I’m walking down the street, pushing my metal cart full of groceries. I don’t feel so well, the weather keeps changing its mind and somehow I’m stuck shivering all night and sweating all morning. I’m distracted so I don’t hear him right away. When I do finally hear, I have a moment of selfishness and think about getting home quick, unpacking my groceries and forgetting I saw what I think I saw out of the corner of my eye.
But then I hear the panic and I can’t keep walking.
I double back a few feet so I can get a good look at him.
And I start to panic.
He’s jumped the fence he’s kept chained up to all day. And the chain is wrapped around the wooden post too many times. And he’s fallen into a puddle that seems too deep. And he is propping himself up against the fence with his front paws. And if he lowers his paws he will be hanging. And he is struggling. And as he struggles he is pulling the chain tighter and tighter around his neck. And I know that if I don’t do something now he will die.
I rush towards him and then stop. I don’t know him. He doesn’t know me. He’s a big dog. And he’s meant to guard this house where he’s attached to and never untied.
I call my husband.
I know he’ll come running.
I can’t even explain what the problem is, but he hears my voice and he says he’ll be there.
I’ve approached cautiously by the time my husband appears, out of breath, and I have coaxed him onto higher ground.
He’s calmed down and bit and seems to know we’re here to help. I go up on the porch while my husband gently pets him and talks soothingly.
It’s ok. We’re gonna help you. It’s ok.
Slowly, we get him off the chain and walk him back onto the porch. We unwrap the rest of the chain and reluctantly get it back on him.
He is shaking. And then he is thanking us. He is panting as he presses himself against my husband’s legs and looks at us with a kind of sadness I recognize.
I so desperately want to take off his chains and bring him home with me.
I know he’s well fed. I know he gets his basic needs met.
But I know he has other needs.
I know he needs love and attention. I know he needs to be able to move more than three meters. I know he needs to be treated like I believe all breathing things should be.
But I also know that not everyone believes he has feelings. And not everyone believes he deserves to be cared for the way I think he should be.
I get my groceries from the street where I had left them and say goodbye to my husband. I walk home. I think about him, tied up to that house so close to me, and I am filled with a kind of sadness I don’t really think I understand.
And then I realize that I am thinking about me and my relationships…and how I know how it feels to be chained…and how I know how it feels to be choking and to scream out for help and not to be heard…and I wish I could break him free the way I always wanted someone to do for me.
I know this is silly to some people. I know not everyone is brought to tears by the plight of a dog. But I wish – I so badly wish – that there was a universal language out there that made sure the entire world cared enough about every living being so that we could stop having to demand the world to do so.