"I want to tell you a story,"
Choua spoke, standing in my office door at the
hospital a few days later.
"What's it about?" I asked,
preparing myself for one of Choua's stories. "Is
that the story you wanted to tell on the day of
tumor board? About Sheila's neck spasms?"
Choua blushed, then began:
A boy brought home two newborn
puppies, one was white and the other gray. He fell
in love with the white puppy," Choua proceeded with
his story, not taking note of my excitement. "He put
the gray puppy in a crib and held the white puppy in
his hands. The white puppy kept his eyes closed. His
skin was soft and his hair snow-white and delicate.
The boy petted his white puppy until late evening
hours. Then he asked his mother if he could put his
puppy to sleep in his own bed. His mother smiled and
told him that was very dangerous. The puppy could be
smothered by him in his sleep. The boy understood
that and gently put the puppy in his crib.
When he woke up the next morning,
his puppies were awake and seemed hungry. He took
the puppies out of their crib and asked his mother
to teach him how to prepare their formula. As he fed
them, he had eyes only for the white puppy. Then he
put the puppies back into the crib, instructed his
mother about their care and left for school. At
school, he was distracted all day by thoughts of his
white puppy. The gray puppy was not a part of his
day. When the school bell rang for the last time, he
ran to his home to be with his white puppy. Once
home, he threw his satchel on a chair and rushed to
the crib. The noise woke the puppies up. He lifted
both puppies out of the crib and put them on the
floor. Again, he had eyes only for the white puppy.
He petted him and held him in his lap. The gray
puppy moved around, unaware and unaffected by the
boy's preoccupation with the white puppy. Late that
night, he fed the puppies again, his eyes remaining
fixed on the white puppy.
The next day was no different.
The boy woke up and hurried to the crib. The puppies
were sleeping. He gently petted the white puppy as
it slept. Then he brought the puppies their meal. He
watched every little movement the white puppy made
with intent eyes. This day at school was like the
previous day. He stayed deep in thoughts of his tiny
white puppy. Again, the grey puppy was out of his
mind. That afternoon and evening, he again played
with the white puppy. The gray puppy wandered
around, oblivious of the boy's preoccupation with
the white puppy.
Days passed and then weeks. The
boy's fondness for the white puppy seemed to grow
with each passing day. The puppies grew up fast and
became strong. The boy started housebreaking his
puppies. That is when the boy's parents noticed that
the gray puppy began to misbehave. Sometimes he
looked at the boy with silent, plaintive eyes, at
other times he barked without any reason. On
occasion, he appeared to want to break things. On
some afternoons, the gray puppy seemed to purposely
throw up his food on the kitchen floor and soil the
rug in the living room. That annoyed the boy's
parents and they scolded him. As for the boy, he was
too absorbed playing with his white puppy to want to
do much with the gray puppy. Each time the gray
puppy did something the boy didn't like, it further
drove the boy closer to his white puppy. The more
the gray puppy was scolded, the more accident-prone
Months passed. The puppies grew
up into little dogs. The boy's love for his white
dog became deeper with each passing month. The white
dog knew this. He waited for the boy to return from
school all day. The afternoons were pure bliss for
both of them. They played together, ate their meals
together, and then went out to a nearby field for
more play. The gray dog seemed to sense the
closeness between the two and often became sad.
Sometimes he felt angry and hurt. On most days, he
kept all that to himself, but sometimes it was too
much for him. It was then that there were accidents
that made the boy yell at him. Some more months
Then the gray dog changed. He was
not sad anymore. Nor was he ever angry. No one
noticed that the gray dog stopped having any
accidents. He neither made a mess in the kitchen nor
did he soil the rugs anymore. When the boy returned
home, the gray dog stood back, watching the white
dog leap to meet his little master. Sometimes when
the boy's eyes fell upon the gray dog, the dog
gently cocked his head or wagged his tail. That was
all. The boy didn't follow it with any words. The
gray dog didn't ask for anything more.
Years passed. The boy grew up
into a young man and the dogs into two strong dogs.
Every day, when the young man returned from work,
the white dog greeted him with great excitement and
leaped all over him. The gray dog stood behind,
silently watching the two friends. After some time,
the man went to his kitchen and cooked his meal as
the white dog hovered around him. The gray dog stood
still in the corner. His face bore a calm,
unexpressive expression. After the meal was ready,
the man ate it with his white dog and then left his
house for a walk with his white dog. It was then
that the gray dog walked over to the table and ate
what was left behind. Then he walked out briskly to
catch up with the man and his white dog. There he
stood by the edge of the field, impassively looking
at the man and the white dog. When it turned dark,
the man and his white dog returned home, the gray
dog walking several paces behind them. That was the
way weeks followed the days and months followed the
One rainy day the man was driving
to work when his car slid and crashed into another
car. He sustained a head injury and concussion and
fractured several of his ribs. Some days later, he
opened his eyes and saw some fuzzy figures in white
robes milling around his bed. He tried to sit up but
collapsed with pangs of pain in different parts of
his body. Moments later he opened his eyes and
looked around the room. He saw tubes and wires
running into his body parts from bottles hanging
from poles and video screens on the walls. Is it a
nightmare? Am I dying? he wondered. Then he saw some
nurses walk by. He realized he was in a hospital. He
thought back and recalled the fleeting moment of
terror before his car crashed. His body shook with
fear. He tried to get up, felt a sharp pain in his
chest and collapsed onto his bed. Am I going to
live? he asked himself as he came around the second
time. He looked out of the window. The sunset
filtered weakly through the mist of a late winter
The man closed his eyes. A faint
shadow of a dog appeared in the distant mist. Then
the shadow sharpened into the face of a white dog.
