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November 27, 2023

The Dog

By Hansa Deep

It was a very lazy morning. Over there in the collyrium blue, the sun was peeking but avoiding coming out from behind the clouds, and here under my quilted blanket, I too was not of a mind to come out. From behind the clouds comes the edge of the gold coin, the faint light of sunbeams unsuccessfully making an effort to prevent sleep. It seemed like I was negotiating an alliance with the sun: "You don't come out, and neither will I. You stay comfy, and I will, too."

Hiding my face in the blanket, I continued to plead: "Hide for a little while. Take a sweet morning nap. Sometimes you should enjoy a little Sunday vacation with me."

After a bit of wake-sleep-wake, and only after some moments of extreme effort, I was able to throw off the blanket and get up. The sweet smell of the new house was still in the walls. A brand-new house, far from the commotion of the city. Far enough so that out the back there were no other settlements. There was only a "ravine." This was a like a miniature jungle. Steep slopes, and a clump of vines and tree saplings among the bushes and shrubs. So densely covered that, standing a small distance away, you could not even see the ground.

Leaves in every direction, an assembly of countless leaves. These leaves are born in the form of small shoots, reaching from the ground up to the branches, and on the branches this life continues the journey, reaching back down to the ground in a continuous line. From the earth they come, then in the earth they are met ... In and around them narrow, rough trails had been made. After long winters, on these warmer days, it really felt good to be in its presence and live with nature. Far from concrete, here exists a natural wealth of overflowing beauty. I--yes, me--had wanted to be saturated with all this greenery and nature, and feel the happiness of being close to it. In the night, the silence runs too deep, so I had drawn all the curtains before sleeping. After getting up, the first task was right in front of me, to pull back the curtains from the windows.

With the curtains open, rays of light began to spread rapidly within. At that moment, my heavy-lidded eyes had not yet managed a state of complete openness when they were caught by quite a strange sight. Something blurry was lying there, in the courtyard. I put on my glasses so I could see. Some type of large cat, or some animal like it, had come and was lying there, bloodied. Its body was wounded to such a degree that I didn't even know what kind of animal it was! For a resident of an urban region, to see something like this right in front of your home was an astonishing thing.

Sometimes animals had come and turned the garbage bins upside down. So from this, I assumed that one or more animals must be living here. Maybe some animal had come from there and hunted its prey. I went out a bit closer to the animal, and contemplated its red, bloody body. My eyes were looking only at a carcass, I could not find any clue as to what kind of animal it was. I looked hard and made a serious effort to identify what animal this was! Even if I could not figure out which animal, I was able to ascertain that this corpse was of a good and healthy animal. What difference did it make that it was a dog, a cat, raccoon or even a rabbit! Whatever animal it was, now it was just a carcass, that's all!

The blood on the dead body was still fresh. Its bright red colour was scattered all over. Looking at this victim of some other animal, the mind of a person like me could have been bitter, should have been moved, but I didn't feel anything like this. Instead, I was thinking -- what kind of powerful animal would it be that lives here and just enters uninvited into my property to hunt this innocent victim? Yes, it was a hunter so it hunted, but what animosity did it have for me that it chose to drop its prey at my house and run off! Whoever had hunted had tasted and taken a little bit of flesh from every part of the body, from every body part. It looked like the hunter had mindfully savoured its victim to death. As if it had filled its belly with a spoonful of food from each and every station of a buffet feast, and with a belch, dropped its full plate and left. Hovering about the corpse now was a profusion of tiny flying insects. They were all flying restlessly around the feast, buzzing and buzzing.

But I had not figured out what I should do now! How would I liberate myself from this carcass! It would be for me to investigate some sort of fix for this. A blood-drenched body was lying in front of me and instead of just being tangled up in my own troubles, I felt sorrow at its untimely end in life. I spoke on the phone with my friend Nick. He told me, "This dead animal is probably a dog. And, it is certain only a strong dog could have done this. Dogs living in these ravines usually find their prey in this way." There was some sense in Nick's words, because I also felt it was something like this.

Often while walking in the evening, I saw many dogs from wealthy homes. One by one, shaggy-haired ones, nicely trimmed ones, dogs of many colours: dark, snowy white, copper, dark red, there were dogs of such well groomed appearances that one couldn't help but stare at them. With their owners these dogs go for a walk and carry out their necessary bodily functions. In one hand, the dog's leash is clutched, in the owners' other hand is a little bag. They stick their noses here and there on the lawns of the houses, and as the dogs excrete their waste, immediately it goes in its bag.

