Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Stray

[Reminder: Some of my posts, including this one, are memoirs of my abusive childhood. In this post I'm relating events that happened February or March, 1958. The links to the right can be used to follow backward through the memoirs, or to restrict viewing to other kinds of posts.]

A big stray dog was wandering outside in the street one day. He was thin but even though his ribs were showing he looked strong. He stood as high as my chest.

Being used to goofy, jolly, American dogs, I reached out to pet him, and he snapped. He just missed my fingers; I could feel the breeze made by his jaws. I said, "What a bad dog! Bad dog!"

About fifteen minutes later I had wandered up by the main highway. I heard the screech of tires and a loud thud. I turned in the direction of the sound and saw a crowd forming.

It occurred to me that I shouldn't look. It might be one of the neighbors. But I was drawn irresistibly. I forced my way through the crowd and found myself staring at the face of the stray dog that had snapped at me.

There was something wrong with the sight. It took me a second or two to register what was wrong. Finally I got it. It wasn't that the head was detached from the body, which was lying 6 feet away. It was that I could see pavement through the dog's mouth. And out of the corner of my eye I could see Taiwanese cutting up the body for distribution to the bystanders.

I wanted to scream but couldn't. I was too dazed. I walked away slowly until I reached the dirt road leading to our house. I passed an old American woman going toward the accident. She couldn't know what had happened. She probably thought the victim was human. But, still, she smiled ear to ear when she saw me and she said, "Not a very pretty sight, eh?" And she laughed.

That got me screaming. I screamed, "GET AWAY FROM ME!" and ran to the house.

I believed that my saying, "Bad dog!" had killed him. Now it dawned on me that he had snapped at me because he was afraid of me. I had known that the locals ate dogs, but it hadn't occurred to me that it would give the dogs the right to fear people.

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