A year and a half later, we adopted Sprocket. After Luna, I wanted something that wouldn't shed as well as something that was dumber and would maybe play fetch instead of give me the cold shoulder if I didn't give her table scraps. I also wanted something smaller. At a local pet store, we fell in love with an adorably chubby cock-a-poo, all white curls and stubby wagging tail. And we went too much in the opposite direction. Luna was too big and too smart. Sprocket was small enough, but he was dumber than a sack of hammers. He would never stay in the yard, though it had a 5 foot fence. He would Mario jump against the back of the house and climb over the fence that way. When I got pregnant with Scarlet and was sick enough that I couldn't handle chasing the dumb thing around the neighborhood anymore, we gave him to a lady with another cock-a-poo. She had 8 foot brick walls around her yard.
It was nearly 2 years before I even THOUGHT about getting another dog. My husband, though, has always felt like our family was incomplete without one, and when my mom brought home a tiny, 1 1/2 pound chihuahua puppy that she called Bronwen, I took my kids on biweekly visits to the animal shelters in the area. I had several requirements. 1. I was NOT spending more than 75.00 on a dog again. The other two both cost between 600-1000 dollars, and I wasn't going to blow another tax return on an animal that might turn out to be a flop again. 2. The animal had to be good with children. Duh. 3. It HAD to be house broken.
For two weeks, I took my children on the rounds. There were 3 different shelters in the area we live in, and I went to all of them twice a week. There were always different dogs, but most of them had been turned in to the shelters for not being house broken, not getting along with other animals or children, or there was no reason at all, which I found disconcerting.
Each time we went to the Humane Society, we walked past the dogs who would bark and jump at the chain link gates. The ones who were old or depressed and would sit in their soiled cage, curled up into balls and sleep their lives away. Every time, near the end of our visit, we would come around the corner and approach the furthest back wall, where the dogs who had been fostered stayed. As we rounded the bend, each dog would quietly walk to the gate, sit down, and with his tongue hanging down over his teeth and chops, a grin would spread across his doggy face, panting with canine excitement.
Hunter wasn't the first dog I looked at. There were others. Girl dogs. I was under the impression that a female dog wouldn't mark any territory like boys do. And then I was reminded of Luna, who marked EVERYTHING even though she was a girl. But there were Black Labs, who my son would jab a fat finger at and call "Dark Vader", and there were pit bulls, who I skipped past faster than I would have a terrier sized scorpion. There were Golden Retrievers and Jack Russel Terriers too. But Hunter, from the time we saw him there, his nose, which was an endearing brown color instead of black like most dogs, turned up toward us, his light brown eyes doing the begging sweetheart thing, his ears all droopy, just had a light about him. Yes, he looked like he had a halo.
Hunter is a Brittany Spaniel with some sort of other dog mixed into him. He was about 3 years old, and when we took him out to the yard to play with him, he was gentle, obedient, and answered to his name, even when our children called him. He was house broken, and was great with other dogs and children, just not cats. Which is fine, because, like most Fae, I am deathly allergic to cats and cannot have one.
Since we brought this dog home, he has been nothing but perfect. We have never had an accident in the house, he stays in the yard, and he only occasionally barks at the cat across the road. He DOES like to bury things in our back yard, but even that is nothing compared to the pleasantness this dog has lent to our home.
It never really ceases to amaze me how loyal a dog can be, and how he can love you to a fault, even when he's been left all day in a silent, still house without a doggy-door and still "held it". He still protects the child who pulls his hair and slobbers on his ears. He still loves you, even when you spank his nose for stealing the baby's cookie, or when you make him stay outside because a house guest is allergic to dogs. (For the record, it's usually demons that are allergic to dogs, but not always. Humans have a tendency for that too...but it's something to watch for.) There is an excellent reason for a dog to be called "Man's best friend" and an even better reason that dogs are the only animal who truly carry that title.
It is an old story. One that mixes both the spiritual realm and the Faerie realm. Some say that the Fae are spirits who were too good to follow Satan and his third of the Hosts Of Heaven, but not good enough to follow Christ and the two thirds that glorified Him. These people say that they have no souls. Some say that they are the children of Lilith, who was Adam's first wife. When Lilith partook of the fruit of the tree of Knowledge, Adam refused to partake as well, and she was cast out of the Garden alone to bear her strange, demented, terrifying children. More aptly believed by the skeptics and scientists of our time, the Faeries are only stories inspired by the Tuatha de Dannon who were the pre Celtic inhabitants of Ireland. They fled to the moors and the forests to hide from the Celts who invaded Ireland from Spain. I believe that God created everything, and that anything that can make a choice for itself does indeed have a soul and, therefore, if it chooses good over evil, will belong to God in the end anyway, no matter where they came from.
When God had finished his eons of creation, placing light and dark, water and air, earth and sky in their respective domains, He placed the animals, as well as man in the Garden of Eden. Among those animals were Hippogriffs, Griffins, Drakes, Chupacabra, and Basilisks, along with hundreds of other fantastical animals, including the majestic Unicorn.
I find it trite and cliche to believe that the animals were at all sentient. They supposedly lived in harmony and peace with one another, and they never harmed Adam or Eve. But the souls of animals are still lesser intelligences, even animals of the Faerie realm, which are usually referred to as "Wild Fae". Just as animals do not now talk through telepathy, or through a voice as they do sometimes in the theatre, they didn't talk then. Though, that knowledge should never be used to underestimate any animal's ability to communicate or understand another living creature. Indeed, they have better senses than we do about things. They can smell fear. They can smell the good in people or, in contrast, the wickedness in people. They can smell death, even, if it is in the near future. Man has always been known to block out those kinds of senses. Even from the beginning. If he hadn't, perhaps Adam and Eve would still be in that garden, blissfully and innocently naked as they tended their personal paradise.
