For a bunch of reasons I’m under a fair amount of stress these days here on the Greek island of Kefalonia, 8,000 miles away from my husband, my dogs, and my “real” life in California, so it’s not surprising that one side effect might be nightmares during which I scream out loud.
What did surprise me, though, on a recent night, was that my recently rescued, now foster pooch Agapi, whose care and uncertain future are two of the chief reasons for my stress, and for whom existence itself was more or less a living nightmare until a couple of months ago, and who is still frightened of many things—it was a giant surprise that this dog gulped down all his own fears to come to my rescue.
When I say fears, here’s an example. After leaving his harsh life on the streets of one Greek village to come live with me in another Greek village, Agapi needed hours of just hanging around near the car, with me liberally doling out cookies and belting out show tunes like “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'” before finally overcoming his trembling terror enough last week to jump into the back seat. (You’d think the torment of hearing my singing voice would have motivated him to comply sooner.) Of course he just wanted to jump right back out of the car, but still, quite a milestone.
My nightmare was silly. I think it involved wild, voracious rats swarming the kitchen, which thank all the house restoration gods is one thing that has not yet happened at our decrepit old place here on this island. (I love rats but if they’re going to be in the kitchen would prefer them to be domesticated, well-fed, and in smaller numbers.)
Silly though the nightmare may have been, my reaction to it was rather serious, with a lot of hollering at the top of my lungs.
Logically, you’d expect many animals, especially severely traumatized ones, to run the other way. But while waking from the bad dream, I heard commotion and clatter, and opened my eyes to find someone standing over me. A large, furry, and worried someone.
My shrieks had apparently inspired Agapi to fly off his bed a few feet away from the sofa where I’ve been sleeping lately, and leap with all fours up onto the coffee table next to me. The living room is a mess and there was too much junk around for him to quickly find a floor route, so he had taken that shortcut to get to my side as fast as he could.
Through the dim dawn light I saw him above me blinking in surprise, but with every muscle in his body tensed and ready for action.
Those eyes seemed to be asking, “Hey, what happened? Need help? Is there somebody I should bite?”
He looked even more puzzled when I laughed, sat up, and hugged him. “My hero!” I cooed over and over.
In the confusion, one of his hind paws slipped off the coffee table, so I had to reach out and stabilize it to keep him from falling.
He took advantage of the situation to wash my neck and an ear, something dogs tend to do when they want to reassure themselves and their pack mates.
That’s what this animal rescue thing is about, I realized. It’s not just me rescuing and reassuring him all the time. We’re taking turns.
More on why I'm in Greece:
More on Agapi:
Read Melissa Beamish's excellent blog about her round-the-world trip volunteering in animal shelters, including a month at Kefalonia's ARK.
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