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The Bite of the Grey Dog

Majid Ali, M.D.

 "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 he became.

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 passed.

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 weeks.

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 afternoon.

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 Man?

"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 avenge himself?"

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 master."

"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 questions?"

"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 him?"

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?

Taken from Healing Miracles and the Bite of the Grey Dog (1997)

 

                            

 

 

Healing Stories

Conversations With Angels

* I Don't want Dialysis

* The First Lupus Story

* The Second Lupus Story

* A Bullet for  Hypertension
*Conversations With *Angels
*The Bite of the Neck Muscles
*The Sword Story
*The Bite of the Grey Dog
*Why and How Do Not Matter

* One Coronary Stent for Each Inning

* Mouth Opened, Prescription Delivered

 

  Oxygen Stories             
* Oxygenstrories
* Sourmilk                   
* Sticky Cherries             
* Rancid Butter  
* Greasy Cooking Pot         
* Oxygen Detergent
* A Pothole on a street