UK Poet, Philosopher & Artist Ivor Griffiths' Official Website

Diary of a Dog’s Life

Dog Day Dreaming

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

It’s weird. I woke up about twelve o’clock, the brightness of the curtains woke me, I squinted against the filtered sunlight, trying to hold back the sleep and linger in my dream. It was a good one, and Technicolor, so I didn’t want to leave.

I’d been walking my dog, not while I was asleep, no, in my dream. He’s an old Staffordshire Bull Terrier, twelve years old in fact. He’s got a grey beard now, and he hasn’t jumped for years, his eyebrows and paws are flecked with grey, and his hearing isn’t what it was. He hobbles occasionally, and struggles on the stairs sometimes, especially in the winter, because of a football. I remember the day he caught it, arthritis that is. He’d been chasing a ball and in my naivety I kicked it towards a wall, we’d been out for the day, to the seaside town of South Shields, and were near the beach. The sand made the height of the sea wall seem a lot less than it was, he jumped for it and fell about five feet landing on his left shoulder and sprawling in the sand. He limped for a couple of days after that so we took him to the vet; when we were there, it was his first visit, he stood hunched over, his tail curled round tightly to cover his balls. They are telepathic I’m sure, dogs not vets, every time we take him back there I can sense him thinking that today is the day he gets his package lopped off. I just don’t think it should be allowed. It’s as bad as slavery really; dog and cat ownership that is. The things some of those old slave owners used to do to those people on the plantations, and their children, it’s beyond comprehension, imagine it, to have someone control your every movement, to be able to sell your children, sell you, rape you or castrate you, at a whim; or your children. Because they own you; but that’s besides the point, back to dreamland.

In this dream Edgar and I had been walking for miles and miles, across hills and through valleys, I distinctly remember the colours being primary. Mainly green with patches of reds and yellows that comprised the colours of the large petals of flowers that sprung from the perfectly manicured grass at random points along our path. Breaking the horizon was a permanent line of fir trees, and the sun was not so bright I could not look directly at it. There seemed to be a fog hovering above us, as if we were on a massive set in a movie studio. Old Edgar, that’s what we’d called him, in honour of Poe, had dropped his chin but managed, in the way of dogs, to look up at me with doe like eyes that seemed filled with tears. I stopped walking, sensing his stare, and turned, looking down at him. I remembered him as a bouncing pup clumsy and cute; then as an aggressive adolescent, forever chasing dogs three times his size, for miles and miles, ignoring all of my frantic efforts to get him to return to the leash.

I think it’s one of the best parts of a dream, the thing that makes the story so real: the dream memories. As well as that of course the way in which, in a dream, I have no aches or pains, no worries, nor forms to fill in – urgently (on pain of government penalties too petty and expensive to dwell on). So, I remember past dreams in my dreams, which are based on times from my real time life outside my present dream. I do however prefer to dream without my knowing I’m in a dream, as sometimes is the case these days.

Edgar’s favourite mischief in his thirties (doggy years that is) was chasing horses. I didn’t encourage it of course, but distinctly remember, with some amusement, a time Edgar had been off the lead, scuttled under a gate, and gotten into a field with six or seven horses in it. He’d been trying to do this for weeks, but I’d always put him back on the lead before we got that far on our walk. The next thing I saw was Edgar chasing the horses round and round that field until he simply flopped to the ground exhausted, luckily he came to me as soon as I’d managed to whistle loud enough to attract his attention, and we swiftly departed; avoiding the Gloucester’s farm for a good few months after that.

Back in the dream, I looked down at Edgar’s greying face. His tongue was lolling out of his mouth and now he knew he had my attention he’d that half smile look on his face, the look of a weary granddad: he’d be only too willing to go down the slide again with the grandkids, if only he could catch his breath. I remembered from my dream memory how Edgar had followed me for mile after mile in the previous twelve years, through rain and hail, snow and frost, across grass and tarmac, concrete and sand. Without question or complaint, unconditionally loyal, like a second skin stuck tighter than a guardian angel, always hovering about ten or fifteen feet in front. Every now and then stopping, quickly peering over his shoulder, and then trotting off again guarding against any potential ambush by other dog’s humans.

In the way of dreams, films, and books the scene in this dream was changing, a transition, blurring like ink in water, and fading into nothing. Then reappearing – the bright grass of the plastic parkland becoming a busy freeway in Florida; there were palm trees growing down the middle of the street, then shops and lights appeared, cars, trucks, cabs, bikers and women. I remember the women, all young and beautiful, tanned skin as smooth as wet velvet, and smiles as shiny as the sun. Music and laughing was everywhere; it floated like a cloud of shimmering vapour around us. Edgar had decided to lie down by then, head cocked to one side, listening carefully and waiting on his master’s voice. At that moment I felt a tap on my arm.

