I don’t know what got into me that evening, but I crossed to the other side of the street. Nope, I wasn’t expecting to see if the grass was greener there or if a lion could play chess with a lamb. I was simply going home from my yoga, and had decided to vary my usual route a little bit. What could go wrong? It was an innocent decision!
When I noticed a black dog near the porch of a small grocery store, I immediately realized that it was ill and disabled. And not because of its unnatural pose (its hind legs were spread out). Not even because of its pathetic and emaciated look. But because of its eyes.
I’m not a dog person, it must be said. Moreover, I’m rather afraid of dogs, especially stray ones. But at that moment it wasn’t about my attitude to dogs. It was about being humane toward another living being.
So, in the heat of the moment, I entered the store. If I’m honest, I don’t like this place much. It’s crowded, noisy and stinky, with rather gross staff (though what would you expect from the cheapest chain store in town?). I didn’t plan to hang about in any case. I grabbed the first packet of cheesy sausages that was available, and joined what appeared to be the shortest queue to a checkout. Of course, my choice was wrong. Isn’t that usually the case?
Outside on the porch, I tore open the plastic packaging, trying to not spill its smelly liquid on my new sneakers. I took up a sausage between finger and thumb, and carefully cast it to the dog. Point-blank shot! I was puffed up with pride and the realization of my own coolness.
Alas, while the black dog was sniffing at the sausage, another dog came along. It was a white one. It jumped over, grabbed the sausage, and ran away. I gasped. I wasn’t ready for such a turn of events! The black dog wagged its tail at me apologetically, as if to say: “Sorry, human! I’m such a goofball.”
Of course, this was rather amusing at first, so I didn’t make a drama of it. The night was still young after all, and the packet of sausages still full. Naturally, I tried a second time, and the next sausage landed near the black dog in much the same spot. But it too was quickly swallowed up by the white dog. The black dog looked at me with guilt, as if this was somehow its own fault. I tried a third sausage, but this only shared the same fate as the first two. By this point, that impudent white dog wasn’t even bothering to run away with its spoils. It would sit a little to one side, wolf down the ill gotten gains, and lick its muzzle. Obviously, my tactic was coming apart at the seams. Damn.
A group of idlers started to gather around me. Someone felt sorrow for the poor black dog, and someone else was making rather ruthless comments like: “The strongest survive.” But the most annoying category of spectator started to give me ‘indispensable’ advice. Still, the matter didn’t go any further than mere words. No one was rushing to take a damned sausage, approach the black dog, and feed it. Why? Because, let’s face the truth, it was a stray dog (hell, two stray dogs!) that would bite you in all probability. And not to mention ringworm, ticks, rabies and other side effects of such contact. So, of course no one else volunteered.
I decided to change my tactic. I divided the next sausage into halves, and threw one part as far as possible toward the bushes. My plan worked. The greedy white dog immediately rushed over there. I moved a bit closer to the black dog, pushing the second part of the sausage toward its muzzle. I was getting ready to make a little happy dance when the black dog finally took the piece of sausage from the ground. Its tail said: “Thank you, kind human.” But, alas, my joy was short lived. The black dog dropped the piece of sausage from its jaws. And that’s when the white dog took its chance. The whole scene was beginning to look like a cheap comedy, and I was in no mood for laughing.
In just five minutes, two wasted sausages and a total disregard of safety around stray dogs, I became convinced of two sad facts. Firstly, for some reason, the black dog was unable to keep a piece of food in its jaws. It was perhaps so weak that it couldn’t make the effort to chew. Or it had given up and didn’t want to continue its senseless life any more. Secondly, the white dog had a voracious appetite, and was not going to rest until it had gotten everything I had. It wasn’t going to give the black dog any chances to get some food.
I don’t know how long I stood there with the last sausage between my thumb and forefinger, and the empty plastic packaging. It was dripping right beside my left sneaker from the other hand. And the crowd was melting away. People had lost interest in this mini-spectacle, and were going back to their usual affairs. Daylight slowly faded away.
I looked at the black dog one last time. It seemed to be dozing peacefully. The white dog sat near it, yawning. Then it laid down and nuzzled into the black dog’s hip. It was at that moment I gave up.
I cast the last sausage towards them, turned, and went home. It was only when I was taking my keys from my pocket that I realized I’d still kept the empty plastic packaging in my hand.
I haven’t walked on the other side of the street since.
by TETIANA ALEKSINA
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