Note to Human

Please don’t bother me.  You don’t understand me so don’t pretend like you do.  You think you do because I look like the animal you keep in your house, walk on a leash, and treat like your child.  You think that you can pet me because I’m one of the few of us who don’t stop every other second to furiously itch the flees off my stomach.  Those poor guys don’t make it very far. You think you should feed me or take me into your apartment because you feel like you could give me a better life, but you don’t understand.  You wonder why I don’t wag my tail when you talk baby-talk at me, but I don’t understand you.  What are you trying to say…?  

You don’t understand me because I don’t understand you.  You are in my neighborhood now.  That over there is the neighborhood of another pack and then farther still another one.  We stick together.  We protect our own but we don’t interfere with others if we don’t have to.  I’ve seen what happens when one of us does that so I warn you, don’t bother us and we won’t bother you.  

You think we find the weirdest places to sleep but that’s because you don’t understand that this city is our home.  We are more comfortable in a crowded train station with humans walking over us than a quiet alley because we know what can happen in a quiet alley.  We know every alley, trash pile, leaky pipe, and shaded spot in our neighborhood. You could do your fancy urban mapping thing to diagram the entire city according to our different territories if you knew what we know.  But you don’t so that’s why you’re surprised to see us hanging around the same places day after day. 

There are very few we trust outside our own, that’s why it’s better to stay close to the pack at all times.  Those defenseless ones wondering solo, you know they don’t live long.  You start to wonder where they’re going in such a hurry as if there’s some place to be or something to run from…faces drawn, tongues hanging.  We know why they’re running. They’re desperate for water.  Food is something they will find eventually, but thirst is a force stronger than any craving that drives them.  It is the force that gives them the adrenaline to live, ironically, as it is probably the reason why they will die.

Yes the solo flyers are the wretched ones.  You see it in their faces.  You can’t differentiate the young from the old because the weight of a life defined by stress wears equally heavy on their bodies.  Their behavior and physique have adapted to the volatility of their existence: wiry, emaciated, haggard, but sharp as hell and quicker than a bird.  It must be that they’re so exhilarated with adrenaline and fine-tuned to the sounds of danger that their hyper-reactive response time takes even me off guard.  They can jump at the sound of a horn like they were born with motion sensors in their skin. 

We have the same sensor for you too.  I’ve seen your kind hurt our kind for no reason, and that’s confusing.  We don’t know who of you is a friend so we have to treat all of you the same.  So we don’t trust you.  It’s better that you remember that and remember that we were not the first ones to create the distrust.  But we’re quicker and more shrewd than your kind so don’t mistake our appearance as a sign of weakness. We can feel your surprise and we can feel your fear. 

We know you’re not from around here but we are getting used to you.  We grew up here so it takes some time for intruders to earn our trust.  But we are some of the lucky ones.  We found humans who give us food.  This is the way our kind and your kind make peace.  In exchange for their kindness we will protect them from intruders as best we can, but sometimes that means we get hurt.

I got hurt trying to protect my humans from one of the large silent intruders with the bright eyes.  All four of us ran up to it to chase it away but it got me first and kept moving. It’s difficult for me to imagine moving that quickly again. I used to guard the gate but that job requires that you look strong. So now I just lie down in the corner of the driveway and think about all these things.  But don’t pity me.  This is my home. This is my life, and I make the best of it.

This is taken from the perspective of one of the street dogs that lives down the street from my apartment. It’s meant to be testament to the brevity, solidarity, and fortitude of all street dogs here.  In my time living here I’ve personified many of them with virtues that I myself struggle to maintain living in this city, not the least of which a relentless optimism with the birth of each day. Two weeks ago, this particular dog got hit by a car and has been reduced to a cripple.  I don’t know what is going to happen to him now but I imagine, like many of the animals here, he’s just going to get really good at moving around on three feet.