I was taking a shower when I heard one of my dogs bark, then I heard a whimper. Not wanting to take any chances, I stepped out of the shower. There were no problems. One dog was not allowing the to share space. I interfered and then went back to my shower.
By the time I got there, an image had formed in my mind. It wasn’t pretty but it was there. One of my dogs was cowering against the wall while being kicked and beaten with sticks. Right away, I shook off the thought/image from my mind and turn on the shower head once again. Too late, the running water was already mixing with my tears. I slowly took two or three breaths, while trying to compose myself and reminding myself that such thought/image was not a real thing. It worked. I continue with my shower.
That experience, however, triggered a childhood memory:
I’m young, about to finish elementary school. I’m running an errand for my grandmother and as I walk down the street, I see a dog lying down on the sidewalk. I don’t know if the dog is hungry, or sick, or resting, or in pain, or dying. I don’t know anything and yet, a desire to kick the dog overcomes me. And I do. I kick the dog. It isn’t a very strong kick but it is an act of violence, nonetheless.
The dog doesn’t bark but whimpers. It’s whimper makes me look at him, directly in the eyes. Our gaze lock and what I see overwhelms me. In his eyes I see fear, I see pain, I see sadness, I see hopelessness, I see pleading.
I do not know why or how but my entire body starts to shake and my eyes fill with tears. Without hesitation I run, as fast as I can, to my house, crying non-stop. I give my grandmother the merchandise I bought as instructed.
“What is wrong with you?” She asks.
“Nothing. I felt.” I lied to her.
I go into my room, jump on the bed, grab the pillow and scream into it. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” I cry and cry and keep on apologizing. Next thing I know one of my aunts in waking me up. Lunch is ready.
I don’t feel like eating so I half-finish my food. I excuse myself and take my plate to the sink. Before I place it down, I take the piece of meat I left behind and put it in a plastic bag and leave the kitchen.
Without saying anything, I look for the dog. The piece of meat I’m carrying is my apology and peace offering. The dog is not there so I look around a little bit more. Finally, I see him on an empty lot and under an abandon truck. I get closer and the dog recognizes me so it growls a little. “I’m sorry. Here. Have a piece of meat.” I tell him.
The dog doesn’t trust me and I don’t blame him. I sit down on the ground, with my back against the old abandon truck and as close to the dog as I can; I decide to stay there until the dog eats the food. After he finishes the piece of meat, the dog comes closer to me and without hesitation lays down next to me. “I’m sorry boy. I’m not a bad person. I’m really not.” I’m crying again.
I don’t know how much time has passed but I sense I need to get back home. Slowly, I get up and as I look at the dog as I say my good-bye. The dog whimpers. It’s sad I’m leaving him. Once again we look at each other and his gaze penetrates my soul. “Come on,” I say. “Let’s go.” But the dog doesn’t follow me. It doesn’t want to. “Come on!” I say again. The dog barks back. It’s a single friendly bark. I understand. We are not meant to be together. “I’ll see you tomorrow, then.” I walk away.
The next day I go looking for the dog but he isn’t there. In fact, for the next four days the dog is not there so I give up and forget about him. One day on my way home from school, I unexpectedly see the dog down the street. I run to him and to my surprise, the dog recognizes me. He’s happy to see me. I know this because he’s waving his tale. The dog allows me to pet it and happily I tell it to follow me. But the dog doesn’t follow me. It doesn’t even move. We just stare at each other. Then the dog walks. “See you around!” I tell the dog. But I never see him again.
This memory has lived within me for so many years. I had thought of it many times but I had brushed it off as quickly as it has come. But ever since I had that thought of my dog being abused, the childhood experience has been floating in my head, making me sad and making me cry at random times, so I thought it would be best to speak it out in order to let it go for good.
I’m not sharing this with you to be judged but if you must, go ahead, judge me. I’m sharing this with you because I have never spoken of it with anyone. Because I feel it to be necessary, and because my undying love for dogs today has a lot to do with what that street dog thought me as a kid: Compassion. #carlosmanuelspeaksthetruth