About two in the morning, after an argument with my husband, I was too restless and agitated to sleep, so I went out for a walk. This probably wasn't a wise thing to do in Glasgow, especially on the long, deserted Kelvin Way as it passed the dark and silent Glasgow University and then through the even-darker Kelvin Park, empty except for homeless people, perhaps sleeping, perhaps not. There was a thick hedge between the park and me. But I wasn't really thinking about where I was or the risks of a Glasgow night; I was just simmering and trying to calm down. About halfway along, a tatty black van approached from the other direction — and slowed and stopped about 30 feet in front of me. A large, burly man got out.

"Hey, missus! Want a ride?" Rough voice full of innuendo.

"No, thank you." When in doubt, be polite.

"Aw, come on!" He was still approaching, now about halfway to me. This was getting scary.

At that moment, a large, heavily-built black dog came out of the bushes bordering the park. The dog stepped in front of me, facing the on-coming man, and began to snarl. The man promptly stopped, putting out both hands as if to hold the dog off. The dog took a slow step toward him, and then another. The rumbling growl grew deeper and louder as the dog continued to slowly pace forward.

"Hold your dog, missus! I'm going!" He fled toward the van, jumped in, and reversed hastily up the street to the nearest corner, and disappeared with a squealing of tires.

The dog stood still, rumbling until the van was out of sight. Then he started to turn toward me and I wondered, "Now what?"

He faced me, the orange glow of the street light reflecting in his eyes. He was happily wagging his tail and panting, clearly saying, "Aren't I a good dog?"

I thanked him fervently, and he turned and vanished back into the hedge.

Still somewhat shaken, I went home and said nothing about it. Months later, when I finally told the story to a couple of Scottish friends, one of them asked hesitantly, "Was the dog real?" The other nodded, also clearly wondering.

There are legends in Scotland about black dogs who appear when needed to rescue or to harm people. I hadn't thought of the stories until then and, indeed, the dog had seemed utterly solid, but... I hadn't touched it and couldn't be certain so I answered, "He was real enough."

Do I believe the dog was "real" or was it one of the faery dogs of legend? I tend to swing both ways on that question, and don't have a definite answer. But what I got from this as it settled into me was that I felt protected, whether that was true or not. And the way we feel matters as much if not more than what we believe. That alone is a kind of magic.

Copyright ©2018 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.

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