Dear Professor,

Last night I had a dream about my dog that passed away about a year ago. It is the first dream like this since his passing, so it was very unsettling. Anyone who knows me knows that my dog, Cane, seven years old, was my baby, my everything. I am still not over him dying, because he was hit by a car and it was me who found him on the side of the road.

In my dream, I’m followed by all sorts of different breeds of dogs, claiming to be Cane, as if they are him seeking me out trying to communicate through another dog’s body because I know he’s dead. So in my first encounter with the first dog I’m thrilled, thinking Cane is trying to talk to me through another dog but then another dog walks up claiming to him, then another an so on. Confused and broken hearted, all hope of my beloved Cane reuniting with me went out the window. Then, I find myself running, trying to hide from these imposters because none of them are him. At this point I begin hysterically crying because my hopes have been let down. Not once in my dream do I ever actually see the real, physical appearance of my beloved Peeka Poo, Cane.

Please help, Professor?

KS

My Dear KS,

My deepest condolences regarding the loss of your dear friend Cane. Anyone who has been lucky enough to experience the unique bond that comes of loving such a special canine friend knows how difficult it is to lose him, particularly under tragic circumstances.

Dogs have long played a vital role in dreams and mythology in the symbolic division between physical life and the afterlife. The Greeks believed the three headed hound Cerberus guarded the gates of the underworld in order to prevent the dead from re-entering the world of the living. The dog-headed Egyptian god Anubis ushered departed souls from the world of the living into the afterlife. The Professor brings these archetypes to mind because dogs in dreams often appear as guardians, and in the context of death they guard the physical divide between the worlds of the living and the dead. Much of the subconscious process during the grieving period involves the attempt to come to terms with this separation and with the loss of the physical form of the beloved. Your dream of the many dogs who claim to be Cane but are not Cane represents progress in your attempt to internalize the loss of Cane’s physical form. This time of processing is very difficult, and it is not unheard of for the grieving mind to express pain and loss via disturbing subconscious imagery. The Professor recommends that you reach out to some good humans via the ASPCA’s grief support hotline at 877-GRIEF-10; they can more actively assist you with the grieving process and offer understanding of what you’re going through.  Be gentle with yourself during this time, KS.  The Professor would like you to keep this statement in mind; death does not end the relationship with the beloved, it transforms it. Your love for Cane will endure, and you may yet see him again in a recognizable form in your dreams.

I remain your faithful servant and dream interpreter extraordinaire,