Thanks to everyone who sent me a spooky dream. Continuing curiosity about these sorts of spooky dream-into-waking-world unfoldings finds me openly wondering if perhaps a dream door is being left open—by the dreamer, or by the dreamtime, or maybe by both? Meanwhile, and with Halloween just around the corner, here’s another spooky tale:
So one afternoon several years ago, I had an appointment to meet a local woman by the name of Corrine. She had contacted me upon discovering that we share the same degrees and a certificate of DreamTending from Pacifica Graduate Institute. As a recent graduate, Corrine wanted to discuss possibilities for her working future and so arrangements were made that she would pop by my office.
I work from home. Sort of. We live at the top of a rather big hill. My office, which sits on top of our garage, is conveniently located (for me, that is) at the bottom of the hill. All I have to do on any given day to go to work is descend the eighty zig-zagging steps from our house down to my office.
When Corrine arrived, the very first thing out of her mouth was, “If you ever need a chicken doctor, I know of a great guy.” She’d seen (or smelled?) the chicken coop that is tucked up snuggly against the back wall of the garage, next to my office.
We have two chickens. Dixie and Charlotte are the remaining two out of three chicks that my son brought home from school when he was in the second grade. As a class project that spring, the kids hatched a dozen chicks. Several weeks later, after all the necessary second-grade observations had been made and the life sciences project was over, the teacher was looking to send the chicks home with willing, adoptive families. Unbeknownst to us and without asking permission, our son eagerly signed the family up for adoption. We found out about the intended transfer on a Monday and by the end of that week three fluffy, adorable chicks were entrusted to our care.
The chicks grew fast, maturing into fine, feathery, egg-laying hens. Gorgeous creatures earning their keep. One Sussex and two Easter Eggers that lay beautiful and delicious teal-blue colored eggs.
Before that first year was out, however, one of the neighbor’s dogs made off with the Sussex—a rather smallish, penny-red hen by the name of Fern. The kids were devastated. With Dixie and Charlotte still left to care for, however, it meant that we were charged with the task of securing them in a safer area, one that was more or less dog proof. Hence we tucked the coop snuggly against the back of garage, and made a run that extending around the side. The hens were given a “free range” area by day and a secure coop area at night.
(Oh, and just in case you’re wondering. Fern and Charlotte got their names from Charlotte’s Web—the book my son’s second grade class was reading at the time the chicks hatched. And he chose the name Dixie because of his fondness for the Dixie Chicks.)
“He used to be a vet for the LA Zoo,” Corrine continued. “He’s very good, excellent, in fact. Travels around the whole Los Angeles area like Dr. Dolittle—treating all sorts of animals. So if you ever need a chicken doctor . . .” she repeated then.
I smiled and shook her hand. “Thank you,” I said. “Pleased to meet you.” But all the while I was thinking: A chicken doctor! Who the hell is ever going to need a chicken doctor?
Cut to: as they said in the film business. I probably don’t need to tell you where this is going.
The very next morning I awaken from one of those spooky, sticky dreams that I was telling you about a few weeks ago, the webby kind that are so very, very difficult to wake up from. But before I tell you what happened, first, the sticky dream:
I am with a dream-dog friend (who, as dreams have it, also speaks English). In the dream we are very close companions, the closest of friends. But because he is a dog, he’s at the same time been entrusted to my care. Together we are walking up a golden, grass-covered hill. As we walk, my dog companion entreats me not to flaunt my stylish leather jacket around. He tells me that I am drawing unwanted attention to myself. Recklessly swinging my jacket round and round above my head, I look over at him as if to say: what are you talking about? I twist my head around looking from side to side, still carelessly swinging my leather jacket. “Don’t be ridiculous! I’m not drawing unwanted attention. Unwanted attention from who? Why, there’s no one around for miles!”
But quite suddenly then, Jaguar appears from out of the tall grasses—beautiful, lithe, wild, and . . . headed straight for us. Before there is time to do much of anything except gasp at the untamed beauty of the creature, the cat pounces on the dog. One vicious swipe later and it’s all over. I reach out to hold my dying companion. As I look into his eyes, I feel the life force drain from his soft animal body. Jaguar cruelly pounces a second time, for emphasis it seems—solely because he can.
Coming up from his kill, Jaguar transforms into a different kind of creature then—a sort of half-man, half-cat, Lord Voldemort-looking thing. He turns to me casually as he saunters away—not remotely interested in eating his prey—and gives me a smug, satisfied look as if to ask, Still thinking you know everything?
And that’s when I wake up. Sort of. For, as mentioned, this dream had that precise spooky, sticky quality that is always so very difficult to wake up from.
