Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Black dog sightings

In Praise of Black Dogs

I am in favor of personal superstitions.
Not the kind Granma mumbles
Or the stuff of fright-night moves
But the ones that grow on you
When you notice which incidents in a day
Are shadows cast by something ahead
And get to know which clues from the world
Are reliable road signs.

I think a black dog, if friendly,
Is always a good omen
And could be a god traveling in disguise.
Some days you don’t have to figure this out.
At the door of possibility on San Francisco Bay
A black dog crossed my path.
His walker, a ruddy man in a red pixie hat,
Told me the dog’s name is Pollo,
Short for Apollo.
I have a black dog of my own.
His name is Nubie, short for Anubis.
He lives on my dreams
And takes on many bodies in the world.

Black Dog sightings

When I arrived in St. Louis at the end of last week, I was met at the airport by a man with a black dog called Bear in the back of his car. I immediately sensed that all would go very well in the days of media interviews, lectures and workshops that lay ahead - because for me, a friendly black dog is always a good sign. Indeed, the St. Louis trip unfolded beautifully. In a building where Lincoln slept in 1847, I talked with a lively TV host, Carol Daniel, about how Harriet Tubman used the aerial maps from her dream visions to guide escaping slaves to freedom and how it's common for pregnant mothers to dream of giving birth to baby animals. Erin, the events person at Left Bank Books - a store renowned for supporting creative rebels, artists and dreamers - gave me one of the most eloquent introductions I have ever received, before an enthusiastic crowd of 75 people. In the weekend workshop in an arts building on Delmar, in the city's colorful Loop, we traveled deep into the imaginal realm and collected secret handshakes from the universe while feasting on spicy Thai food during the lunchbreaks.

I've noticed again and again over the years that in my life the appearance of a friendly black dog, especially under unsual circumstances, often presages something good. My feelings may be related to the fact that I shared my home for many years with a couple of big, sloppy black dogs; one of them returned to me in dreams, after his death, as an impeccable friend and guide.

In the midst of a rather difficult phone conversation with a powerful producer who had not quite been "sold" on doing a certain show with me, we were interrupted repeatedly by the barking of a dog. Finally I asked, "What kind of dog is that?" "It's a black lab," the producer explained. It turned out she was sitting a friend's dog for the day - a black dog. I knew in that instant that the conversation would turn out just fine. I proceeded to tell the producer a couple of stories about black dogs who have given me messages (a couple of these are in The Three "Only" Things) - and the producer did not waste another second before agreeing to put me on the show. "How soon can we book you?"

On my way home from leading another workshop, I stopped for essential groceries. When I came out of the supermarket, I noticed that the car parked beside me had a decal that read: "Black Labrador Taxi Service." Yes, the rest of the evening was just lovely.


Anonymous said...

Hi Robert,

Since I'm immersed in "The Three Only Things" after discovering your work recently and since one of the supporting characters in my first novel is a black dog named Bear, does your post mean my coincidence will be hearing from my agent that my book's been sold? :)

Barbara Butler McCoy said...

I'd forgotten all about the unusual sight of a cute black dachsund on the back seat of a Volvo in the lane next to us as we drove along one of Atlanta's many Peachtree streets this morning! Thanks for the reminder:) I'll have to go ponder this.

Robert Moss said...

Hi Mary - if a black dog named Bear is in your novel, you know you are on the right track whatever the response of publishers (though I'll wish you luck on that front also).

Grace said...

I have a wonderful black dog living with me now, but one of my most loved pets in this lifetime was a black dog that has already passed. Twice he's appeared in big dreams that are easy to remember. Both times my dog named "Pedro" made me laugh as he suddenly jumped up and started flying , and once jumped up and got attached to a door, plastering himself to it in a very funny way. Both dreams brought me a laugh, but one more time Pedro showed up in a dream, along with my other two dogs that have passed, leading the way on a windy stone staircase that led to a wooden door. Behind that door I know were my father and other passed on relatives. I haven't opened that door yet, for some reason, but I know when I need to, I was led there by a very trustworthy friend. Maybe I should consider asking him to come around when I need some direction in a dream. OMG! Last night my dream was about being lost, going around and around a block somewhere in a strange city---is it synchronicity that I decided to blog on tonight? I might try asking for Pedro to visit my dreams tonight! Thanks Robert for the fun!

Robert Moss said...

Hi Grace - Just to add to the goosebumps, the name of the man at the St. Louis airport with a black dog named Bear in the back of his car is...Pedro.

Anonymous said...

Now that is spooky!

Unknown said...

About a month ago, I had a dream of two black dogs that came to my house.

Ripley, (aussie shepard/border mix) was with me standing in the kitchen watching these dogs that were outside on the deck.

Next, the dogs were in the house and boy were they a wild pair. One, had blue eyes, or yellow eyes that kept staring at me with a great deal of intensity. The dream sort of rolled along until one of the dogs peed on the floor! I took him/her? by the neck and was escorting him out the door, saying, no, no, bad dog, when I realized that the dog was trying to get my attention.......

I had better pay attention to this dream and find out what they were doing there. Until I read this post, I had forgotten that I had this dream.

Mary and Robert, what a spooky fun "coincidence"......WOW!

wfleet said...

When I turned 50, I decided to give up all my intimate, idiosyncratic superstitions. And allow new ones to blossom. It was one of the greatest acts of courage I have ever embarked upon. As I did something which had been 'forbidden' (stacking the cat's red bowl on her yellow bowl in the cupboard, say), I would find myself going hot & cold, shivering with the wrongness.

It was a Great Freedom, finally. It taught me a lot about the nature of and startling power of one's inner private superstitions & secret personal propaganda. It gave me an angle of obsidian humor on myself.

By the way, for folks born in the USA South, every single act is one degree of superstition or another, a negotiation with Fat E who interferes with our fate at Her Bizarre Whim. Our lives are (mostly happily) riddled with micro-superstition, micro-ritual.

I've yet to meet a Southerner who will say, "See you tomorrow." It's always "See you tomorrow, barring the creeks rising." The 'barring the creeks rising' is a tug of the forelock to the Sure & Indisputable Knowledge that I'll see you tomorrow if Fat E allows it. One does not want to tempt her to rise a creek to punish your bald assertion that you will be there. "Oh yeah?" she might declare.