Today I write this for humans but I have to admit, I don’t feel so keen on people right now. Dogs are better, always.
But I need to write this. I need to tell you about a dog that was good and kind and loving to a point beyond what you think a dog can feel, but only to people that were good to him. A dog that was happy and playful and so, so silly, but only played with the people who loved him. A dog that was traumatised, physically and mentally in the life he had before he went to the family that tried to keep him safe.
Haku came to us in a less conventional way than what you see in movies when you think of small, cute 6 week old puppies that arrive in a new family. No no.
Haku was found in the garden of our youth centre by my brother, Ermis, who brought him to our house not as a new pet, but as a small, hairless ball of ticks. I remember that day. Ermis didn’t say “can we keep him?”, he said “can we keep him alive?”. I remember holding the most disgusting puppy on the planet in my hands. Even his eyes looked tired and he had given up. He was the kind of animal you see in The Dodo stories. Gross and, incredibly, unbelievably kind.
He sat there while I sprayed, killed, and combed out most of the ticks and other despicable creatures daring to suck the blood of a small harmless puppy (which reminds me, if I ever become God, I will reset the rules and give ticks, and other parasites, Morals). Haku looked me in the eyes and stood there for hours, while I was getting rid of the ticks. If you know anything about dogs, you know that a small puppy knows absolutely zero things about patience. He did.
We kept him alive that night. He ate and even cried when I wasn’t around him. And he stank. Oh, my, how this dog smelled! Who knew that dead skin, hair loss and malnutrition smell like Wotsits and old boiled egg salad? Nothing cute about that puppy, I promise you. Apart from his eyes. And the fact that he was good, even though he was in pain.
The vet said Haku had broken his leg and because he was so malnourished and lacked essential minerals (back to my ‘ticks without morals’ argument) his bones were not going to mend well. He grew up and the only reminder of his past life was a life-long limp.
The only reminder for us that is. Haku remembered a lot more. He remembered specific children and old people that kicked and pulled him around as a puppy. Remembered the terror of being a small puppy in a village that respects nothing (perhaps I will make sure I add an extra dose of Morals in people too – the current dose is pitiful and must have expired).
Haku never forgot the fear. Parts of him never grew to an old and wise dog. His eyes looked a lot wiser at times, but parts of him always remained that scared dog that found only one family of good people in a village of fools. We tried so hard to give him a good life and we also tried to help him forget. Haku never forgot. He guarded the house from all the fools and he liked only a select few outside his kind family. He started guarding the garden of the house, then expanded the territory to the outside of the garden – the road around our remote house and the fields around it. He never bit anyone, but he was terrifying. A bad, bad dog.
Bad is a strange word, isn’t it? Strange to say now, after telling you all the reasons that fueled the fear and created this defensive aggression.
Turns out Haku was also a very wise dog. Turns out he was right. Right to be scared of the fools.
This morning, Ermis found Haku poisoned and left in front of our garden gate.
If I become a god one day, I will ban fools from existence. Dogs, even bad ones, will have free roam. But there will be no reason for dogs to be bad if the fools are gone. Pretty solid plan.
Let’s get one thing straight: dogs, all dogs, deserve a chance. At least one. The ones that had a bad start deserve even more. Like children, dogs begin their lives being good. Good boys and gals. Good.
Then they start absorbing the world around them. If it is a good environment, a kind and loving place, they stay good and happy. If what they see is aggression, unpredictable malice and insecurity, they create ways to process it. To survive in it.
Never forget the responsibility you have to be kind when you talk to someone young. A child, or young animal. You are an early example of the world to them. They absorb you – your body posture, your breath, the tone of your voice, your reactions. Dogs are extremely sensitive to this. They absorb your kindness and love and turn it into joy and care. Or they absorb your anger and aggression and turn it into anxiety and fear. The only problem here is that dogs come with an excellent set of teeth, so fear takes a much more terrifying image – incredible sets of shinny, pointy canines. Still fear in the core of it.
How unfair, to punish someone for being scared.
Haku died because we couldn’t help him forget. Our fault as much as the man who poisoned him. Our responsibility that he wanted to protect us and never let his guard down as much as the man who planned to buy meat and poison and sat there preparing it in his house for a dog who was always more of a man than he will ever be. Our third dog being poisoned within a year, Haku died because someone didn’t like him.
That’s the village I live in. This is what is happening in Greece at the moment, and very few of these people are ever caught. Because the police doesn’t think killing a dog is as important a crime. I guess they are waiting until a child come across the poison (which, but the way, the vet said was possibly cyanide) and accidentally touches it and has a snack afterwards. Maybe when a human dies, maybe then it will become evident that we let a murderer roam free in our community. That he went to church and had friends and knew children’s names and where they lived, just like everyone else. Maybe then it will become clear how terrifying this is.
Justice doesn’t often come in my country – not that way at least. But then you think about the person, whose existence must be so miserable that lead them to think that they have the right to take someone’s life because they don’t like them. I guess if you are that destroyed inside, there is nothing the justice system can do to make your life worse. You have already turned your life into a punishment. I guess understanding that, calms me down. Calms me down because I don’t need to think how unjust it is that this person might walk freely amongst our dogs and the children of the youth centre.
Instead, I can think of the one important thing:
I loved that dog so much. I will remember that we did what we could for him and that he loved us and looked at us in the eyes and sighed. He didn’t only remember what the fools did, but also remembered what the kind people did for him. I will remember the dog that was good, even though he was bad.
Haku is a Japanese word. It means white. A colour they wear at funerals, not as a sign of mourning, but as a sign of peace and purity. White, like the snow that turned him into an absolute joyous idiot. My good boy.