Some time later that morning, as I slowly descend the steps down to my office for my first session, I discover, much to my great dismay, that the roof to the chicken coop has been ripped clean off. As I come around the final zig-zag of our descending walkway, I find the aftermath of some sort of disaster. Red, black, and chestnut-colored chicken feathers are madly scattered all over the yard, along with all of our upended Halloween decorations. A small hedge that lines one of our retaining walls is bent over and broken in several spots. But what’s worse: there’s no sign of the chickens.
Before long I piece together what happened. Another neighbor’s dogs—two of them this time—had gotten free from their fenced back yard. They made their way into our yard, where they tore the roof off the chicken coop and proceeded to chase Dixie and Charlotte all around the yard.
I found Dixie almost immediately. She was a bloody, half-featherless mess but she was still alive. I scooped her up and held her close just as my dreamer arrived for our session. Looking around at the state of the yard, the dreamer was instantly aware that we’d have to postpone our session. Instead of just leaving immediately, however, she very graciously stayed and helped to look for Charlotte. We found her hiding in the privet hedge. Like Dixie, she was still alive but with most of her once beautifully plumed backside bare and hanging off. Evidently the roof of the chicken coop was not the only thing that the dogs managed to tear off. Poor, sweet Charlotte was a dazed and bloody mess.
I wasted no time calling Corrine to get the vet’s number. When I told her what had happened, she said, “Oh, that’s so weird. I was just mailing you a card to say thanks for yesterday. I tucked the vet’s business card into the envelope for you, just in case. I was on my way out just now to the postbox,” she continued, “to leave it for the postman to pick up when you called. Hang on,” she said. I heard the sound of an envelope ripping open. Seconds later she read me the vet’s number.
Within a few hours—less than 24 hours of Corrine saying, “if you ever need a chicken doctor,” and me thinking, who the hell is ever going to need a chicken doctor?—I was standing in the kitchen, next to Dr. Howard Martin. The very same chicken doctor that I was utterly certain only the day before I’d never need. (By the way, if you live in the LA area and ever need a chicken doctor, I highly recommend Dr. Martin. He can be found by clicking this link to Dr. Martin’s Vet Practice)
When Dr. Martin arrived the chickens were still in shock (which actually made it easier for us to tend to their wounds). In an attempt to keep them from getting infected, I helped hold the hens still in the kitchen sink while Dr. Martin plucked the remaining feathers from their backsides. Plucked clean like that, they looked remarkably like chickens you’d find plastic-wrapped and on display in the refrigerated poultry section of the local grocery store, except that they still had heads. When I remarked on this, Dr. Martin said, “You’re not going to eat them, are you?
“Well, not now,” I replied.
I watched then as he skillfully stitched the chickens’ butts back on. It was a bit like they were being trussed up for roasting, except, of course, that they still had heads and every now and then they blinked in blank sort of way.
“You’ll have to leave them in a cage inside the house for the next two weeks so as to protect them from any unwanted infection,” Dr. Martin instructed.
“We don’t want them getting maggots . . .”
“Hopefully no flies got into their wounds and laid eggs,” he said like it was a distinct possibility. “’Cause that’d be a nightmare.” He smeared salve along the thick line of Charlotte’s stitches. “Trust me, you don’t want that,” he added.
Oh, believe me, I trusted him. I don’t have to experience maggots to know that I don’t want to.
“You’d have to pluck them out one by one with tweezers,” Dr. Martin said then, smearing the same thick salve on Dixie’s stiches. “It’s like something out of a horror movie.”
So the next two weeks would be spent with chickens convalescing in our dining room. Great. Handing me a small prescription bottle, Dr. Martin asked if I’d prefer to inject the wounded hens with antibiotics or hold their beaks open and force the liquid down their gullets with a dropper? How does one answer such a question? Now I blinked and stared blankly. Bok, bok, bok, bok, bok, bok.
The dropper, he suggested then, would probably be easier. “Unless you’re the squeamish type,” Dr. Martin chuckled as he proceeded to demonstrate just how to grip a chicken’s neck and head in order to force its beak open. He made it look easy, not just once, but twice, in a relaxed and confident, experienced-professional sort of way. There ought to have been one of those flashing, warning signs: Don’t try this at home.
When I attempted the same dropper procedure with Charlotte the following day, she was not nearly as cooperative as she’d been for Dr. Martin. “Whose idea was it to have chickens as pets?” I mumbled then, to no one in particular. And, “Is it reasonable that chickens should be afforded this kind of care?” When it was Dixie’s turn, all I kept inwardly seeing was the way that Lord Voldemort dream image looked at me as if to say: Still thinking you know everything? Forcing the dropper inside Dixie’s beak and toward her narrow throat passage, I gave it a quick squeeze while solemnly vowing to make “not knowing” a lifelong practice.