The little dog danced in the cage, the hard concrete scuffing his paws, then dropped down to a play bow, his eyes desperate and staring at me through the chain link wire. He then sat up and begged, his little arms crossing. All the while he kept sniffing the air, tainted with astringent antiseptic and the smell of canine shit. And there was something else; no doubt he knew it, for he could smell it: blood, and the smell of death – EVERYWHERE, even emanating from the white painted concrete block and suspended ceilings above him. He fur was white, matted, curly at the end, done up in ‘frocks’ and twists; scruffy, a bit, but with a cute bristle brush mustache, not much larger than 18, 20 pounds.
He was but one of many, many in a line of dogs I’ve killed, or helped to “do in” – whether while volunteering during Army medical research, or for a paycheck later on, I found myself sometimes facing these strays that “they” had brought in – only the best! The happiest, most healthy and friendly . . . the ones who had got lost on their way home and found no owner to claim them at the pound, or else escaped from their own back yard on a lark & a frolic and found themselves at the end of a chain, then locked in a van . . .
This one danced beseechingly for me, begging me in the only way he knew how – for what? He knew not what, only this was a “bad place” and none of his neighbors loved him. For how could they? All were in the same such delicate situation as he: brought in by the back door, knocked out, given some injections, voice box “removed”, meaning altered by snipping one of the vocal cords (the dogs never seemed to know this, amazing to me! – they would continue on as always, only huffing instead of full throated roars) . . . then waking up in a cage, sprayed down with water from time to time, called a “good boy” and then thrust or walked out of his cage into some new kind of torture device . . .
Or in this case, simply going to be put down as part of an experiment in transmitted disease in which the scientists and doctors were trying to determine exactly where in the intestines the toxins were being absorbed. I won’t bore you with the procedure; only that it was fatal.
And so the little dog danced and bowed and begged . . . as I got ready to take him to surgery. And he wasn’t the only one like that; there were many of them, lost dogs, broken dogs, mean dogs, confused ones – especially confused – though for the most part they seemed “happy” when left alone in a group.
I liked working there, even though I was a volunteer. The idea was to get some experience on my way to becoming a vet, and it worked. Too bad I ran out of money before I could become one.
But the thing is, even now, here, some 30 years later, meeting my daughter’s little dog (I am astounded at how intelligent this little creature is! So many behaviors seem to have been bred in . . .) – and he does his little tricks for me. I see him “standing” there, perched in a little pose, and my mind goes back to one little scruffy and sweet little animal begging in his cage . . .
And despite it being grim, my heart breaks a bit again, and I treat THIS dog and every dog I meet very, very kindly, and with the proper respect a young fellow human being deserves.
And I always tell him he’s a good dog, and we’re all going to Heaven, where I am expecting to see some other dogs again.
And I am especially hoping to see some little scruffy one, about 18-20 pounds, with white & curly hair, looking at me with begging and hopefully forgiving eyes (I had no more choice than you, my friend!) and we both can be released together.