Her voice was flat. I had just said with a glee I could hardly contain that her puppy was absolutely adorable.
The man she was with had a similar countenance: they could not capture one ounce of the joy the puppy should have brought, but it was obvious that he he loved them unconditionally. He yelped when they walked too far from the shopping cart in which they had him caged. Eventually, the man grabbed the dog by the skin in the middle of his spine and plunked him on the ground.
Grinning, I eased toward him and he started wagging his tail, flip-walking like all blue-eyed puppies do. He fell down on my feet, tail still going a mile a minute. He looked in my eyes and tried to jump toward my face as I blew lightly into his nostrils. My dogs love that. He gnawed with baby needle teeth and I let him.
I stopped petting him; he wasn’t mine and I had not asked to pet him. He was grimy — I could smell and feel the dirt on my hands. My heart skipped a beat and I watched with a pang of regret as he wandered through a sea of ankles, kissing each. ‘Come here,’ the man called. The woman joined in: neither used a name. The woman had placed the box of food she’d been given in the space the puppy had previously occupied. The man lifted the puppy by the skin in the middle of his spine and the puppy bared his baby needle teeth. The man plunked the puppy under his arm and ignored it as he talked to his friend.
I listened to Buckshot Lefonque on my way home from volunteering and couldn’t stop thinking that one day soon, instead of that adorable loving pup in a reddish-pink collar, he will be another vicious all-black dog with eyes as dull and impervious to joy as those of the man and woman who had him.
As I sat in my house, drinking a glass of Ovaltine for breakfast, I want pet him again, to see him as he grows, to look into his eyes so he can see the joy he can bring.
I want him to have a name.
‘Tis love which makes the elephant forget – Buckshot Lefonque, ‘Weary With Toil’ (1997)
Life is sometimes so hard that even the elephant, encased in its thick hide of protection, can’t forget.
And neither should we.
Spread kindness. Spread joy. Even when you think you don’t have it, you probably have more than someone else.