Day of the Dog

There is an enormous backyard somewhere. It is full of dogs. Every dog has his day. They are all seeking theirs. Actually, they are all chasing their tails, convinced that the day they have their tails between their teeth will be theirs.

Dogs of all ages strain themselves. Some are more determined than others. Some are really not into it. They are just doing it because everyone else is. Many have been doing it for years and think they can’t stop now. In any case, everyone is going round and round.

One day, one of them, after having flexed his body to degrees unimaginable, gets to his tail. As he holds on to it with his teeth, all others around him stop. Soon, there is a crowd around him. Some dogs bark their appreciation. Some growl in envy.

Some come to him to seek his secrets. But the dog is too busy holding on to his tail so he can’t share his way of doing it with anyone. Eventually, they all go back to chasing their own tails.

The dog holds on to his own tail. He is aware of hundreds of dogs all around him, looking at him in awe and wonder. They consider him unique. He has accomplished what they have only ever dreamt of.

The dog is pleased, but a part of him is full of questions. He had always thought that this was his day. Maybe it is. But how does that change things? What is he to do now? The other dogs see in him a content and happy being. He sees nothing. There is only emptiness ahead of him — an eternity standing right there, with his tail between his teeth.

It is then that a smell comes to him from somewhere outside the backyard. He can’t see beyond the high fence. But as the smell assaults his nostrils, he is reminded of the days when he was a pup. Back when he used to bound about the garbage dump with his brothers and sisters, sniffing for good, wholesome leftovers.

The dog’s mouth waters. The tail almost slips away from between his teeth. But he can’t let go of it. He has spent too much time on it. His image… his very life hangs on it. He begins to fear the smell. He convinces himself to hate it. He tells himself it is something evil, sent to take away his life from him, leaving him insecure and unsafe. Without his tail, he would be right back where he started. He has his day and he is not going to let go of it.

Time passes. One day the gentle wind brings a wave of smell to him again. Fighting the impulse to follow it, he bites hard into his tail. It bleeds and he opens his mouth a little to let out a whimper. The tail swings free. He snaps at it several times in vain, but he is standing straight now and can’t get back to it.

He goes round and round for a while, unwilling to believe that he has lost it. Then he notices that he looks like everyone else now. Fear and a sense of loss come crashing down upon him and he howls out loud, disconsolate.

A few other dogs stop and come to him to share his grief. But as before, they don’t stay long and return to their own tails.

Then the smell comes again and a part of him feels happy. He seeks refuge in his childhood and the memories flood his mind. He doesn’t have the energy to fight them this time.

Eventually he opens his eyes, and gets up on his feet. He finds his tail wagging and feels odd. He doesn’t remember the last time this happened. Turning to face the source of the smell, he takes slow, leisurely steps. Then he breaks into a trot. The other dogs appear creatures from a bizarre dream now. He looks at them in mild amusement as he passes them. None of them notice him.

He follows the smell out of the backyard, far away and beyond the sea of dogs. As the smell grows stronger, his trot dissolves into a run and he bounds forward like the wind.

At long last, he comes across a garbage dump. There is a puppy running around it on its little legs. The dog feels happy to find the puppy’s glee reflected in himself. His tail wags harder. He runs across to the puppy and barks to him in happiness. The puppy answers with a small, enthusiastic bark.

The dog takes the puppy around the dump. He teaches him to find less steep slopes — easier to climb up. Then he teaches the puppy to leap. He tells him how to use his hind legs to propel himself forward and upward. The puppy tries and fails many times. The dog nudges him on.

Soon, the puppy makes it to the top of the mound and retrieves a slice of pizza. It is still soft and untouched. The puppy starts eating, hoping that the dog will help himself to it. But the dog doesn’t. He waits for the puppy to finish.

Then they walk, both of them, side by side. They are happy, and it is unclear which one is following the other; or whether they are following anything at all.