I first saw her walking around the old section of roadway that parallels the railroad tracks at the end of our street. My instincts told me that she was a stray.
Within a few days it seemed that the entire neighborhood had either seen or heard about her. Speculation was that she had been abandoned there, in that secluded place, where all manner of trash and debris get regularly dumped under the curtain of dark anonymity in the middle of the night.
My wife had heard that she was a German Shepherd and was wearing a collar that was too tight—and that it should be loosened if someone could get close enough.
Yesterday morning I decided to have a closer look. I started up the road, a small bag of dog food in hand, and saw her immediately—she seemed to have no interest in keeping herself hidden.
Two bowls had been set out for her near-by, an old metal one with dirty water and a cheap plastic container with about a day’s worth of dry food. When I approached she took a few steps back from the road onto the little path that runs off into the wild kudzu vines and scrub vegetation that fill the narrow strip of land between the road and the tracks. I stopped about twelve feet from her. It was not my intention to capture or befriend her.
She was quite handsome, barely medium size, with brown fur and features that resembled a German Shepherd yet suggested a lineage far more gnarled and complex. She was young, possibly less than a year old, certainly no more than two.
I looked for but could not see her collar. Maybe someone had removed it? Maybe its tightness hid it from my sight under her thick fur? Preferring the former thought to the latter, I involuntarily touched my throat, and after emptying my bag of kibbles into her bowl, like the offering of biksha one makes at the abodes of saints and gurus, I turned and walked away.
I have felt no desire to visit her again, but she remains very present in my thoughts. There is something about her situation that resonates with me—I know it is the edge.
The edge and those who live on the edge have always attracted me, for the edge is where real meaning is sought and found. In that refuge of outlaws and outcasts, snakes and strays, possibility exists—reality glimpsed—and sinners with spiked chains and saints with golden ones seek and sometimes find freedom from the bondage of all chains.
And so I continued to ponder her precarious life on the edge filled with hardship and danger.
“How long will she be wily and lucky enough to survive? Will she make a mistake? Will she in a moment of weakness or need willingly trade her freedom for a life of human companionship—and a leash?”
I am curious, yet reluctant, to ascertain her true fate. I have avoided our neighbors, preferring the solitary company of my own thoughts, where over a glass of wine my mind is free to venture to that narrow strip of land just beyond the reach of society’s fingertips, to imagine the various possibilities of the shepherd’s fortune or misfortune, and to contemplate the mystery of the soul’s efforts to balance the spirit’s need of solitude with consciousness’ desire for experience, there on the edge where silence, on a whim, first dared to ask the question, “Who am I?” and began to dream the dream of sinners, saints, and strays.