I dreamt that I was being chased. I dreamt I was in a cold tunnel. At both ends white figures gathered and created darkness. I dreamt my paws were mired in thick mud and garbage that had flowed into the tunnel with the last big rain. My brothers and sisters were nowhere around. I don’t remember my mother. I dreamt that the light at the ends of the tunnel shrank. I struggled in the sewage. Finally, I dreamed myself awake.
I don’t want to die.
When I woke up I was in a white place. Other dogs were barking. I could hear cats, too. I could hear machines and people shouting at each other but not in a bad way. I couldn’t focus my eyes. Something touched my neck and I tried to turn toward it. My jaws instinctively snapped. And suddenly I was very tired again, and I ached. I fell asleep again.
I was by the road. The cars were going by. After a while, I stopped looking at them. After a while, I got tired of walking. I sat down in the ditch and tried to catch my breath. Night came and I slept. I dreamt back many years. Back before cars. I dreamt of the first dogs. They looked no different than us. They raced across a prairie and barked. Just like us. But they were on their own. A human tried to take one in, but the dogs showed their fear by snarling and revealing their teeth. I thought, I may have to learn to do that.
But then I found the right people.
I woke up in the white place again, and this time I heard voices I knew. The dogs and cats were quieter. It must have been late. I was picked up and carried outside. The sky was dark. I could hear distant sounds of cars and trucks on a big road. Horns honking. Someone strong was carrying me.
I dreamt I had to try and get away. I don’t know what I was running from. I couldn’t see it. My chest hurt. The bottoms of my paws were raw from running across a burnt field. It was the only way. The thing chasing me was roaring like a train but it wasn’t a machine. It was panting like an animal but wasn’t an animal. I had to get away from it. And I couldn’t wake up. I had to get away. I had to wake up to get away. I couldn’t pull myself out of sleep. It was breathing on my neck. I was trapped at a high barbwire fence I couldn’t get around, and it was right behind me. It smelled of earthworms under wet leaves.
Fear finally woke me up. It was safe and warm where I was. I looked around and then got up to drink some water. I felt better. My head was not spinning. My stomach was full. I wasn’t with the other puppies, but that was okay. I hadn’t wanted to play with them. Not yet. I will someday. Something tells me that I will. Things are right now.
I had the same dream again. It chased me across the burnt field again. I kept thinking I could outrun it. I kept thinking I could get away. I came to the same fence again and started trying to wake myself up. I rolled my head, trying to shake off the sleep. And as I rolled, I felt something inside me grow. And so I stopped. I stopped and I turned around. And I took a step toward it. My heart was thudding against my chest wall. My eyes were wet with windy tears. I lifted my head and looked at it.
It was not an “it.” I did not move, as the clearing before me filled. I came forward and was embraced. I came forward. Somehow I guessed that if I stopped running, I would be safe. It doesn’t matter what I face.
I sense I have little to fear where I am now. I am not like the first dog, afraid of being domesticated. I am also not like those who don’t know fear. But they exist with me. I know there is power in fighting death. I know that life called to me and to others. When I stopped running, I was free.