About four months ago I stumbled across an add that ran approximately so: “Please take this dog. She needs family. I can’t keep her.” It had evidently been written by a foreigner.
Now, I had no intention of getting a dog. The problem was that the picture of the dog in question looked very much like the dog I used to have and sorely miss. It haunted me.
Two and a half months later, a new add turned up about the same dog. “Please take dog. Urgent.” So I drove a couple of hours down to a godforsaken village. As I approached the area where the owner and I had agreed to meet, I saw the dog from far away: Shivering in her cage in the back of a carpenter’s van, she had hardly any hair and was so emaciated that she was practically transparent.
“She stopped eating about three weeks ago,” said the owner, an immigrant who explained that he had been evicted and … and… “and winter coming.”
Winter was certainly coming and the dog was nearly naked, terrified and starving. So I took the poor creature and hurried home to feed it.
Now that she has been wolfing down giant helpings of healthy nourishment three times a day for three week, she looks more like an oversized white rat than a dog, not at all like the pictures taken of her some four months ago. But she has the sweetest temper.
Except that she hates and is terrified of all other humans and dogs. At the sight of them, she trembles and howls and growls and barks furiously and would rather be run over by a car than be within ten feet of them. Believe me, for a dog owner such terror is no paltry matter. The world is full of humans and dogs. And cars.
Every day I drive her down to a beautiful park by the fjord where dog owners walk their charges. I spend an hour there in the hope that she will eventually learn to like somebody other than me.
As we arrived today, a young man with a tall, majestic husky was leaving. He had the dog on a short lead. Their path was perpendicular to ours. I stopped at a safe distance while my dog strained backwards at the leash. The young man glanced briefly at us and I apologised: “She’s terrified of all dogs.” He gave us a closer look. “I see that.”
And then he smiled the most radiant smile and, rather than leaving as he intended, approached with his dog – slowly, calmly, speaking soothingly all the while. We were transfixed, my dog and I, by his quiet voice and beautiful smile. His dog was as serene and beautiful as its owner. When they had reached us, the man asked what my dog’s name was. I told him. He crouched and called her softly. To my astonishment she actually went to him, then approached the husky who stood absolutely still, while she sniffed at each of its long legs, then stretched up towards its face. Watching him bend down to meet her upturned face, I found the word “noble” leapt to mind.
Overwhelmed at the sight of my dog’s miraculously trusting not only another human but also a large dog, I recounted the sad tale of the terrified starving and freezing dog in the cage. Again the radiant smile: “My parents,” he exclaimed with a markedly foreign accent “used to say that whoever looks after a suffering dog will find a place in Paradise”.
Having never before been told I might end up in Paradise, I found I was strangely pleased to hear that. And the warm smile … He could have been Jesus, I mused after we had parted – only he didn’t have blond hair. He was darkish: Middle East, perhaps?
Middle East! Eureka: I was wearing my warm Palestinian scarf. That was why his face had lit up when he gave us that first closer look. “Well, my friend,” I thought, “I hope you, too, find a place in Paradise, but please enjoy many rewarding years first.”
Meanwhile, back in the real world, I wish I could sign, I wish all of us could sign: