RoofTop Chalie is coming around the final curve. He is running close to 45 mph and he can hear the hum of the crowd as he moves closer to the finish. He can feel his spine stretch as all four of his feet leave the ground and then touch back down, pulling him forward in a frantic gallop.
Joe and I were startled awake by the rattle of metal. Chalie’s paws were moving rapidly again and his crate was shaking. Chalie was breathing hard and whimpering in his sleep.
“Shhhhh, buddy, it’s all right,” Joe whispered in the dark to Chalie, whose sleeping crate is next to our bed.
Chalie’s legs were still running and he was whining now, so Joe whispered again, but a bit louder. “Wake up boy. You’re okay; you’re here with us.”
The rattling of the metal crate stopped suddenly and I knew that Chalie was awake. Although it was dark, I assumed his eyes were open and he was taking in his surroundings, realizing that he was in his own bed at home, and not at the racetrack.
Chalie has been retired from his career as a race dog for almost eight years now. He came to our home as a bright eyed two year old, after competing in less than twenty races. As a retiree, Chalie still runs, but now he bounds around in a big circle in our backyard.
In sleep, Chalie is a prolific dreamer. He runs, or he chases, or he is chased, we don’t know which, every single night and during most daytime naps. We wish we could know what images fill his brain in sleep and why he often whimpers or cries out in his dreams. Is he running at the track in Birmingham, where he spent his youth? Or is he running in his own backyard, trying to catch that elusive rabbit who always ducks under the shed before Chalie can reach him? Or is he being chased by something menacing, like the aliens or vampires that plague my own nightmares?
I often wonder if it is simple genetics that drive Chalie’s dreams. After all, Chalie is from a long and well-documented lineage of successful race dogs, each hand picked to pass on his or her running genes to the next generation. Chalie’s father, or sire in race dog language, was an Irish racing champion whose athletic genes were passed on to over 5000 offspring. Maybe Chalie can’t help but dream of the race, given that he was selectively bred for this purpose alone.
And if our genetics could truly drive our dreams, this might explain why I so often dream of work. My own lineage is that of working class people and like Chalie, I descend from the Irish. My own ancestors worked hard to make a living in this country and worked as factory workers, waitresses, craftsmen, and at other honest, but laborious jobs. So after a long day of working hard, I often fall asleep, only to continue working in my dreams.
If only Chalie and I had descended from royalty or from the privileged upper class, then in our sleep, instead of running hard, or working hard, Chalie and I could dream of eating bonbons on the beach.
Maybe tonight, when Chalie is back at the racetrack and I am either being chased by that alien or crunching data sheets at work, Joe can help us shake off our lot in life.
“Shhhhhh,” Joe might whisper to us in the dark. “Shhhh, you’re okay. Your having tea and crumpets with the Queen.”
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