Last night I had one of those dreams where people tell you it was a visit. Jackson, the first dog that I lost a couple years back, was the visitor in this case, and I’m amazed at the brain’s ability to retain ‘presence’ of a loved one. Not only were Jackson’s features replicated down to the swerve of the stripe on his snout, but his presence, the feeling of him, was fully in place, more so than I’ve been able to replicate in my waking mind. That gorgeous, genius, old-soul dog.

In the dream I was on vacation or otherwise in a strange place. I was in a hot tub out on a patio, when a dog came running around the corner from a road some 40 ft down form whatever property I was on. I thought, heh, Border Collie. But it ran to me with a ball in its mouth, and I realized that it was a spitting image of Jackson. More and more I marveled at the similarities, thinking how often I’ve seen those eyes in other dogs and how much they’ve reminded me of my Jackson. But this one was different. He licked my nose, as only Jackson would do (and would do only for me)— a quick, light brush of his tongue, typically when he wanted me to throw a ball. It was our secret handshake, a special exchange between friends, something shared between one human and one dog.

As I marveled at his likeness, I concluded that it wasn’t actually Jackson. Though his markings were nearly perfect, they weren’t quite right. More brown on his face, a bit smaller in stature. Concluding that, in the very least, this was Jackson in soul only, his owner then appeared from the same direction, nodding as I waved him over.

I told him my story, and as not-quite-Jackson ran to him, he continued to nod as if he new. He sat next to a tree (I had exited the hot tub by this point, a bit of time having passed as if in a movie), and told me of how this dog had always been special. He told me how they had originally found him (I don’t remember the details of this story unfortunately) and other anecdotes. I told him my memories of Jackson, how and when he had died, and the man smiled. Ultimately, with his dog nuzzled in the nook of his arm at his side, he concluded that he felt he was indeed Jackson in spirit, reincarnated if only to come see me. Only he never said reincarnated, but instead inferred that he was indeed here. He was here, to see me, to comfort me, to kiss my nose, our special handshake.

Typically these types of dreams, visits from the shades of those I’ve lost, are cruel and torturous. But when I woke from this one, though I wouldn’t call it comfort, I felt a sense of…contentment? Almost a feeling of subtle wonder. I waited for the sadness, and though it showed itself a bit, it wasn’t so strong this time. It was more a feeling that things just are. That Jackson is gone, but not gone. That my mind, even when I think it’s forgotten, has not forgotten as much as I thought. That Jackson, though his memory is slightly different, is still with me.

Eventually I hope to have this same feeling from my other losses. Ollie, my dad. The fresh wounds that are taking longer to heal. Maybe one day they’ll visit me too, and in their own special way, as Jackson did in this dream, they’ll tell me how they’re okay, and how I’ll be okay too.

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