Hounded by neighbors and ruthless schoolchildren during the day, their nocturnal, air-rending cries of hunger keep me vigilantly awake. Stoning is the most lenient fate that awaits mums, puppies, or the already lame. My ears have attuned their nerves to catch the slightest bark that has a tinge of dread as it squeals its alarm away. A stray dog has no status in this beneficent part of our planet, so why should I not play the savior, a role I could not play in my earlier years? Unprecedented confrontations with some male specimen of my distinguished neighborhood have taken a fierce turn and gone beyond the feminism alarm bell that resounds in my academic classes and steamy debates. The recurrent executions of dogs are meant to deter my noisome intervention on their behalf.
Too weak to brush a swarm of greedy flies that zoom around its languid, half-glazed eyes and a bleeding mouth, a maimed puppy slowly lifts its head to inspect the towering figure above its odorous bed. The smell of rubbish, urine and baked feces waft their stench into my reeling head, so I tighten my grip on the slippery handle of my umbrella as beads sizzle on my forehead under a very torpid August red. Its cries have kept me awake for nights and I feel glad that I have finally succeeded in locating this fugitive among a variety of leftovers which civilization leaves in its wake. The visit to the veterinary surgeon intensifies my sense of bewilderment because this treated cripple is not wanted anywhere. I have no shelter to offer so I entreat Providence to keep it safe while I provide its meals when it can creep from beneath very similar rubbish heaps. Deep down I know the familiar end will not tarry and I wonder why I am repeatedly face to face with death in its ugliest feats.
My attempt to lift the frail dog when it lies supine, looking quite unconscious, ends with a tiny bite in utter self-defense and I see regret in its eyes as it recognizes my twisted mouth. Tears are racing with raindrops down my face. I have to abandon it now to go to the nearby hospital. Another failure to play the savior. I sob like a child as the nurse gives me the usually dreaded injections but feel neither fear nor pain because the dog’s own agony is in my veins.
A twelve-year-old boy, whose self-appointed mission is to torture dogs until they are rendered an easy prey for hungry flies, spots the dying puppy drenched in rain. He holds a stone in his hand and aims at a cripple that has become more disabled by the pitiless rain. I shout from my window in remonstrance but he defiantly hides his weapon behind his back, waiting for another unmonitored chance. I brush a pile of exam-papers aside and wait for the surgeon whom I have implored to come on an emergency call. Mercy killing is the last resort if the little dog is beyond recovery.
I had once crept on four. I see a part of myself in every crippled dog. Managing to laboriously descend from my bed, I faintly called after her who was supposed to be by my side but was nowhere to be seen at that critical stage in my life: I was learning how to walk again. My recovery was stunning considering that many doctors regard meningitis as a fatal disease; however, I was still unable to walk or even lift up my head that felt as heavy as the dome of a nearby church. She had probably answered the call of social duty and found the alluring playing cards more enticing than a feverish head that had been constantly demanding a soothing hand on its boiling and aching forehead. That was my earliest battle with death. Little as I was, I crept on the floor, resolved on outliving a warfare with a foe which had license to kill or at least leave the patient forever in its maiming grip, and though my bottom was numb with innumerable injections which I hate to this very day, deep down I felt I would be able walk again.