Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Monday, February 25, 2008

Black and White

"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye."
-Antoine de Saint Exupery

We kept white rabbits when I was young; and we had a dog. The former stayed most of the time in their hutch while the dog, a black haired mix of this and that who passed away just a couple of years ago, was free to roam about the garden as he pleased.
One afternoon, on returning home from a shopping trip, we discovered a horrific scene on the front lawn. One of the rabbits had escaped from its enclosure and was crouched, cowering, in the grass. Our dog was hovering over the quivering form; there were white clouds of fluff scattered about the immediate vicinity and, most incriminating, around the dog's mouth.
The dog was wrenched aside, the rabbit scooped up and brought to safety. We had arrived home just in time to save the creature's life. The dog received a loud and hard telling off.
It was some years later that a bedraggled kitten was discovered on the roadside by our house. As there was blood in its ear we gave up all hope of saving it and the tiny thing was gently placed onto a low, ivy-covered stone wall until it was decided what to do next.
Our dog leaped onto the wall and suddenly began to lick the miserable wretch as it lay prone and still bleeding. He lay down beside the ragged bundle and did not stir for many hours except to nudge the kitten from time to time and to offer it another lap of his tongue.
The kitten was eventually roused from its forbidding slumber. We knew a lady who loved cats and had an unlimited amount of affection, time and space for many of them. While the dog was not looking, the helpless cat was gathered up and taken to the comfort of our neighbour's house where we hoped the strong-willed feline would have a good life after such a thing had seemed inconceivable. I remember that the dog, upon discovering the absence of his beloved friend, howled with anguish and distress. He hunted in a frenzy, scampered all over the area but the kitten was gone, and he was left inconsolable.
We watched and in a heartbeat understood it all. Of course he had taken a shine to the kitten- there was no doubting that fact. On that astonishing afternoon, as we watched a dog bring a cat back from the dead through the power of compassion, this was made clear to us all: he had not been trying to devour our pet rabbit in the garden all those years ago. The dog had not been seeking to hurt the rabbit or play with it. He had been doing his very best to prevent it from moving toward the busy road and he succeeded with his only utility: his mouth. He had been trying to gather up the rabbit much as a mother cat does with her kittens, and carry it, wedged between his jaws, back to the hutch. We had come home and interpreted his action as a violent one. Seeing him perform a miracle opened our eyes, for no dog that cared so much about a half-dead kitten could wish to hurt a rabbit. It was too late, of course, to take back either our hasty assumption or the harsh treatment that had been delivered to him that day in the garden. All of us were filled with a heartbreaking remorse and a tangible guilt for judging upon sight. The dog lived a good life long after he saved the kitten; I do not remember ever shouting at him again.
In the ensuing tangle of loose rabbit fur and struggling dog, we ought to have seen things with a slant: not everything is black and white. It helps to see, to properly see, before judging anything.


Beth said...

What a great lesson and a heartwarming story to help remember the lesson.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Thank you. That's exactly the kind of thing I try to write- something hopefully helpful and with a small lesson tucked inside :)

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