This is “Black-Eyed Dog,” by Nick Drake. It’s one of my all-time favorite songs. Nick died very young, in his sleep, of what was presumed to be an accidental overdose of his depression medication. Before he left, he recorded some of the most hauntingly beautiful tunes, including this one. You probably recognize the concept of a black (or black-eyed) dog. Nick’s song was based on Winston Churchill’s description of the inescapable weight of depression, following you at all hours. Of course, this imagery is most likely based on a creature of British legend with which Churchill (and anyone who’s read Harry Potter) would be familiar – the Black Dog, a ghostly being that, once seen, portends the viewer’s death.
Fun fact: I thought that I “knew” that the Black Dog and the pooka, or púca, were one and the same before I started writing this blog post, but I was wrong.
Another fun fact: I really need to go to sleep, but now I’m getting really excited about reading about the Black Dog. Uh oh. But I’ll leave my faerie research for another time, and wrap this up…
Last night, I dreamt of a black dog, but it was protecting me, albeit reluctantly. I can’t remember the overall framework of the dream, but I was at someone’s house, turned to walk through a doorway and was frightened by the black snake I suddenly saw there. It was stretched out, facing me, and it seemed menacing. For a second I was scared, and yelped in fear. There was a closeup of its delicate face (the more I try to pull this moment up, the more I see that it was a square head, not poisonous), and then I saw its body, a deep, glossy black with a small, muted gold pattern that I couldn’t quite make out. Then I saw that the snake was resting between the paws of a lounging black labrador retriever, and the fear immediately left.
The dog was immense, and also a deep, glossy black. She was one of those purebred labs that are as big as a pony, all solid and sleek, with a flank that makes a drum-sound when you pat it. She was well cared for, and wore a collar with a dangling tag. She was imposing – not my friend, not my pet. She had a job, and she also had an attitude with me. We made eye contact briefly. I felt deference. For a second she seemed to briefly consider me, then the snake quickly crawled (hurled itself, really, in the way that dreams work) past me, away across the room, and over a side table that sat next to the window. The dog chased the snake, looked over the edge of the table down to where it was hiding, and that’s the last thing I remember.