Just as I am while I am awake, when asleep I am a vocal dreamer. Rare is the night that I don’t startle my crate-mate Mr. Monkey and even at times Mike and Heather with my yips, whines, low growls and, at the least, gentle snoring.
There’s no doubt that I dream. Noted pet behaviorist Patricia McConnell accepts the concept of dog dreaming, but wonders what we’re dreaming about. She argues that, like humans, dogs probably dream about recent events through a funnel of memory-processing and consolidation. “Thus, it is reasonable to speculate that our dogs are dreaming about something that might have happened during the day, but not necessarily in context. (Herding the rabbit they saw in the woods in the afternoon, but this time in a sheepdog trial in the snow under a purple sky?)” McConnell writes on her blog, The Other End of the Leash.
I bring this up now because of my recent oral surgery, for which Dr. Crocker, who otherwise seems like a nice man, had to put me under anaesthesia. See, despite the anti-anxiety medication Mike administered twice before forcing me into the car and taking me on what could have been the last ride of my life (and they didn’t even let me sit in the front seat!), I was afraid. Not of having my tooth drilled, filed and filled. I was afraid of the nightmares I was certain to have while I was off in another dimension.
“Do dogs have nightmares?” McConnell asked in the same post. “It seems very likely. Our experiences, the biological continuum between all mammals, and the emotional content of REM dreams, suggest that they do. So many of us have seen and heard dogs growl and whine while dreaming. I’ve had clients whose dogs woke up in a panic, sometimes even running across the room and trying to hide. Science teaches us to be ‘parsimonious’ in our explanations of what we observe, and surely it is simpler to explain what we observe, and what we’ve learned about neurobiology, to assume that dogs do indeed have nightmares until evidence appears that tells us that they don’t. I wouldn’t bet on that happening, myself. But it is also probably true that most of a dog’s dreams aren’t nightmares, and are either pleasant, or just bizarre.”
I considered myself lucky when my hours of stupor produced only these wonderful thoughts.
When I awoke, I was still a little woozy, but Mike and Heather were there to greet me and told me I had done a great job. And there was good news: Dr. Crocker managed to save my tooth with a root-canal procedure instead of extracting it. In a couple of weeks, I get to go back to finish the job, putting a permanent crown on the tooth and enjoying another few minutes of drug-induced dreaming. This time I’m looking forward to it.