“If a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience – Woodrow Wilson”
He was sitting on the pavement, he was not a fixture of that street. He looked unfamiliar to the people who were walking past, loaded with work place gossip, filmy gossip, entertaining banter, and excited feet to celebrate one more successful gully cricket match at the fruit juice shop around the corner. He may be a stranger to the street, but he had a look that was so familiar on his face. No one noticed him, the old dog crying in the broad daylight. He was suffering from the agony of infected wounds, skin disorder and hunger. Something was leaking down from his eyes, those pools of sadness. It was loneliness. His eyes became wide with some unknown fear, when I reached down to touch him, to talk to him. He seemed rather nervous of someone coming from the world he had been moving around, been aware of, the language of which he was not that familiar with, to the world he tried to offer his sincerest face and services, which in turn had given him miserable days and nights, which ill-treated and hurt him, consciously or unconsciously.
I felt, for a brief moment, he looked to me like someone understanding his loneliness. But it was such a fleeting spell. I could not forget the look on his face when he moved away from me when I tried to feed him. I wondered what kind of attitude humans would have displayed towards him for days to snatch away the characteristics, every dog is well known for, worldwide – a gentle look of blind faith and trust, a happy thump of his tail on the ground and a lively spring in his feet accompanied with a vigorous twist of his body when he sees a friendly human or a human who he thinks could be a friend to him. How many hits, how many quick snaps, how many kicks, how many glances of negligence, the dog would have survived to gather such a distant and empty look in his eyes ? Someone had stolen “the dog” from him.
He walked away from me, limping painfully, with his head held down as if he was too ashamed to be around as an uncivilized living thing in a cultured world of people or too ashamed to be around people who are losing this ability to be genuinely moved by a dog’s doleful expression. I could not do much to him then and went ahead with my meeting. It rained heavily that night and I found myself thinking about that gentle soul, the homeless dog, which was abandoned by the world, and by me. He might have died of hunger the next moment, or the next day. This thought turns me cold even now, as I write this. Have I stared at death? Have I failed in comforting the dog? It might have been better if I had held him like a responsible human just for a few minutes. I failed, one more time, successfully, when life offered me an opportunity to be a human. I begin asking myself the same question that haunts me, always, why am I like this? why am I surrounded people of such kind? why are we so irresponsible? Am I becoming insensitive much to my chagrin, much to my dismay? What was I afraid of then? If I were not a human I would not be thinking of him every night? Then, if I were a human why did not I act like one when the situation demanded?
Update : All dogs, whether or not they are familiar with her, jump in her lap after an introductory session that lasts only a few seconds. We usually end up standing in a corner of the street chatting with people we know. But, things are different with her. Dogs say hello to this girl whose fingers spell a magic on animals and plants, they greet her with enthusiastic smiles, wagging their entire bodies……. Edith Wharton quoted — My little dog : a heartbeat at my feet. How very true!