Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Dog on the Stairwell

You'd think he was lazy, lying there all black-furred and warm, his fawn-coloured face faded after many seasons of snow and sun. He blinks slowly at the ascending and descending apartment-dwellers, and shifts anxiously when they get too close, though he is rarely anxious enough to move altogether. A long time ago, someone cared enough to lay down a rag as a bed and claim this corner office for him, and the dog rests his head on his languid paws as he relives that moment of kindness, a hundred times a day. A sliver of Spring sunlight illuminates the filthy tiles of the landing and the grease in his coat.

You'd think he was lazy, but then you notice that he eats more bread crusts than meat, and you realise that he's sleepy with starvation and sadness. 

What to do? You could buy meat and feed him every day, thereby making of him a devoted servant and your dog by default. But meat is expensive and you can't have a dog. He's not your responsibility. You don't know whose responsibility he is, but he's not yours. Think of all the repercussions! He's probably full of fleas and deathly illness. And there's thousands like him. Far better to wait for the dogcatchers to shoot him - best for everyone, really.

Oh, these dogs. I saw a yellow family of mixed-up labradors last week, two adults and four puppies, gambolling in the gutter. These dogs will break your heart if you let them. I have a ritual response now: I pray. I ask God to let their suffering be mild, and their lives short, for they must surely break His heart as well as mine.

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