In no way was it a special dog. The man, for his part, never thought it was anything but unremarkable and plain ordinary (shame-inducing even, especially during all those embarrassing walks among the noblest of breeds). When once during dinner, not out of fancy or folly but rather out of bored curiosity, he tried to feed the dog a green, freshly pimpled cucumber, it averted its nose and went towards its own plate crumpled somewhere in the dark corner of the kitchen. No, the dog wasn’t remarkable; wasn’t even strange.
For a year now the man was a widower. He inherited the dog after his wife’s untimely death in an obscure car accident that, still unsolved, was soon abandoned. The dog was forced on him, but he also felt he owed it to her to care about what she so clearly obsessed over: dogs. She used to be crazy about dogs. So much so that with her quiet and undemanding obsession she rather unspokenly talked him into giving it to her as a Christmas present. The man never cared about dogs, though. He couldn’t even tell the breed of the dog when he bought it. She knew, though; she called it a collie. It didn’t take him long to call it that too. Only the plainest, most ordinary collie.
For what he knew exactly was that it was not a special dog. True, at first it looked genuinely distressed, even somehow pained after the accident (weird!) but then gradually, wag by wiggle, the cheerfulness returned. Suddenly the dog filled the whole house with its crashing and whooshing self, and made the man realize how small, how achingly small the flat really was. Never mind, he thought in a desperate attempt to calm himself, it is not to be inhabited by many. And that is hardly for too long. But just me, he thought, and the dog.
Gradually and in a very matter-of-fact way they soon grew so much accustomed, if not close, to each other that the man had to give up his initial and rather uneasy plan to confine the dog to some suitable institution. Besides, deep inside he still felt the dog was some kind of an obligation to the memory of his dead wife. He walked it (tight, rigid leash), fed it (mostly bones), even washed it (spiky. piercing splashes) one or two times – things he so rarely did when she was alive.
And then, after one tiresome and uneventful year something started to happen: the dog began to take the man places. After one year of predictable, submissive walks, it presently became very fidgety, very uneasy at the other end of the rope. Rope, because the leash had long worn out and the man had to come up with a quick substitute. He made a noose, he tied it around the dog’s neck. It seemed practical and the dog, he believed, had no hard feelings. Its new desires were hard, though. Something was happening. For even considering the tightness of the rope a couple of times the man almost gave in, trampled over and lost it. The dog grew restless; the man could hardly hold back its new inventive and adventurous spirit. In the evening as well as in the morning the man had to follow the dog to cafes and bars, restaurants and even (a couple of times) to pubs. For it was there that the dog led him. The man didn’t find it intriguing or exciting. He found it gruesome, bewildering, ridiculous. He didn’t know what was going on.
They would stop near a porch and with every minute inch of its striving, over-excited body the dog would beg to go in, to enter. Yes, and there really was no easy way getting around it: the dog specifically wanted to enter: not a shop, not a school-yard, but a restaurant, a café. The man, of course, resisted. And not because common sense had to prevail, but because there was nothing else for common sense to do. No, of course he didn’t intend to go: heaven forbid; just think of the money, the audience. So standing there, experiencing another inexplicable, embarrassing scene the man tried an expression of an annoyed master. But the crowd passing and entering the place found nothing amusing about it. They found it annoying. In the end, the man’s weak, ashamed hands grew thick and leady and he managed to drag the dog away. Inch by inch, meter by meter, then home. After every such incident the dog looked like grass after picnic. Visibly downtrodden, it was led to another quiet dinner, another pack of crumpled cigarettes.
And there, in the haunting warmth of home, with a paper aside and the dog sound asleep at his sound and sleepy feet, something began to come back to the man. It was his late wife’s words uttered in an excited gush after an evening walk: “That dog is great. That dog is special. Darling, what a gift”. The words that passed him by in such a dumb, nonchalant way. The way a wrong bus might pass a man who’s there to wait for a girl. Her face, her excitement, her words. No, back then he paid no attention, it was only now that it all struck him so hard. And something, that quiet something got stirred inside.
The next day the man followed the dog willingly, with intent. Where would it lead? It led, of all places, to a night club. The man was interested, his interest was anxious, unholy. The next day it was a restaurant, a posh one. “That dog is special” – something she said not just one time.
But this time the man got in. Tied the frenzied dog to a lamppost outside and walked in alone. The first thing he noticed there, in the artificial light of the place, was that the whole restaurant was staring at him with what he believed was inviting hostility. Awkwardly, anticipating a climax, he came up to the nearest waiter.
- No, no, I don’t need a table. I’m not hungry. I just wonder… Could I talk to you for a second? I need to know… Have you ever seen here a woman with… a woman with a dog. A kind of a collie. Yes? I mean, it might sound weird, yes. No, not lately. More than a year ago. I suppose they… ate here. I don’t know. – Outside the dog barked in anguished despair. – Describe her? Well, one second… But why? With a dog that strange. Collie, yes. Yes, together.
This time there was no dinner at home. No newspaper and no cigarettes.
The first idea was to kill the dog. Right there in the kitchen, while it gnawed at its dried bone. But the man was not too good at first ideas, so instead he took the dog to the institution he got it from. And then he killed himself. Quietly, in the torturous dark, without pain, with his age.