My neighbour also took her dog out every day. Sometimes I cross paths with her, and she sweetly says to her dog, "Baby, say hello to Aunty." And it, her leonine baby, starts to shake its mouth and tail. I stroke its back, so it glues itself to my legs and tries to display its endless love. Having been designated the dog's aunt, I start to blush and melt. Enchanted by the love of her silent animal, I like the neighbour.

On the path, one by one, dogs with their owners tied on their leash would be walking in perfect peace, but as soon as they saw someone else's owner coming with their dog from a distance, they started barking. As they came closer, they would fight like dogs do, with the next joining in.

They would escape from there and run off far away, and their owners would follow them. I had seen these battles almost every day. I think, all these dogs were raised like babies in houses and they are fighting like dogs. There’s no connection. Each with their own owner, walking on their own paths going places, as soon as they see one another, they spring forward and start bark-bark-barking. They have lived in human settlements, but they haven’t learned to live with love. Humans had learned to fight like dogs, but dogs had not managed to adopt any human habits. Although in their own homes they all were good dogs, when they went outside their own character came out. There was no wilderness in the houses they lived in, so where did this animal-like wildness in them come from! From a young age, a hi-fi life of ease in comfortable houses. The fate of these dogs was better than the fortune of those tens of millions of children living in every corner of the world relying on pity and donations of food.

Well, my thinking returned to my own yard. As far as I could see, I needed to do right by to this slaughtered animal. Its carcass being in my courtyard was making me feel responsible for it. A shortcut here would be a basket in the trash can, but this will be very heavy, the smell will worsen significantly, and after sitting there for a whole week, the garbage collector will consider it a crime and complain, and then a fine could also be charged.

So, I will let things fall as they may! This thought wasn’t evil. Let it stay right here so that other animals can fill their stomachs. The courtyard of silence grew and became a tower of silence in my mind. Many imaginary vultures started to float dejectedly around my house. Then slowly, slowly these vultures left the corpse and started to move towards me. Surrounded by countless vultures, I quickly dropped this idea.

There was a list of phone numbers for situations like this. I could look for some number to call, otherwise I didn't know how much trouble I was going to fall into. I repeated a mantra from my own religion several times so that its soul would find peace, and that my soul would, too. In my culture, the death of a living creature requires cremation. But I could not come to a firm decision. The whole day went by in this thinking about what was I going to do! I spent my Sunday vacation, from morning to evening, solving the knotty problem of the last rites of this animal. Whatever call I might make, I could only make on Monday morning.

Finally, I decided that I would phone and inform the municipality the next morning, and I went to sleep. In the night in my sleep, the corpse, the blood, the vultures all continued to buzz around me. After drinking my tea, before freshening up and going to work, the important task of making the phone call to the city administration was top of mind. I was just entering the phone number for the city, when my eyes fell on that area of the courtyard: the carcass of that animal wasn't there. Where did it go? What is this, this carcass had disappeared like a horn from the head of a donkey! I was confused and distressed, and started looking for it in every corner.

It didn’t even occur to me that something like this would happen. Despite having spent every minute of the whole previous day contemplating the situation. Just as I had finally made a decision, only then did the carcass disappear! Instead of getting a sense of relief, I felt pity for myself. Rational decisions never pay attention to time. The animal that had remembered its prey and taken it back was better than me. After dropping its prey in my yard, it had waited until it was night, and when it was dark, seized its victim and went away. I was taken aback by the craftiness of this. It had come without waking anyone and kept its identity hidden. Such patience it must have taken to wait for night and sneak back to furtively take its prey. Nowhere in the yard was there any trace of footprints nor a trace of the blood of that dead animal.

With my head spinning, I began to start the car to go to work, when I heard some sounds from behind. My eyes glimpsed and then fixed on, in the far thicket, a big dog busy digging a hole with its paws. I saw that it had the corpse right next to it. I stared and held my breath. In just a few moments that dog dragged it, put it into the hole and, with its paws, covered the hole completely with dirt, then lay down right beside it with its nose on the ground. Maybe this dead animal was one of its own.

I was speechless to see a dog becoming human!

Translated by Patricia Burke Wood

Article © Hansa Deep. All rights reserved.
Published on 2023-11-20
Image(s) are public domain.
3 Reader Comments
Divya Mathur
10:27:40 AM
so so beautiful, congratulations!
Sudershan Ratnakar
10:50:56 AM
So beautifully depicted the feelings of dog. Excellent story. congratulations Hansa ji.
Kadam Mehra
03:53:38 PM
Very nicely depicted ।Very simple but utterly beautiful ।Liked the end ..
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