half as kind. May you dig your heels in deep and pull with all your might when you find yourself lost in the dark.