I buried a dead dog today, but it wasn’t my dog. It was a beige and white puppy, that looked about two months old. It had a beige-brown coat, and wisps of white fur on its chest. My sister spotted the puppy on the side of the road-up a hill that we climb on the way home. I had climbed the same hill maybe twenty minutes before she did-but I didn’t see the puppy. She saw the puppy a day ago, in the evening. She says when she saw it she thought it was taking a nap. But it’s chest was not moving and the angle of it’s head suggested that it might have been hurt. She stood there maybe for ten minutes-thinking that the puppy might still be alive, expecting it to move. She soon realized that the puppy was dead-and she saw a fresh wound on the side of his head. Heavy hearted she headed home-and that was the first thing she said when she saw me-she asked ‘Have you seen the puppy?’. I hadn’t seen the puppy and I didn’t know what puppy she spoke of. She told me how she had seen a beautiful dead puppy of the side of the road-and she thinks that someone, probably a school child on its way home from school, must have thrown stones at the animal, and fatally wounded it. This made me sad.
The puppy didn’t look like a stray animal. It was healthy and looked well cared for. It must have strayed from home, on an adventure outside the safety of a closed gate. School children, looking for interesting sport, must have chased down the terrified pup, with sticks and stones, until one connected with the animals left temple, and killed it. I hope that if nothing else, that the animal had a swift death. That it did not lie on the side of the road for hours, in agony and pain, unattended to and uncared for by people that have bigger problems than a dying dog. I’d like to imagine that it was trying to find its way back home-or its way to safety, away from the group or the child that had found a helpless victim to vent its own frustrations at. I would like to imagine that until the sad day that it died, the puppy was a happy animal, loved, cared for and looked after by a person, or people that valued and respected its life.
My sister and I dug a hole in the back yard, until we reached the hard rocks and the stones. We didn’t know how deep a hole for burying a puppy should be. So we dug and dug, and took turns with different tools to get as much out of the hard dry earth. My little son helped-but we sent him into the house before we went to retrieve the body of the dead puppy. When we felt that we had heaved enough earth out for the puppy, we tried to make its final resting place a comfortable one. Soft wet earth was the best we could do, and sometimes your best has to be enough. We walked the 200metres up the hill to where the puppy still lay, still bleeding, and a bit bloated from spending a whole day in the hot sun. We carried the puppy’s limp body all the way home and gently rested its body in the soft earth. Peace at death now, if not in life. I cried. I was taken over by a deep sadness that life could be so devalued by people so young. I thought of all the women, all over the world, whose children’s dead bodies were brought home to them, broken and wounded by a world that has very little regard for life. I cried for its life-and how little value it had in the eyes of the children whose lives also have little meaning and importance in a world made for adults and powerful people. The smaller something or someone is, it seems, the less value it has.
My sister and I said a few kind words for the puppy, and wished it a restful sleep, and apologized for our species and our superiority complex. We assured the dead animal that we weren’t all like that, and many people value animal life. We filled the hole with the same dirt and stones that we had dug out, and made a small tombstone of rocks as a marker.
I love animals, all animals, including human animals. The value that I place on non-human life does not mean that I devalue human life. If I love puppies then I by default absolutely love babies. Anything that has life has the right to be here-and live free of fear. Dogs and cats are the few animals that like human beings-that trust us enough not to maul and attack us even though they have the ability to. And we abuse that trust more often than we realize. But I also realize that it’s a cycle of abuse, especially on my continent. Where adults abuse the authority and the power they have over children, and children then act the same towards animals and smaller living beings. It’s how people communicate, or try to assert their presence and importance in a place that has equally devalued them. Why young people would find it okay to kill a puppy is indicative of a bigger problem-of how we all don’t value each other, and some people feel that the only way to be seen, is to hurt others and other beings. Or to make other people or beings feel their pain. We all need healing and love-and much as I wanted to find the children that did this and give them a piece of my wonderfully coloured mind, I realize that they too are as much victims as the puppy was. Sad but true.
All anyone said when they saw us carrying the dead dog away was that at least we will be sparing the neighbourhood the smell of decomposing flesh. Clearly, very many people have bigger problems than a dying dog.