I was out in my backyard searching for a lost dog when I heard my friends shouting, “Look out overhead.”

I looked up to see a large bird in a steep dive headed straight for my head.

I tried to dodge, but the big bird’s aim was unerring. It hit me at chest level.

I had thought at first it was an eagle, but as it made contact, I realized with horror that it was a buzzard.

I tried desperately to push it away, but its wings had a surprising strength.

Then I felt a sharp thud against my back. A light came on above me, and I was looking into the alarmed face of my wife.

“Are you all right?” she asked.

I slowly took stock of my aching body and concluded that no bones were broken.

I lay there for a few seconds, then pulled myself painfully to my feet and got back in bed.

Not for the first time, I had fallen off our pillow-top mattress and landed on the floor. My landing had been cushioned a bit by a pillow lying beside the bed. I usually watch television from bed with two pillows behind me. I toss one of them to the floor after the television goes silent and the lights go out. That night, it saved me.

I seldom have nightmares, although I occasionally have weird dreams. After I’m awake, I try to figure out which corner of my subconscious the dream emerged from.

In my dream, I was looking for a dog – a larger, shaggier version of Miss Candi, the little white Peke-a-poo that was my constant companion for nearly 16 years. She has been dead for going on three years, but she still visits me in my dreams. In those dreams, she is lost somewhere in the woods or has been stolen by some unknown party. It’s always a joy and a relief to find her, though sadness returns when I awaken and realize that she is gone to a place where I’ll never find her.

The first time I fell off a pillow-top mattress, Miss Candi was a wee puppy whining to be lifted into bed beside me. The mattress was new, and I was accustomed to reaching down, bracing one hand against the floor and lifting her with the other. That time, the floor was farther away, and I couldn’t reach it. I tumbled out. Fortunately, I didn’t land on the dog. So the dog and the fall were reruns.

The buzzard may have emerged from some long-dormant memory of a near-collision on a remote Georgia road some 50 years ago. The big black bird swooped across the road at windshield level, and I braked just in time to avoid smearing its nasty corpse across my windshield.

That memory may have merged with the image encountered on the Internet of an eagle swooping down on a 2-year-old child and carrying it to its nest some four miles away.

I read the article on the website of The Weekly World News, which bills itself as “the world’s only reliable news.”

That incident, reported from Argentina, was strangely similar to an incident reported from Montreal, where a video from the highly reliable YouTube depicted an eagle circling a playground, then swooping down to snatch a child. Some doubters reported that both videos were faked, but my subconscious is gullible.

When Pharaoh of old had a dream of this nature, he tended to call Joseph to interpret it.

When Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar had such dreams, they called on Daniel.

Since I have no such insightful counselor, I have to figure it out for myself.

My top three explanations:

1. The dog represents all the homeless or mistreated mutts that have been victimized by monsters masquerading as humans. The buzzard represents justice seeking to devour the flesh of such animal abusers. It was my misfortune that this buzzard was near-sighted and mistook me for one of the villains. Moral: Stay out from under near-sighted buzzards.

2. The dog represents my career as a journalist, which sustained me for 50 years as a full-time editor and columnist but has entered the twilight zone since my retirement. The buzzard represents the Internet, which has devoured some pretty good newspapers since I left the newsroom 10 years ago. The pillow where I landed represents the publications that still use my stuff, and the floor represents the platform from which I will rise to future glory – of whatever nature.

3. I should have forgone that third slice of pizza before turning in for the night.

It’s the first time I can remember that filthy old buzzard appearing in a dream. But my dreams do have reruns, and it’s possible that the buzzard will be as long-lived as “Law and Order.”

I used to have recurring dreams of watching an airliner crash. I never saw what happened after the crash.

In other airplane-related dreams, I was aboard the aircraft, but it could never gain altitude. I would look out the window and see power lines and buildings passing by. I usually woke up before anything terrible happened. These dreams became less frequent after Sept. 11, 2001.

Some dreams I forget about until I revisit them in a future dream. These usually are not the frightening dreams.

I remember once doing an interview with an obscure country singer who gave me a tape with a song about a dream involving a sultry lady. He awakened before the dream reached its high point and was forever after trying to go back to sleep and catch the end of the episode.

Fortunately, when I dream of a lovely lady, I wake up beside her.

Wish I could say the same thing about my dog.

Readers may email Gene Owens at WadesDixieco@AOL.com.

Gene Owens is a retired newspaper editor and columnist who graduated from Graniteville High School and now lives in Anderson.