He always goes for a run in the mornings. It didn’t matter what the weather was like, sunny, cold, windy…it was irrelevant. His commitment to keeping a healthy lifestyle was rigid, unbending, like his commitment to everything he set his mind to. He would walk two blocks from his building, turn left and jog twelve blocks. His pace was moderate, his limbs were long and his face set, like flint. His body was covered this time around in cotton fiber, his feet shod in comfortable running shoes.
He often passed an elderly woman walking her dog. He never responded beyond a quick nod to her cheerful hello. The dog looked like a poodle, a small ball of fur that pulled its owner in different directions. It always barked in his direction, then raise its dainty nose and sniff in the air. He always took in every scene in snapshots. Old woman,check. Dog that looks like a ball of cotton wool, check. Children bending down to pat dog, check.
He didn’t like dogs. He used to…not anymore. He once had a dog when he was younger, back in the old country, when his parents decided to reward him for his good grades. It was just before his eight birthday. He loved that dog. A brown mongrel with small ears. It followed him every where. Slept right at the door way of his room, ate from his plate and played fetch to his bidding. Then the war broke out and every semblance to the peace and joy he knew to be home went up in flames. His dog was left behind when he fled with his parents to escape the nightmare his homeland had become. After his loss, he grew to develop a strong hatred for pets. Beyond his nuclear family circle, his heart was firmly closed to including pets.
And so that faithful morning, as he approached the woman and her furball again, he didn’t feel a sense of dread or back away when it started barking. Stunned was an understatement when he felt the searing pain from the bite on his thigh. His shorts was torn and blood poured from the wound down his leg, soaking his sock. She grabbed the still barking dog…..stammering apologies. He didn’t know someone so elderly could move so swiftly. She drove him to the emergency room. The fuzzball kept on yelping from the back seat where she had gingerly deposited it. His sneakers were soaked in blood and he spoke very little to her. His silence, he knew made her more nervous. He would not assure her it was alright. It was not alright. He was seething mad! His wound was stitched and he was given a couple of shots.
He was told by his room flat mate she called several times to inquire of his well being. She came around at times twice a day. He never responded to her visits. Never came out of his room. His flat mate asked him whether he planned on pressing charges against her. He worked for a law firm as a paralegal and mentioned he would refer him to a good attorney who would be more than happy to help, if he so desired. A few weeks later he took his run by the side of her house and saw the fuzzball running after a ball in the back yard. The next day, he came by again and threw a meat ball laced with a little “something” at the nuisance and it immediately went for it.
A couple of days later while lying on his bed reading a book, his flat mate came to his door to let him know she was there again, inquiring about him.
He met her by the front door, she was shuffling from one leg to the other, nervous, her eyes a little teary. She wanted to see how he was doing and wanted to apologize again. He invited her into the wide living room area and sat opposite her on his favorite arm chair. He felt no malice or resentment towards her and feigned shock when she informed him her dog had died in his sleep. She started to cry and wiped her red nose with the sleeve of her sweater. He offered her some tea and cookies. He was surprised he enjoyed her visit when she got up to leave. Her name was Eliza. No spouse, no children, all she had was Doughnut, the dog. He felt a twinge of remorse which quickly dissipated.
He escorted her to the door and bade her farewell. She should have kept it on a leash, he thought, as he went back to lay down on his bed.