The dog looked at him with gleaming eyes. My dog, he
murmured softly and opened his eyes. His face
softened into a smile. A nurse passed by. Again he
closed his eyes to recapture the image of his white
dog and savor the moment. The dog's head reappeared.
His chest heaved as he looked longingly at his dog.
Love filled his whole body and everything that
surrounded him. He opened his eyes and looked
around. He felt calm as he looked at the pale yellow
solution dripping slowly into the little chamber
below the IV bottle and the blips and waves moving
across the heart monitor.
The man studied the ICU room for
a while and then closed his eyes again, wondering if
his white-faced visitor still hung around in the
mist outside his window. As his eyes closed, the
image of his white dog reappeared, and then it
changed. The white face of the dog became pale and
then beige. Slowly the color deepened and turned
darker. Suddenly there stood before him his gray
dog, silent and sullen and sad. Something stirred in
him. He opened his eyes in pain. The image of the
head of his gray dog vanished. He looked at the
faint pale sun disk through the mist and felt
sadness surging within him. Slowly he closed his
eyes. A sharp image hit his eyes this time. It was
the picture of his puppies the day he first brought
them home. Something stirred in him again, much more
intensely than before. He opened his eyes but this
time it was different. The image of the gray dog
persisted in the mist. The gray dog peered at him
with his large, soft brown eyes. Oh, my God! The
words froze in his throat. How could I? How could
anyone? He cried out in pain. How could anyone be so
cruel? How could I have been so cruel, and for so
long? He closed his eyes in deep anguish. The image
of the gray dog persisted before his closed eyes.
The dog looked at him with vacant eyes. The man's
arms rose to reach the gray dog in the mist. The
dog's image receded further back into the mist. And
then the dog's eyes turned wet and there was a flood
of tears in his large, brown eyes. Oh, my God! the
man winced with intense pain. How could I? How could
anyone? How could I? he repeated his words. But the
images rolled on and on, like a homemade video.
Images of a tiny gray puppy, searching for something
in the eyes of a little boy. Images of a gray puppy
awkwardly throwing himself at a little boy as the
boy shrank back to pick up a white puppy. Images of
a puppy vomiting on a kitchen floor and urinating on
a rug. Images of a puppy being scolded by his
parents. Images of a gray dog barking and breaking
things, and being punished. Images of a dog standing
still in the corner sadly looking at a white dog and
his master eating their meal on a table. Oh, my God!
How could I? How could anyone? The man trembled
uncontrollably as he wept unashamedly. "God, take me
if you will," he sobbed inconsolably, "but first let
me make it up to my gray dog."
The man survived his injuries and
was let out of the hospital after some days. He took
a taxi to his home. As the taxi drove onto his
driveway, the dogs heard the noise and ran to the
front door. The white dog was ahead of the gray dog
as had been their habit for years. The man stepped
out of the taxi. The white dog thrashed against the
door with full force of his forelegs, in a frenzy of
motion. The gray dog peered out from behind the
white dog, his whole body heaving with excitement
and his tail wagging wildly. The door suddenly gave,
spilling the white dog. The dog lunged at his
master. The gray dog leaped behind him and then came
to an abrupt halt. The man gently pushed the white
dog aside, threw his arms wide open, ran toward the
gray dog, and hugged him. The gray dog bit the man.
Choua finished his story, stared
at me blankly for several moments, then walked out.
walked over to the window and looked out.
Why Did the Grey Dog Bite the
"Tell me why did the grey dog
bite his master?" I asked Choua when he returned
after some days. "Was he angry? Did he want to
Choua turned his head to look at
me, opened his mouth to say something, then picked
up a journal from my desk and began to read.
"What did the grey dog want?" I
continued my questions. "Revenge for all those years
of neglect? Of hurt? Of absence of love?"
"How could he have known what had
passed before his master's eyes in the hospital
intensive care unit?" Choua asked, without looking
up from the journal.
"Obviously the grey dog knew
nothing of what had transpired in the hospital. The
events in the intensive care unit couldn't have
anything to do with the reason the dog bit his
"How could the dog have known
anything about what his master felt on the day of
his return from the hospital that day?" Choua
ignored my remarks.
"Right! The dog couldn't have
known any of that. So why did he bite the man?"
"How could he have known he was
going to be hugged that day?" Choua went on.
"Yes! Yes!" I said, with
irritation. "Why do you keep asking those rhetorical
"Had he been scheming silently
for years for that day to arrive?" Choua continued
with his question, his head still buried in the
pages of the journal, oblivious of irritation in my
voice. "So he could bite him and get even for years
of suffering? How could he have figured all that in
that one brief moment when the man brushed aside his
beloved white dog and ran to him?"
"Do you expect me to answer your
questions?" I asked with resignation.
"Could it be that the grey dog
was simply confused?" Choua raised his head from the
journal and looked at me for the first time since he
entered my office.
"The confusion thing again!" I
mused. "Just like Sheila's neck spasms.
"Yeah! Just like Sheila' neck
contractions," Choua replied.
"Why then? Why not on some
earlier day?" I asked, thoroughly befuddled.
"Could the master's hug have
stunned the dog? Could he suddenly have gotten
disoriented by an unexpected burst of love? Love
coming from someone he thought incapable of loving
I wondered about Choua's
explanation. Not entirely without merit. Choua was
lost in his thoughts, oblivious to all my questions.
Then he backed away from the window and walked out.
Why did the gray dog bite his
master anyway? Was he angry? Vengeful? What did he
want? Revenge for all the years of neglect, of hurt,
of absence of love?
Healing Miracles and the Bite
of the Grey Dog (1997)