“Excuse me”, said a man’s voice in a Texan drawl, “can you tell me how to get to Nevada sir?”

I turned around and there stood a cowboy wearing a hat that was multicoloured and shimmered, he had long legs clothed in two tone ska trousers, sharp creased, blue and red, like a melons smile when it’s sliced in the sun, at a music festival – bright but sharp.

Then I realised his face was Clifford’s, I hadn’t seen him for sixty two years, the last time I had been waving to him from the back seat of my step-dad’s old Ford Cortina as we began our journey up North to live in Glasgow. It was a Ford Cortina estate, navy blue, sixteen-hundred cubic centimetres of engine, it hit eighty miles an hour once, on the A5, while we were on a day trip to Brighton, I remember the crazed hammering my step-dad did on the dashboard, as he hunched over the steering wheel looking like a manic hunchback, foot jammed to the floor on the accelerator; he’d been convinced the speedometer was stuck and kept shouting as he battered the dashboard, “it’s eighty really! Its eighty really!” The whole car shook, and the roar of the wind drowned out even the screams of the over revved engine, mother and my two younger siblings.

Even though Clifford was now at least sixty-seven he looked no older than six, and he seemed to have shrunk, and his Stay-press trousers had turned into shorts. It was then I realised I was only six as well. I touched my head and felt an abundance of hair. I turned round and Edgar had gone, the noises, the girls, the tarmac and the car roar had been replaced by the bird song and leaf rustle of the woods, just outside of Carnforth, Lancashire, on the southernmost border of the Lake District, home of Wordsworth, Coleridge and Beatrix Potter. To be precise the Hyning Scout Woods, lair of old men killers and poachers, and the future planned burial site of my future last dog. I grabbed Clifford by the shoulders and asked him to dream me back to Florida.

“It was Orlando, I think,” I said.

Only inches from him, I’d tilted my head and was looking up into his face, the cowboy hat had blown off and become lodged in a dead tree, the wind blew Clifford’s blond hair about, it was shoulder length and curly, and his face was reddened, as if he’d been running and running for miles and miles.

“This way,” he said, “follow me.”

He turned abruptly and ran away from me through the woods; he was barefoot and wore the shorts he’d had on in Florida but no t-shirt. His blonde hair flowed back towards me as he ran. The forest floor was littered with leaves and pine needles, twigs, branches and rocks, and logs left by the tree-fellers. But I didn’t feel any of it, I ran after him faster than I’ve run for years, it seemed as if I were just above the ground, and the breeze caressed my face like a mother soothes her baby; the trees flashed past us in a blur of green and ochre shades. We dodged between them and jumped over fallen branches, which lay strewn across the earth like sculptures, carefully placed in a Roman church courtyard, of marbled green granite. Suddenly we swung into the branches, soaring up into the leaf canopy. Leaving the forest floor we chased the grey squirrels and startled sleeping owls. It seemed only natural that we‘d bump into Lorraine and Jane, from Green Lane School. Giggling hysterically and holding hands we’d flown together again; we reminisced and shared recollections of our dream memories: a gang of four innocents flying in a communal dream through trees and memories of pure sentimentality. I felt happier than I‘d felt for years, young, healthy and flying again, like I used to in my old dreams, with my old friends.

But then we neared the edge of the forest and the sun creased the trees, driving a spike of dazzling white light down through the branches to the leafy earth. And there he was: Edgar. He was lying on his side. I saw him from the top of the tree we’d been playing in, he looked like he was sleeping in a spotlight’s circle, but of sunlight. He looked warm and relaxed; but he wasn’t breathing. I wanted to keep flying, to laugh and play with my friends. At that moment I hated Edgar for spoiling my dream, for making me know it was a dream, and blurring the colours to shades of grey and white, for making my friends disappear, for melting the trees and earth away. I tried to fly but the earth dragged me down, and in slow motion I fell.

I awoke with a jolt and opened my eyes a slit, the brightness of the curtains almost blinding me. The aches and pains in my hands and hip hadn’t surfaced yet, but they would, as sure as polystyrene floats, the pain would gouge through my synapses and skewer my brain. I saw the brightness of the room, I heard Edgar snoring and felt guilty, but then rolled over and shut my eyes, day dreaming about being a kid again.