I keep coming back to this dream I had a few days ago, not because it was a weird dream (I always have weird dreams) but because I can’t seem to quite make sense of it, which is unusual. Here’s what I can remember of the dream: my wife brought home all these dogs, cats, and rats. I was surprised, though excited, until she told me that I had to kill them and make them into dead animal bouquets to fulfill orders she’d already gotten.
“But there are only X number of orders; if there are any animals left, you can totally keep them as pets!” she told me.
I killed all the cats right away, because they’re cats. (This is how I felt in the dream.) I was concerned about killing the dogs until I went to bed and found that a couple of the dogs had defecated under the sheets on our bed. I don’t remember killing the dogs, but this bed discovery seemed to solve the problem. Killing the rats gave me the most guilt. I kept finding myself petting them instead of killing them.
I think I understand the pro-rat theme; my wife and I used to have pet rats, which are wonderful pets, very loving and intelligent, though their lifespans are short (we're allergic to everything out, and discovered that we're allergic to rats, also). Ours tended to live 2-3 years each. I had both cats and dogs as pets when I was a kid, which I think is relevant. The only detail I’ve left out of the dream is how I killed the animals, namely by snapping their necks, either by hitting them against a wall or just snapping them with my hands. This detail seems pertinent. When I was a kid, as I said, I had pets for a period of time. These pets died at the hands of my father, who, at the time, was an alcoholic. I had a dog, for example – a redbone puppy. One night, my father came home saying he’d seen a skunk behind the house. He took a rifle to shoot it and came back later, tight-lipped, and wouldn’t talk about whether he’d gotten it or not, though I’d heard a shot. The next day, my dog was missing and never reappeared. I had a kitten shortly after this which my father killed one evening in a drunken rage, claiming it had defecated on the floor. He took the kitten outside and beat its head against the side of the house and then threw its body out into the yard. The method of dispatch seems pertinent, as does the ambiguity around the dog's death.
The second thing that comes to mind in relation to this dream is a nightmare my 2-year-old daughter had recently. I woke to find her screaming, “Daddy, daddy! Don’t go bye bye!” Standing at the baby gate at the top of the stairs (instead of coming into our bedroom a couple feet away). When I picked her up and reassured her I wasn’t going anywhere, she calmed right down and went back to sleep.
This image of my father killing my kitten isn’t significant so much as an example of my vulnerability as a child, which I empathize with in my own child, but rather it’s most troubling because it reveals an example of behavior taught by my father. By behaving this way, he showed me that this is a possible course of action. I mean, he drank and had a temper, and none of us died or was really physically hurt, except the pets. I have developed a kind of psychological vertigo: a fear that I will plunge over the cliff’s edge into neglect, abuse. I'm afraid I'll become my father. So, in short, this is a warning to me.
I have it within me. I see burgeoning signs, even if they’re not actually there. Anytime I perceive a failing as a parent, I see myself inching towards becoming that drunk kitten-killer. I've always been self-absorbed, moody. I've got a temper. This fear is fine with me, though. I’m happy to remain on guard. I’m happy to be reminded that I must be vigilant as a parent or risk neglect.
So that explains the cats, I think. And the dogs, whose deaths may or may not have happened: the dog represented a few things for me, I should add. Normalcy, for one; boys are supposed to have dogs, kick cans, and blow things up with cherry bombs. So I lost that. Also, this dog, and the kitten, depended on me, and I failed them. I could argue that it wasn’t my fault, but I did bring them into this house (these are the only two pets I had as a child; I refused any others, even when my father would’ve allowed them during a sober spell, because I knew I was killing them by bringing them into the house.) This is rich psychological territory. I, of course, fear that circumstances beyond my control might endanger my child’s welfare, happiness, etc. I take this to be my current work situation, which is unfulfilling, to say the least. So that makes sense.
The rats, though, I’m not so sure about. I loved having rats as pets, except for the short lifespans. And cleaning up after them. Many days, while writing, one of them would often sit in my lap to be petted. I cried when this one died. I can't say that I've cried at the death of any human I've known, including my mother, though I could say that in a certain sense I cried for my mother's death for years during the last, waning years of her life when she suffered from Huntington's Disease and was, essentially, a prisoner in her own unresponsive body. But that's a different dream. So there seems to be something about emotional connection in there.
Perhaps the rats represented a time in the past when I was happier. (Namely, before entering my current work situation). Though we had rats for the first couple years I had my current job. So I’m not sure about this. That's as far as I've been able to get.
Of course, after I went through all these iterations of interpretation, my wife pointed out a much more obvious meaning: that she was trying to get me to make something beautiful (the bouquets) from horror. Again, the horror represents my work situation. I recently tried to change jobs and failed. This left me stuck in an unsavory situation. Hence, making lemonade from dead pets bouquets, so to speak. Her interpretation works as well as mine.
Regardless, this was the most interesting dream I’ve had in a while.
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