I was up all night and well into the morning trying to write, so of course I couldn’t sleep after. The sun was already up which never makes it easy even with the blinds closed. I kept tossing and turning while feeling depressed and delirious. The sun was creeping desperately through the cracks, so I drew back the blinds and allowed the light to fill the room. My lack of sleep wasn’t the sun’s fault, so why should it be punished? I laid there looking out the window at the house across the street. A dog lives in the front yard of this house. Not the same house where the gang members were evicted, the one right next-door. It’s a mustard colored building with chipped paint and a brick porch. That dog was the first life that greeted me here on Walton Street. That first night, I was alarmed by the vicious sounds of barking as I unexpectedly locked eyes with it right after getting out of my car. He scared the living shit out of me, which is probably why I decided to stay and rent the room. All my fear was gone. As time went by living at this house in the ghetto, I became grateful for the dog. His voice became a constant alert that a stranger was out there on our sidewalks. A sound that initially seemed vicious, somehow became comforting.
I sat there this morning staring at the dog, caged behind a fence in that front yard and realized how selfish I am. I spend so much time thinking about myself I never even noticed what awful living conditions the dog experiences. He’s out there behind that fence night and day, guarding the perimeter. Then when his master returns home, he barely gets any sort of acknowledgement.
He guards the house by barking, by using his only voice. But he’s just as scared as the rest of us. He’s not a threat. He’s in the yard barking because he’s scared and he’s screaming when someone passes by. He’s scared and he’s also desperate.
I’ve never connected with animals the way other people do. I’m not sure why, and this is something I’ve always been ashamed of and rarely ever admit. When I’m with friends and we come across a puppy or any sort of pet, they stop and start admiring the animal while making sounds and hand gestures. Sometimes I fake the sounds and I’ll even pet the animals.
This morning it had nothing to do with my disconnect to the animal world that made me feel horrible. It had to with my selfishness and constant need to crowd my mind with worrisome thoughts regarding nothing but myself. Meanwhile across the street there’s a dog and he’s trapped too. He’s trapped and jittery and all he wants is love. He walks the yard in circles, he uses his voice the best way he knows how, and still he gets no love in return. I’m doing my job. Why doesn’t anyone love me yet? Is all he feels.
It broke my heart and my body collapsed. I’m weak and sleep deprived. I’m worried about myself again. I got to thinking and worrying about myself for another ten minutes or so then I remembered how selfish I am and looked up out the window once more.
I couldn’t believe what I saw. The dog was on the opposite side of the fence, pacing back and forth on the sidewalk while looking in my direction. I rubbed my eyes before inspecting the scene further. I was sleep deprived and there was a good chance I could’ve been hallucinating.
I ran out of my room and Michael Tree was sitting there next to the front door. At the time I didn’t think about how strange it was for him to be sitting there next to the front door at 9 AM. I just thought about how he was blocking the way as usual, and I stepped over him as I frantically asked,
“That dog. It’s not inside the fence. It’s on the road. Is this normal?”
“Oh wow, no.” Michael replied before following me outside.
Part of me wanted to march across the street myself, but I was still in a state of shocking disbelief. So I let Michael do it, and watched as our next-door neighbor Andrea emerged from her house, too.
“I was looking out the window, and I had to do a double take because I thought I was hallucinating. Does he need water?” She said.
Michael brought over some water and tried to pet the dog, but it shook fearfully and backed away.
“What a shame. The way he treats that dog is God damn criminal.” Andrea said.
I just stood there with my mouth half open, unable to say or do anything at all. There wasn’t any point in telling Michael or the neighbor what I was thinking. Keeping my mouth shut to avoid sounding insane seemed to be the best option. Michael walked the dog back into the fenced yard and Andrea walked across the street to throw him a treat, then we all went back inside. I returned to my bed and stared out the window. My body was too weak to lift my head, so I laid there on the pillows and started to cry.
There was a time in my life before when I would have dismissed this sort of an occurrence as coincidence. But being here in the mountains for the past month has taught me otherwise. There’s such a thing as magic. I learned that weeks ago. I didn’t doubt the dog felt my thoughts from across the street earlier, which led to his escape. And even as unusual as that is, it wasn’t what made me feel overwhelmed.
I cried with tired eyes because despite his misery, the dog didn’t run. He paced slowly back and forth on the sidewalk, contemplating life beyond the fence. Instead of fleeing while he could, thoughts of his master prevented him from running. Maybe today he’ll come home and start loving me, the dog thought. And even if he doesn’t, he’ll always need me. I’m supposed to guard the yard, so he needs me.
So the dog remained a prisoner because he couldn’t handle the fear of being alone despite his constant loneliness. And I laid there crying because I know that’s the way most of the world will always be.