A Love Letter . . . to My Dog
I have a story for you to go along with that photo I took above, about my dog, Diesel. It involves a terrifying nightmare, and my belief in a dog's ability to sense things in other people that we can't.
A few months back, I was dealing with some major stress and anxiety. Most of the time, it didn't affect my sleep. I'm a pretty good sleeper with only a rare night of insomnia. What I do have, sometimes, are nightmares with some weird sleep paralysis thing that happens.
It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it scares the shit out of me.
Imagine having a really intense nightmare. Mine usually involve a strange blend of real life people or events with lots of Twilight Zone style/serial killer elements to them. Now, imagine waking up in the middle of that nightmare to your dark bedroom and being convinced the nightmare is still happening right in the bedroom and you CAN'T MOVE.
Your mind is telling you to, but you are locked in place. Your eyes can move, but of course it's dark and you are still sort of seeing what was in your nightmare and aren't even really sure if you are asleep, awake, or in some horror alternate reality that you'll never escape from.
To say it's terrifying is an understatement.
The nightmare I was having a few months ago involved someone breaking into my house at night when we were sleeping. When I woke up, paralyzed, I was convinced the intruder from my nightmare was in the bedroom and I couldn't escape.
Couldn't shout, couldn't wake Luke, nothing, and all I could think in my dream was, please don't let him go upstairs, the kids are all upstairs . . . I lay there for what felt like hours, my heart exploding in my chest, my arms and legs seized with terror and adrenaline, but feeling like I was made of stone.
It was at this point that my brain finally woke up enough to send me a rational thought: There's no way an intruder would make it into the house without Diesel going apeshit.
That thought broke through the grip this nightmare had on me and suddenly, I could move, I could breathe, and my bedroom was my bedroom again.
Chair, mirror, light from outside, Luke breathing beside me. I felt completely at ease and safe, thanks to the furry sentry that slept in her crate in the dining room.
If anyone came into the house unexpectedly, especially at night, she would raise a sound and fury like the worst Hell Hound you could encounter.
My Unexpected Best Friend
My boxer Diesel came to us through a Craigslist ad in 2012. A lady was getting rid of her because the lady was pregnant, and, funny enough, we were looking for a dog because we have kids.
Now, I know and most of our close friends and family know that Diesel is the biggest pussycat you'll ever meet. But if someone she doesn't know comes through the front door, they better hope we put her in her crate because she will bark and growl and carry on like her final supper just arrived.
To this day, she will bark and growl at a knock on the door, a vehicle driving on the stones of the driveway, or a new person at the door. I usually have to explain to mail people, strangers at the door, etc., that my dog will bark and sound scary, but she's crated so don't worry.
I get slightly annoyed sometimes when she starts her dramatic watchdog routine, but ever since that nightmare, I react differently. I tell her, "Good girl. Now, go Home." (Home is what we call her crate).
A Sense For the Unseen
There's another thing I discovered about Diesel, just a few weeks after we brought her home. We were in the backyard and a family acquaintance dropped by. He came around the side of the house and into the backyard, and Diesel went nuts. She was on her feet instantly and if I hadn't grabbed her collar and snapped the leash on, I think she was planning to attack.
There are certain people that Diesel just doesn't like.
If a new person comes around, she will raise holy hell the first few times but when she warms up to them, all is good. Some people she has never warmed up to. The people (I can think of three) are male, and do not have any qualities that I can think of that would make my dog hate them.
But . . . she's consistent. Every time they come around, she freaks out.
And with all the other people we see, she is cool.
I trust my dog's judgement. There's something about these particular people that she is wary of. It doesn't mean we will stop associating with them. We end up crating her while they visit because she can't be out around them for all the growling and pacing she does. But I'm not going to apologize to anyone for my dog's instincts, either. She must have a pretty good reason for acting the way she does, something I may never know about those particular people.
Two of the things about Diesel that some may consider bad traits (dramatically barking any time a person arrives at the house and her hatred of a select few people) I actually consider to be her best traits.
She is fiercely protective of her house and her family.
She has put herself between one of the kids and a person who she either doesn't like or is playing around with the kids on many occasions. She protects her people, and she takes it seriously.
She's more loyal than many people who I thought I could trust. I know I will never wake up one day to learn my dog has betrayed me, but that's happened with many people in my life, people who were supposed to care for and protect me.
I've felt a strange calm and safety about my dog protecting me ever since waking up from that dream. If that nightmare were to happen, would it save us? Having her there barking her fool head off and sounding like we have a crated Demon Spawn in our dining room?
I can't know that. But I do know if anything happened, Diesel would do everything she could to warn us.
"Dogs don't hesitate. They stand by our side, no matter the odds, the reason, the depth of cold. If we step into the blackest of nights, they step with us, and sometimes----most of the time---they take the first step. And no matter their size---from the smallest to the largest---they'll do what needs to be done to safeguard their human companion---their friend---even if it means giving their life. They don't weight odds, or ask any questions. Dogs are selfless." David Weiskircher
Do you think dogs can sense things about people that we can't? I know many dogs can sense medical issues, but it seems they also have fairly accurate judgements about peoples' character, too. If you have a "watchdog" type dog, does it make you feel safer?