I am a dog, and I don’t know what’s going on.
I don’t know why I am so cold. The sun is finally shining but I am still shivering. It seems harder to move today.
I don’t know why I hurt so badly. Everything aches, and no matter how much I lick, it doesn’t seem to help. I don’t know what to do about the hurt.
I don’t know why there’s nothing to eat. My mind is racing trying to locate the smell of something to eat. I don’t know why I can’t find anything.
I don’t know why I can’t find the people I need. Somehow I know people are the answer. I need to be where they are, but where are they and who are they? I am cold, I am hurting and I am hungry. But it is the searching that exhausts me. I will keep searching as long as my ragged body will let me.
A woman looks at me. I go near. I will go with her if she lets me. Maybe she is the answer. I don’t know what’s going on.
Now I am with people. I don’t know them, but they don’t sound angry like the others. I will show them that I am soft, like them. I will go with them.
Now I am in a strange place and I don’t know what’s going on. They are hurting me but their voices are slow and soft and they hold me. There are other hurting dogs here and I smell blood and pee. But no one is angry. I will let them hurt me.
Now I am inside with people and other dogs. I don’t know any of them. From their smells I can see that these dogs eat good things. They are soft and they do not shiver or hurt. I will be with them. We are all waiting for something, but I don’t know what it is.
I am a dog, and I don’t know what’s going on. But I know who I am.
I am the descendent of the first wolf whose curiosity was stronger than her fear. I puzzled over those funny animals who sat near fire, slept, rose the next day and moved on. I dared to follow at a distance and learn their patterns, until the bizarre noises and smells became familiar.
I am the one who dared to creep forward and accept a bone from your hand. I saw you show your teeth then, but you made your affectionate noise, the one you make toward your own pack when you are happy. In time I learned to imitate you.
I realized that your babies, though furless and helpless, were not prey. Because they are sacred to you they became precious to me.
I learned to help. I stayed back with the old ones and the babies and raised my voice when anything came near. I helped secure our meat, then stepped back and trusted that you would hand me a bone later, as you did that first night by the fire.
I let you scoop up my darling puppy and carry her to your friend, who showed his teeth and walked her away. I trusted your world in its ability to keep her whole and sound, to tend her wounds and let her near the fire.
I am a dog, and I know who I am. I am the wolf who dared to cast my lot with yours. And because of this I know what to do. I sniff your hand and kiss it, and look up.Epilogue: Our “Coco” is now the #2 amateur long-jump retriever in the state of Hawaii (title in 2010). If you give to an animal charity this holiday season, please consider CBRR&R.