“Get away you filthy mongrel!” I hear shouting and run for my life.
The heavy footsteps of a man follow me as I dash away with the stolen fish clutched tightly in my jaws.
Run faster, run faster I tell myself. The pads of my feet make thumping noises on the dirt path and I hear my breath growing heavier and heavier. I can smell the man behind me, sweaty with anger. Just a little bit longer until I reach the safety of the olive grove. The olive trees will cradle me in their lush green branches and keep me from harm.
The rough hands of the man yank me up by the scruff of my neck. In a state of panic, I open my mouth and drop my treasure. The dead fish falls on the ground with a thud.
“This is the last time you steal from me, mutt.” Something hard strikes me on the side of my head and I land in a heap at the man’s feet. My ear is throbbing with pain and I feel the man spit on me in disgust when he leaves me lying in the dirt path alone. Discarded and despised.
Life wasn’t always like this for me, you know. There was once a time when I didn’t need to steal or beg for food.
I was born on a farm on the banks of the Jordan River. As a young pup, I grew big and strong drinking the milk from my mother’s body. I romped and played with my littermates and slept nestled in the safety of our pen at night. During the day, the farmer’s children would feed us snacks from their grubby hands and play games with us.
One day, after a vigorous game of chase, the farmer’s youngest daughter scooped me up and held me close to her chest.
“Daddy,” I heard Ruth say, “I think there’s something wrong with this one.”
“What do you mean, dear?” The farmer stepped closer to us.
“Look at his eyes. They’re cloudy and pale.”
The farmer shook his head in disappointment. “He’s going blind. We’ll have to put him down.”
“No!” Ruth shrieked. I could feel her heart hammering in her chest next to my trembling form. I knew something was terribly wrong.
“He can’t be a sheepdog if he can’t see. I’ll take him down to the river first thing in the morning.”
I was confused and frightened. Ruth held me for a very long time and I licked the tears that fell from her eyes. Late that night, she snuck outside and plucked me from my pen. She walked far from her home until we reached the olive grove.
“Stay. Don’t come back to the farm. It’s not safe. Goodbye little doggie.” I looked at Ruth through my blurry eyes. Her sweet childish face is the last thing I ever saw. I had been plunged into a world of darkness.
It has been many years now since Ruth left me in the olive grove. My muzzle is now gray with age and my ribs stick out from hunger. It is the gnawing in my belly that led me to the fish market earlier this morning.
I wake up in the road when I feel the rumble of the earth beneath me. Hooves. Someone must be driving cattle. I need to move before I am trampled. I drag my weary, bruised body up from the dirt and hide in the grass beside the road.
I hear many voices along with the hooves and realize it must be a caravan of travelers. Crouching low in the grass, I try to disappear. But, suddenly I feel the presence of a person in front of me. My brain screams run but I am too worn from my beating to move.
I feel a small hand gently caress my head and stroke my ears. It has been so long since I have been touched with any kind of tenderness. My body begins to shiver and tingle all over. Then slowly, miraculously, my dark world shimmers with the brightest of light. I can see.
I find myself once again looking into the face of a child. He winks at me and gives me another pat on the head. I can hear voices calling to him. “Come along, Jesus. We need to get to Jerusalem before nightfall.”
The little boy scampers back to his parents and I never take my eyes off him.
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