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Dog

10/18/2012

You may have heard about the heroic dog from the Philippines who leapt in front of a motorcycle to save two little girls. The children and animal survived, but the dog, Kabang, suffered facial injuries that led to the loss of her snout. Kabang is currently garnering attention here in California as she awaits facial reconstruction and additional cancer surgery at U.C. Davis.

You can read the whole tale and watch a video of Kabang’s hospital visit for more details—and some interesting pictures, very surreal.

This reminded me of a similar dog I saw several years ago who was missing the front of his face, just sitting in a truck and waiting for his owner. He looked a lot like Kabang does now, but a bit more disturbing because of the way his nasal cavity had been severed. When I saw the dog, I wondered what had happened, and later I wrote a one-page story about the experience. John Casey followed up with a companion drawing for our Call & Response project. I never did learn what had happened to that dog, but I like to think he was a hero too.

Below is the story, followed by John’s drawing. You can learn more about our collaboration and read/view additional pieces on the Call & Response page. “Dog” remains one of my favorties.

Dog
The dog sat in the passenger’s seat of an old, white pick-up, facing away from me with its head hanging out of the window.

I loaded my car and slammed the door. The animal turned around. Big dog. German Shepherd. I wondered if he could escape and whether he would bite.

Then I saw his face, what was left of his face. The animal had no nose or snout, only a lower jawbone rimmed with small, white teeth. For a moment, I thought I wasn’t seeing things right, and I tried to construct a more pleasant reality, a homely mutt with a pug nose on an oversized hound’s body.

The illusion didn’t work. The dog had a gaping hole in his face, like a skull or something half-dead.

I stared impolitely at the dog. Was he mad? Afraid? In pain? He didn’t appear to care about manners. His eyes remained neutral. He didn’t budge.

I kept trying to parse out the anatomy, what was missing and what remained. And how could such a thing happen? Afflictions and accidents flew through my mind. I wondered how he could eat. Then I saw his tongue. It flopped over the ledge of his unrestrained jaw, like any other panting animal’s tongue but exposed to the point of gruesome excess.

I felt bad for this dog, a pitiful animal, and probably misunderstood. Like Frankenstein’s monster, he must have inspired fear and loathing in strangers. Apparently, I was no exception. I did not move closer; I found him horrifying.

I left before his owner appeared. Part of me wanted to wait around to find out more about this peculiar dog. But what would I ask his human? And what if the dog was dying of cancer or some other fatal disease? That would be sad and awkward for his owner, who obviously left him in the truck for a reason.

I thought about that dog all day, like I was living in a dream. For weeks, whenever any creature, person or animal, turned to look at me, I imagined their face was his face, his half-face with its skeleton nose and giant tongue.

In retrospect, I think that dog was probably more content than most people. He had someone who loved him, fed him, and didn’t put him down just because his nose was gone.

Dog

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