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Did I Meet Up With a Dying Animal in a Dream?

I’m not shy about claiming a belief that some of our dreams may be, in part, psychic, allowing us access to information, images, or feelings from our future, or from events that take place at a far physical distance from us. In fact, it was my curiosity about psychic dreaming that kicked off my entry into dreamwork as a career. In the years since, that curiosity has expanded to include mystical encounters in dreams with lost loved ones or non-human entities (like animals or aliens), and the possibility of transferring our consciousness in dreams so that we may experience what another has experienced from a first-person perspective.

Today, however, I want to take off my researcher hat and simply share with you a recent tender personal experience in which I believe I encountered the spirit of a dying animal in a dream. In doing so, I hope to offer you an example of how such mystical encounters supply us with a dose of healing medicine, even if or when we are not certain we believe in them.

Earlier this month, I was away in the countryside with my partner, staying in a new-to-us renovated 19th century farmhouse. As is often the case for me when I am away from home, I had a difficult time falling asleep. In such situations, I am ever-more-thankful for dreams, as it’s typically my dreaming — even a fragment of a dream– that indicates to me that I have slept at all when I am having some insomnia. 

Just before morning, after a fitful few hours of sleep, I had a dream in which I was taking care of a man’s pet hamster. Except it wasn’t quite a hamster. I described it in my dream notes as a “large hamster.” The dream took many twists and turns, but primarily I was preoccupied most of the dream with trying to contain this hamster so that I could go off and do other things. I wasn’t successful, was frequently frustrated, and eventually became very anxious when I lost track of the man’s hamster. I was upset about the animal having gone missing, but mostly I was worried about how the man would react when I told him I had lost his pet.

Finally, as I was just about to give up my search, I saw the large hamster sitting in the grass atop a brown towel that I believed belonged to me. I was so relieved to see him. It was the first moment in the dream I felt anything but resentment or anxiety.

At first I was just relieved, but when I realized the animal had found its way to me by recognizing my scent on the towel, I was immediately filled with respect and admiration for this creature. “What a clever animal,” I thought. Admittedly, I was charmed, too, by its choosing of me. It found its way home by my smell. It returned “home”…to me.

Suddenly, I found myself so endeared to this large hamster, and just as suddenly the anonymous hamster had a name — Henry. I gently approached and then petted Henry as he stretched out on the towel. I cooed a little, and invited him to climb up into my arms where I held it on my shoulder and continued to pet its soft fur.

The experience at that point shifted from mental to physical. No longer was I in my head with resentment or worry. No longer was I in the past with regret for having agreed to care for someone else’s animal — or in the future worrying about what the man would think of me when he discovered what I “had done.”

I was just there, in the moment, in my body, with Henry, petting his soft, chocolate brown fur, feeling the rising and fall of his chest, his breath against my face.

It felt a bit like love.

And that could have been, would have been, enough.

When I awoke in the morning, I told my partner about the dream, about how real it felt, especially the animal’s body and fur. I shared with him the unexpected realization that the large hamster apparently didn’t belong to any “man” (who never once appeared in the dream), but to me. I reflected that when I realized he was mine, and I his, immediately he had a name, a body, soft fur — and there was love between us.

Despite the fitful night sleep, I awoke in the morning still feeling the sensation of closeness, and of having been chosen by this creature.  

About an hour later, after we had finished breakfast and were getting ready to leave for the day, I peered out a large window of the farmhouse. In the grass outside, next to the wall, I saw a small animal laying still on its side. I watched for a minute to confirm what I already knew as soon as I saw it: the animal was dead; likely, freshly dead.

More than disturbed (though I was disturbed), I was awe-struck. The animal was a “large brown hamster” (aka a gopher.) There was no blood, no flies, and no signs of attack. He could have been sleeping if that was something gophers did in the grass outside farmhouses.

My partner went outside to look more closely, and confirmed the animal was, in fact, dead. Though I couldn’t prove it and still can’t, I knew then that this dead gopher had visited me in my dreams. That he passed through on his way somewhere else or that we were somehow able to meet up in a timeless time, a spaceless space in a dream.

It’s a big deal for me to say this for a many reasons, but one reason is that I am not an animal person. I am not someone who easily feels affection for an animal, not even domestic ones. (Perhaps especially not domestic ones, as I have a lot of opinions and reactivity about how some people behave when it comes to their pets.)

Plus, I’m allergic to all animals who have hair, even the ones that don’t shed. Pets or animals have not typically been the ones to provide me with comfort in waking life or dreams — not for a very long time at least. Not since I was a young child and had to say goodbye first to a puppy I loved (due to my family being unable to care for it), and then a few years later a cat (due to allergies.) Over the years, you might say I have hardened myself even to the idea of human-animal love. For certain, this dream was aware of that pain and my distancing myself from animals; and trying to break down a barrier, perhaps.

So it was highly unusual for me to dream this dream, and to feel the love and affection for “Henry” inside of it. Further, it’s almost as if seeing the gopher dead outside on the grass was a kind of punctuation at the end of the dream, boosting the connection and the healing medicine of the dream even more with a waking life synchronicity.

This dream will certainly be an unforgettable one for me. It will be one I am sure I will be able to return to, thanks to the sensory experience and the love felt inside the dream, but also due to the encounter with a spirit — an unprovable encounter, but sacred to me nonetheless.

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