The woman came at the same time every week. She was old, with hair that was still long and black despite her age, and a big smile that she gave to everyone despite the fact she was deaf in one ear. The dog saw none of this, however. It recognized her by the shuffling footsteps, the faint whiff of peppermint and the fact that she carried a bag of bones that alerted all the neighbourhood dogs. It’s tail would wag excitedly, spinning around and around, waiting for her turn as the lady dutifully passed.
It had had a childhood that other dogs only dream about: a family that cuddled her, fed her and threw her lots of balls to catch. She’d grown up in the lap of luxury that only Labradors will know, adored for her soft fur, her big brown eyes and floppy ears. Things began to change when her face filled out and grew more elongated – in other words, when she grew up. The cuddles became less and less frequent until one day they just didn’t touch her at all, and over time her bark (which was thunderous) became an annoyance that they didn’t want, but knew they needed in the depths of Huechuraba. By the time the cancer struck they had become accustomed to one another but she was an expense that they just couldn’t afford. When the time came for them to move they chose to leave the dog behind. They left her in the yard of the house and never saw her again.
She was found by the new renters some two weeks later, who were shocked at the state of her. A bag of bones with shaky legs, she had barked herself hoarse and could not walk, her body riddled by protruding tumours. Her eyes were wide and bloodshot but, despite her hardships, when she saw the new family she found the energy to shake her tail. They passed her on to their grown son who needed a guard dog for his property and who wanted to help her the moment he saw her. He nursed her back to health, took her to the vet, played with her, and soon she forgot all about how it was humans that had originally left her to die of starvation.
They lived now in Recoleta, with the man’s growing family who call her Luna. Every time someone came to take out a car from the yard Luna would trot outside and watch. She couldn’t run or walk much further away because of the cancer, but she was a happy, gentle dog who loved to watch the world from her resting place. She knew all the dogs in the neighbourhood – she’d had quite the reputation a few years ago when the smell of her drove mutts wild, and they’d queued at her gate desperate for a second with her. She knew all the in’s and out’s of the street and the residents were patient with her. She’d watch the endless stream of unknown’s as they’d rap at the window of the house opposite, with their caps pulled down and their nonchalant stances, before exchanging paper for something small and white that Luna couldn’t understand the importance of.
She was also there the night the boy was murdered, stabbed in the back by a friend who was angry at something monumental, and who was now memorialized by a grand white marker emblazoned with “Colo Colo.” She stood guard during the night while the corner swelled with lost souls who had nowhere they wanted to go to except inside their bags of white powder. She looked and she barked, and she raced excitedly with the other dogs to discover new smells that would explode in their brains every weekend as the people took to the streets with their empanadas and completos.
Most of all, Luna liked to watch the children. She liked the little toddler from next door with the beautiful, gentle eyes that would come and stare at her, and the girl who would wait for her parents while they worked in the shop. She always wanted to play with Luna but the parents didn’t like her to, disturbed by her unusual appearance and sharp teeth. Every day Luna would play with the boy with creamy skin, who didn’t care what she looked like, and who called her “Nunu.” Always there was laughter around her – noise and laughter – and she loved every second of it, despite her creaking joints.
Luna noticed the day the old woman didn’t come with the bones. The dogs on the street wondered too, and went to sleep with tummies gurgling as they’d grown accustomed to the stranger’s treat. They had no idea that the woman’s weekly highlight was her nightly stroll around the neighbourhood with the bag of bones. In fact, the dogs had no idea at all about her life, or that she too had known the pangs of hunger. She died in the hospital holding the hand of her husband who cried while remembering the difficulties of their life together, and afterwards it was the sound of her family wailing at the heavens that caused Luna and her friends to bark all night long. Luna didn’t know any of this, of course, and so she waits each Friday, on the other side of the gate that separates her from her less-lucky friends, looking for the stranger that cared for her, but never knew her.
This post is dedicated to the real Luna, who Luis rescued from starvation six years ago and who is now a beloved member of our family.
There are lot’s of dogs that are just as gentle as Luna that are looking for a home in Santiago. If you are considering a companion, why not send Suzie Beaven an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org You can find out about the wonderful work of Adopta Perro Santiago here.