The barking dog

I've never been much of a dog person. When I moved into my rental here in Luang Prabang I was unimpresed that I'd have to share my front yard with two mangy mongrels. My landlady, who lives in the same compound, assured me that her dogs were necessary for security - and for the past six months I've pretty much despised them for the way they've barked at anything that moves, often in the middle of the night for long periods of time.

Some evenings, when they've charged at me in full voice as I enter the gates, I've barked back - particularly at the smaller one - a grey and white spotted thin-faced mutt who seemed the dumber of the two. A few weeks ago I noticed he'd become a little frail. He was barking less. My landlady told me he was refusing to eat. In the days that followed he has grown thinner and weaker.

Last week I came home to find him lying on my front porch. Despite having no strength, he lifted his boney body off the ground, head down, and carried himself down the steps - knowing that I'd never liked him sitting there and that, in the past, I'd shooed him away. I felt terrible and tried to stop him from leaving. I told him that I was changing the rules. That he was now welcome to sit on my balcony. I went and got a bath mat and laid it on the porch, along with a bowl of water. Each night since, he's been sleeping on my verandah. Last night we sat together in the darkness and I hummed his emaciated body a song as I watched his rib cage rise and fall in the half-moon light.

I was afraid to open my front door this morning because I know that soon he'll be dead and that I was the girl who, only a month ago - when he was barking his brains out at 2am - had wished that fate upon him.


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