Friday, November 25, 2016 I woke up this morning to find myself with my arms crossed against my chest and a complete emotional wreck. Once again, my precious sheltie, Socky, who crossed the rainbow bridge almost 18 months ago, had visited me in my dream. As with my other dreams I’ve had about him, it was so real that I hated to wake up, this time even more so because I think he tried to tell me that this would be the last visit from him until my time comes to join him. I truly believe that animals, and people, cross over to a better place when they leave this plane of existence. But I think there are two realms after life here on Earth. The first realm is that place where their spirit resides between Heaven and Earth. They often get stuck here because of unfinished business or the inability to let go. It is here that they often make visits to us in our dreams or leave little cues for us to let us know they are still with us. But there comes a time eventually when they can’t hang on in that realm anymore, and they finally move on to the greener fields of Heaven to become our guardian Angels. They can still look over us as Angels, but it’s more difficult for them to make contact with us. In most of my previous dreams about Socky, although I was a little sad about waking up, I was happy to know he was still with me. But the dream I had this morning left me with that same hurt and loneliness I felt when we had to make that fateful decision to help him cross over. I was in my barn tending to the horses, something Socky used to love to do with me. I looked down and he was sitting in front of me begging for a hug. I took him in my arms and hugged him tightly. My family was with me and they couldn’t see him. They only saw me hugging and petting an invisible entity; they thought I was crazy. I tried to tell them my precious Socky was with me. But the more I petted him, the more I realized how tired he looked. It was like he was telling me he was too tired to continue visiting me, and this would probably be his last time to come see me. Before I could finish telling him how much I loved him, I woke up and he was gone. I was only left with that all too familiar heartbreak. Never in my life have I felt this amount of sadness over the loss of any person or pet. I’ve endured the loss of all my grandparents, uncles, a cousin, friends, and countless pets during my lifetime. Yes, I shed tears over them, but I was happy for them in that I knew they had gone on to a better place. But the loss of Socky hit me and my family hard as he left us way too soon. He was that one of a kind dog that had character, was way too smart for his own good, and was the most lovable fur-ball you can imagine. Having four other dogs, four cats and two horses certainly helped with the recovery as they gave me something to focus on because they still needed me. It was a Monday, 18 months ago, when we had to rush Socky to the vet after we watched him endure a night of pain and illness. After having emergency surgery for a ruptured spleen 6 months prior, his body had held out as long as it possibly could. Needless to say we were too emotional when it was over, and the vet said to come back in a few days to settle the bill. Socky was such a strong spirited dog and I think he really held on as long as he could to please us. This leads me to believe that his spirit hung around at the vet’s office waiting for us to return. He didn’t want to leave us either. When I returned the following Friday to pay the bill, a lady had brought two stray kittens to the clinic to be vetted. Her husband would only let her keep one so she also had the second one treated with the hopes of it being adoptable when she dropped it off at the pound afterwards. My daughter, who worked in the clinic, fell in love with the kitten immediately. He was a grey striped tabby cat with the letter M on his forehead. She begged me to take him home with me so he wouldn’t have to go to the pound. With all the other animals at home, I figured what’s one more. I also thought perhaps a kitten would help me get over Socky a little easier. This kitten quickly made himself at home and it wasn’t long before he took over as the ringleader for both dogs and cats, which had previously been Socky’s role. While trying to think of an appropriate name for him, I just referred to him as “Squirt” not realizing that he figured out I was talking about him when I called him that. Needless to say, it stuck and that became his official name. I know this sounds crazy but I think that whatever spirit of Socky was still left there in the clinic after his last breath, attached itself to that little kitten. I would refer it to reincarnation for lack of a better description. I believe this because there are so many things this cat has done since bringing him home that reminds me of Socky. I know cats often swish their tails when they are agitated or showing dominance, but Squirt wags his tail like a dog. He wags it in his sleep, when he plays, and when he’s just running through the house. Socky was always wagging his tail. Socky was the first dog we ever had that actually howled. He taught our other dogs to howl as well. Socky loved to go outside for walks and to play ball. Now, when I take the other dogs outside for walks or to play, Squirt sits inside at the front glass storm door or in the window where he can watch. He literally howls, pitifully, while watching us until I return, like he’s sad that he can’t come outside with us to play. He even does it when I go outside without the dogs. There had been times when Socky used to howl for me after I left the house (something his little brother, Indy, tends to do as well). Socky used to sit and stare at me and put to use his mental telepathy to convey to me what he wanted, whether it was to play, to be scratched, or to be fed. Squirt does this same thing. You can see the wheels turning deep inside his gaze. And on days when I’m thinking about Socky and I’m a little sad, it’s not uncommon for Squirt to climb in my lap and nuzzle my neck to give me kitty kisses and give me mini hugs with his kneading paws on my chest. This little cat has such character. I simply can’t discount all these things as mere coincidence. I know in time that I will be reunited with Socky where we’ll be able to play fetch together without tiring. In the mean time, I know I’ll have to endure the eventual loss of the animals we have now and future animals that are brought to me to care for. Socky always played “mama” to our other animals that we rescued and brought home. I know that he would want me to continue to leave room in my heart to help more lost fur babies by giving them the same loving and warm home that he had.