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The Sacrifice

Story ID:4481
Written by:John Ward (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:Puerto Escondido Oaxaca Mexico
Year:2008
Person:Old Black Coat
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OurEcho Preface This post deals with a mature theme or contains explicit language. While the post is not extremely violent or pornographic, it does contain language or explore a subject matter that may offend some readers. If you do not wish to view posts that deal with mature themes, please exit this post.
He was old and ugly and he lay on Zicatela beach, Puerto Escondido in a black coat crawling with sand fleas.

My wife and I had arrived earlier that afternoon and were at the beach with our new female puppy, a 3 month old Chihuahua named Sushi. As we sat at a restaurant table on the beach, Sushi took off with glee, enjoying her first encounter with sea sand.

Her frenetic activity attracted the attention of old “Black Coat” and he ambled over wearily to see what there was to be so joyful about. My wife was anxious immediately, but I said: “She’s safe; she’s a puppy and a bitch, so he won’t hurt her.” In addition, I had seen something in his poor eyes that made me feel he would never hurt a little puppy.

As he came closer, more cautiously, I realized he was scared of us and I called and made inviting noises until he felt confident enough to let me stroke his coat. I noticed that he was having trouble breathing through his nose due to what seemed to be the result of a terrible blow which had broken the air channels and cut his face. The wound was obviously made by a club or heavy stick and it forced him to breathe through his mouth every now and again as normal nose-breathing was inadequate to sustain life. His one eye was swollen closed and he limped. I could understand his distrust of humans and was amazed he even approached us at all.

Old Black Coat sniffed Sushi and nudged her gently and then, as she ran around him trying to get him to play he just sat down a few feet from us and watched her glee. I threw him snacks from our table which he ate gratefully and when we got up to leave, he got up with us and followed us, staying a few feet back, but enjoying being part of a small group walking the beach. When he would let me get close, I stroked him and talked to him and chucked him under the chin, but when it was time to return to the hotel I let him know that he couldn’t come with us. We were lucky just to get Sushi in. He watched us walk across the street with his head low and reluctantly turned to head back to the beach.

I could not help feeling shocked and ashamed for the beating that poor dog must have taken from a member of my enigmatic species. He was so ugly now and I thought of him as a puppy, newly born and the pride his mother must have had licking him and his little siblings in their physical perfection as they suckled and squirmed. Old Black Coat reflected, perfectly, the way of the world. Innocence and trust turned to bitter cynicism by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Born a lovable clean slate, but now polluted by the graffiti of some cruel sociopathic bastard with no heart and no soul.

I wondered how much rejection and cruelty old Black Coat must have suffered. I wondered why parents have stopped telling their children of the ancient tacit pact between man and dog when we promised: “If you become a friend, keep us company, help us to hunt, to herd our livestock and to guard our homes, we will feed you and treat you as an ally, because in working for us you will have no time to hunt for yourselves. We will not abuse you, because in becoming our friends individually you will have given up the strength of the pack, which could easily overcome any one of us. We will treat you kindly because you will allow us to breed you to odd sizes and shapes that entertain and delight us, knowing that you give up your ability to survive in the wild in those capricious sizes and shapes. We pledge these things as our part of the contract, so that we may enjoy mutual benefit.” My parents drilled this into me, but I have never heard any other parent or Grandparent describe this agreement.

Later that night, there being nothing I could understand on television, I decided to take a stroll on the beach. It was dark and the sand was deserted. A timid moon peeked out from behind some errant clouds every now and again, but, for the most part, it was dark. I had walked the beach and knew there weren’t any great obstacles or holes into which I might fall, so I sauntered along the sand with the sea splashing on my left and the town to my right.

At one point I came to what seemed to be a rise in the beach, but suddenly, in the dark, I heard a low, guttural growl. And then the whole beach seemed to rise and move.

In the sporadic moonlight I saw about fifteen large, feral dogs starting to stir and look in my direction. The growling spread and now they were all on their feet inching forward, growling menacingly at me. I froze, not because I knew that running would be futile and would only provoke the pack further, but in abject, petrifying fear.

As the pack started to move towards me growling, I believed this was the end of my life. Just as I resigned myself to the fact that I could not escape being torn to pieces by wild dogs, there was a loud snarling bark from the shore side of the darkness. The pack stopped for an instant and there was a second of silence. In that silence I could hear the labored breathing of old Black Coat as he struggled to get air through his smashed septum.

In an instant a black shape darted from the right and in the faint moonlight I saw flashing teeth as old Black Coat tore into the pack. The noise was horrendous. Barking, growling, snarling, yelps of pain as teeth slashed flesh and I ran.

I ran like the devil was after me. I ran like a shitty human being who was taking full advantage of the sacrifice one dog made to allow me to escape. I ran instead of finding a stick and laying into the pack with my new friend. I ran and let him take the beating meant for me.

Old Black Coat probably died that night. I often wonder what I gave him to warrant that supreme act of friendship: a few morsels of food, a scratch behind the ear, a few kind words… hardly a fair exchange. I wonder now if his mother ever thought of her little puppy before the world of man took advantage of him and turned him into the broken abused thing he had become. Would she be proud of his primitive idea of honor or would she wish he had never put his trust in man, stayed wild and lived his own life independent of humans?

All I can do, in recompense, is to love my dog and pledge that if I ever find a human abusing an animal I will do all that is in my power to stop the abuse, rescue the animal and punish the violator. May God never let us forget our obligation under that ancient pact, or may He let us suffer the consequences.