Dogs of Dreamtime


She was just sitting there, cool as a cucumber, staring right up at me. She was so still, I wasn’t sure she was real. As I inched forward for a closer look, I could see her bright eyes blink and her body vibrate with excitement. She was exceedingly happy to see that I’d come, but she was more concerned with making sure I got a real good look at her, and that I burned the picture into my brain. Until I did, she was unwilling to move. I can’t tell you how I knew this exactly; it was something in the way she locked her eyes onto mine. So I took in as much of her as I could and committed it to memory.

No more than eight weeks old, with round puppy tummy, she was obsidian black, with fluffy white shawl around neck and chest. She had a white muzzle, with a blaze traveling up and over the top of her head, meeting up with white scruff between shoulders. Four white socks. Little tan eyebrows. No tail.

As I was busy soaking in every detail, I could have sworn I heard her say, “I’ve come back to be with you.”

This startled me so much that I woke up.

The dream had been so vivid and so real that, for a moment, I wasn’t sure where I was. Could it be possible. . .?

My beloved Sheltie, Kiera, at eleven years, had died from a brain tumor not quite one year before. She’d been my unswerving friend and safehold through some of the most significant changes in my life. She’d seen me through change in relationship, career, and geographic location, as well as the milestones of marriage, birth, and death.

The ache from her absence was still very much with me. I’d reconciled myself to remaining dogless. Kiera had been such an exceptional companion that I was afraid any other dog would always suffer from the comparison.

That Kiera would come back to solve this problem for me would be just like her.

Mesmorized by this thought, I moved trancelike around the kitchen that morning, while some other part of me got my four-year-old daughter’s breakfast ready. Andrew sat with the morning paper in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.

Having gone through a spate of human and animal losses within the last few years, I knew that Andrew would have two reactions to my dream. He hated the thought of seeing me set myself up for more loss, even if it was a loss that was more than likely at least a decade away. And he was enjoying the benefits of an animal-free home – no hair on clothes, no tripping over furry bodies, no worrying about when we had to get back home or how much dog exercise needed to be fit in.

Taking all of these recent developments into account, I knew that Andrew’s response would be a flat “No,” so there was no point in going there. I tried to put the idea right out of my head.

And I did.

Until a few nights later, when a remarkably similar dream played itself out. The same little Aussie puppy sat stock-still again, looking up at me. This time, I sat down next to her, to pet her. She couldn’t contain herself any longer; she bounded up into my arms and slathered me with puppy kisses.

Again, she announced – quite clearly this time – that she’d come back for me. Again, I awoke with a start. Lying there, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. This was all too much to contemplate.

It occurred to me that if I was going to try to find her, she was already around eight weeks old. That meant I’d have a couple of weeks at most to track her down before she might be sold to any buyer who happened to be in the market for an Australian Shepherd female pup.

I was nervous about talking to Andrew about these dreams. It wasn’t that he was unreasonable or unfeeling. It was just that I didn’t want to force another dog on him when he felt that he was finally home free. Weighing it all out, I decided I’d have a better-than-even chance if he was made aware of how much this meant to me.

At the first quiet moment, I decided to bring it up.

“Boy, have I been having some really weird dreams lately,” I began.

“What are they?” Andrew asked.

“Well, Kiera’s come back. . .”

The words hung in the air.

I hurriedly went on to explain that I’d been having these dreams where Kiera made it clear that she fully expected me to come and find her.

He didn’t even comment on the strangeness of the dreams, or what they might mean. He just said, “Please, I can’t do another dog. I like our life the way it is. Besides, even if I said yes, what would be the odds that you could find her? If she has come back, she could be anywhere in the country.”

Andrew had landed a one-two punch. Realistically, I hadn’t considered what the search might mean. I conceded Round One. The conversation turned to other subjects.

The next night, she came again. This time I could see that she was in some kind of farmlike setting with several other puppies and dogs. I awoke thinking this would help rule out some breeders. But it would still be an incredible long shot, notwithstanding the whole idea of her reincarnating to be with me again in the first place. I was beginning to feel a little nutty.

Christmas was less than a week away. I was normally much more organized about the holidays, but I was hopelessly far behind this year. I wasn’t one to go in for the commercialism of the season anyway, but I always liked to take some time to find a few really thoughtful gifts. As it was, by necessity, presents would be sparse this year. Andrew and I had agreed not to get each other anything.

Christmas morning rolled around. By late morning, the stockings had been emptied, and the bottom of the tree was looking pretty bare. There had been a few surprises and much to be thankful for. I was about to go upstairs to start breakfast when Andrew motioned to me and took out a white envelope from his back pocket.

The card contained three words: “Go find her.” There was a blank check inside.

The magnitude of his gesture opened the floodgates. I broke down and wept.

After everyone had gone to bed, I burned the midnight oil, compiling my hit list of breeders. I started calling the next morning.

Andrew arrived home that night a few hours after me and, wanting to be supportive, asked how my search was going.

I sat down at the kitchen table and scratched my head. “I feel like I’m searching for the Dalai Lama.”

I’d accumulated pages of material on locations, litter due dates, coloration and sex of available puppies, breeding genealogy of sires and dams. Almost all of the breeders I’d contacted owned or were mating with a Gefion Hall sire or dam.

I called the place at once and got the answering machine. The woman was away and wouldn’t be back until the end of the week. I left my name and phone number. After what felt like an eternity, the phone call came.

Yes, she had a litter, but all the black tris were spoken for, except for one male. I felt as though somebody had kicked me in the stomach.

That night I went to bed physically and emotionally exhausted. Even so, a fitful night’s sleep followed. By dawn, I was feeling completely frustrated. I sat up, thinking that I should just forget about trying to sleep and get up to start the day. But my body was so heavy with fatigue that I decided to try one last time and flopped back down.

Somewhere between sitting and hitting the pillow, in a semi-conscious state, I saw her! She was as real as if she were in the room with me.

I popped back up like a jack-in-the-box and rubbed my eyes. In short order, I was wide awake. “Okay,” I promised her, “I won’t give up.”

I rang the breeder from the day before. I got directions and left immediately. I pulled into the long private drive that opened onto neatly maintained fenced fields.

The breeder, Georjean Hertzwig, met me at the gate with a warm handshake. As she motioned me through the first of three gates, she mentioned that she’d been expecting another party, but it was fine that I was early, and would I like to go see her puppies.

I was close on her heels as we went through the next gate to get to the field where the puppies were romping. I could see four or five pudgy little bodies bouncing off each other as we approached.

Georjean clicked the latch on the last gate that gave us entrance into the enclosure, when I saw, from across the field, a furry black-and-white blur making a dash for my legs. I scooped it up before it crashed into me.

I held her at arm’s length. There were the little tan eyebrows, and the white granny shawl, and the blaze that went clear up and over her little noggin. Not that I needed to conduct the inspection. I knew. As sure as I was standing there, I knew. I’d found her.

We were eye-to-eye, her eyes saying to mine, What took you so long?


Reprinted from Dogs of Dreamtime (copyright date 2005) by Karen Shanley, published by The Lyons Press, Guilford, CT.

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