My White Shadow

By Claire Blatchford                                                  


It’s 3:33 a.m. I’ve just woken from a weird dream, am thirsty, and need to go to the bathroom.

Moonlight pours in through the window. On my side of the bed my white shadow is, like me, sitting upright. Perhaps, for all I know, he sat in on my dream and found it more exciting than weird. I wouldn’t be surprised, as he reads my gestures, expressions, words, moods and thoughts like an open book. And mirrors all back to me, always truthfully, always with sympathy, though what he shows is certainly not always flattering.

When I see my dark side in and through his steady brown eyes-- without any accusations-- I am shamed.

Why are you angry? those eyes ask. Your anger is squeezing out the air in here! Boy, is it sweltering! Good-bye-- I’m going down to the basement to cool off! 

Down he goes, bushy tail lowered in evident dismay.

"Want a bone?” I call after him rattling the jar full of milk bones.

No response. He won’t be fooled. He knows that I know he adores bones.

That he doesn’t want to be near me pops the anger. You can almost hear it fizzling out, leaving me limp, chastened, apologetic.

 Minutes later he reappears, tail up, mouth open.

 Now…what about that bone you mentioned?

Fidelity and companionship of this sort offer the chance for correction right on the spot! Sometimes I take it, sometimes I don’t. And still, without any commentary, the loving mirroring continues. How unbounded is his happiness when we are happy! How instantaneous and sweet his greeting when we return home, no matter if we’ve been gone ten hours or twenty minutes.

My white shadow follows me as I make my way through the dark hallway to the bathroom. He waits by the stairs. When I come out I sit on the top step to take a few minutes with him. He leans against my chest and asks ever so simply for what he needs: touch.  

I run one hand down the length of his spine, in one direction repeatedly, all the way to the end of his leg—as though to enhance or cleanse the energy flow. Then I take his face in both hands and with my thumbs massage behind his ears. I feel his total surrender to the pleasure of it all. When I stop his cool tongue across my face says thank you. My kiss on his forehead is my returned thank you. So easy to give—such joy, both ways, in the giving!

My white shadow knows the art of being with, without invading boundaries, though there are times when his close is a bit too close. Like after he’s caught and gulped down a whole mole, sampled manure in the cow pasture or rolled in fishy seaweed. I know my good ideas— weeding the garden rather than going for a ramble— are not always his good ideas. Nor are his mine— as when he chases crows round and round the yard, nose aimed skyward, barking up a storm! Does he really imagine he could sprout wings and fly with them? Or the way he insists, in his ridiculous, persistent manner that squirrels come down straight away from this or that branch in a tree. To what? His open jaws? How can my white shadow who is so wise also be so silly? Perhaps he, secure and comfortable in the depths of his doggie incarnation, thinks the same of me.

I see, as we return to the bedroom, it’s a bit after 4 a.m. My white shadow picks a different spot in the room, this time at the foot of the bed. In the moonlight I watch him turn round three times, scratch the rug, then lower himself into a neat circle, this time facing the door. As though to keep weird dreams at bay.

I, too, snuggle down again filled with gratitude for this wondrous friendship that accompanies me not only through each day but through each night as well.