That being said, the fact that a serpent was talking to Eve should have been the first tip off that something was wrong. But Eve, though innocent was intelligent. And she knew that in order to fulfill all of Gods commandments (i.e. multiply and replenish the earth) she would have to let herself be reduced to a mortal. She would have to suffer pains and afflictions, uncertainties and even eventual death in order to fulfil her end of the deal. All I know is that the devil was in the skin of something she once was able to trust. And trust is a virtue that many humans have grown out of and altogether lost at this point in time. I do not blame her.
One can imagine that an all seeing God would know the instant that the juice of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge flowed over the gums of Adam and Eve. And so in that instant, all the known animals became mortal, and in essence, natural. They became like the earth, and just did what came easily, which meant that they ate each other. They began to hunt. And that made them a sort of enemy to man.
The dog, however, watched with his big round eyes as the animals scattered, and Adam fell to his knees in a moment of despair, dropping the forbidden fruit to the soft grass, even in the instant that it sprouted thorns as long as his arm. And the dog stayed. In an effort to comfort the man who had always been his friend, his companion, began to lick the juice from Adams fingers until they were slick with the lack of it. And so it was that man's best friend became so because to the smallest degree he understands the darkness that flooded into Adam's heart that day. And the tradition continues on. An animal of the wild can be born in captivity or taken as a baby and taught to trust man. But a dog trusts his master and loves him unconditionally from the day of his birth.
The Unicorn is a more complicated story. While the other wild Fae ran away like the other animals and found their place among the fantastic and sprightly creatures who hid themselves from man altogether. But the Unicorn, like the dog, stayed and stared at Adam through red, flaming eyes. It's mane and tail had become fiery orange and burned with the fury of Hell itself before it galloped off to find sanctuary in a place that man would never find.
Much traditional lore about the Unicorn is based on the theory that a Unicorn is the embodiment of purity. They say that only the purist of hearts can touch them. A virgin, in most cases, seems to be the type. Healing magic flows from it's spiraling horn, and they are always white. Some lore says that they are vessels of knowledge. And that very well may be so, but as I mentioned before, they are animals, just like any other. And what knowledge they posses stays within their own mind.
The truth of the matter is that some of the lore is right. And some of it is just misinterpretation. Unicorns are, in fact, the embodiments of purity, but they can be any color. They represent everything that is good and right in this world. Peace, harmony, emotion, strength, light. Love, even. The thought that only a virgin can touch a Unicorn is ludicrous, but then again, the idea that there is a pure enough human at all is even more ludicrous. The Unicorn is indeed a spirit of purity. But it is not in any way a spirit of forgiveness. That is the Lamb's place.
As much as the Unicorn is the spirit of purity, it is also the spirit of justice. And it will change it's form when an occasion arises to use it. A Nightmare is often mistaken for the angel of death at worst, and a bad omen at best. Really, the only bad omen is that the Unicorn knows your innermost workings and thinks you a fool, if not completely unworthy. But if I were to look a Nightmare in the eye, I would rethink my lifestyle. He is, of sorts, one of God's judges. But he is only a warning. The Unicorn rarely gets the final say. Still, the Nightmare isn't something i would provoke.
In ancient worlds, the Unicorn was able to roam more freely. They galloped in herds across great wild spaces. There were fewer people to see it, and if a person did see it, they were struck with a sense of reverence an awe. An experience of this degree wasn't something an ancient Celt, for example, would soon forget, or write off as imaginary.
Today, though, there is much to be said for denial. Most people live in it's murky darkness day in and day out. They don't recognise the blatant magical entities that often stare them in the face. For the Unicorn, this is both good and bad. For one, it lets them continue to exist. Someone catching sight of the creature may just as easily imagine it to be a very large and beautiful horse, and miss the spiraling peak against it's forehead altogether. On the other hand, a person who does see a Unicorn and recognises it for what it truly is, is just as likely to try to catch it, kill it, and study it, as they are to ignore it. It makes the world a dangerous place for these titans.
Unicorns are also unique in the fact that they claim no allegiance to Winter Court or Summer Court. They exist everywhere all the time. And they are not limited to Europe as some original lore tells. One can find Unicorns wherever there are wild horses. They tend to lead heards of them, and horses seem obliged to follow.
My husband has family that lives in a place called Delta, Utah. His uncle has made a living out of catching wild horses, breaking them, and selling them once they are the gentle creatures whose demeanor brings to mind an oversized dog. He is a strong man, and his presence demands attention. It's something a Unicorn would respect. He is also a very good man, and it says a lot about his soul that he has seen a half a dozen Unicorns in his lifetime, and none of them have turned Hell's Fury at him.
Not many people will ever experience the thrill of seeing a Unicorn on the run. And even fewer will see the sheer fright of breath breathed from the muzzle of a Nightmare on a cold night. But in our loyal dogs, we have a comfort that not even the Unicorn's judgement can give us. No one is perfect, and even the purest man or woman is unworthy to touch a Unicorn. If we lived our lives within the judgement of the Unicorn, we would all lose hope. In our darkest moment of sort-of failure, God gave us dogs.