A Dog’s Tale

 The City Council deliberations on dogs scheduled for Monday’s work session reminded me of a column I wrote about a dog when I was working in Iraq.  The story is completely true. 

 
Iraq is a tough place.  The people are hardened by years of deprivation and even the cars are the battered survivors of a bygone era.  Tragic stories appear in the headlines every day and danger is a way of life.  The most powerful symbol I have seen of just how tough this country can be, however, is a mongrel dog named Rocky.

 

Rocky is a street dog, who makes his home in some bushes near the house where I live.  He was adopted and named by one of my colleagues shortly after we moved in, although he would never let my friend touch him.  He lives off table scraps we provide, supplemented by what he can forage from the numerous garbage piles that dot the neighborhood.  He has a female companion who goes by the name Rocky’s Wife, but Rocky is essentially a loner.  While many areas of town have packs of dogs, Rocky’s street belongs to him. 

 

I have long believed that our greatest strengths are usually our greatest weaknesses.  Rocky illustrates the point.  When intruders enter his street after dark, they are greeted with a headlong rush of fur and teeth accompanied by furious barking.  Rocky’s technique works well against other dogs and pedestrians, but it proved to be only a minor annoyance to the military convoys that patrol the neighborhood.  About a month ago, he was hit by a Polish jeep during one of his charges; and the trial of his life began.

 

I was doing some computer work in my room when I heard the familiar Rocky charge followed by some horrible yelping.  I then heard two shots in quick succession, more yelping, and then a final shot.  I ran downstairs to see what had happened and was met by our security team leader who informed me that Rocky had been hit by a military vehicle.  The soldiers tried to put him out of his misery by shooting him with their AK-47’s, but they only succeeded in wounding him.  Pete, our security team leader, took charge of the situation and shot Rocky in the head with his pistol.  He asked our security guards to bury him later that night.

 

The following morning I sadly asked Pete if Rocky had been buried during the night, and he reported that the dog not only was not buried, but had awakened and understandably put some distance between himself and humanity.  We were both concerned he would suffer and asked a veterinarian who works for us if she would make arrangements to put him down.  She and one of our engineers spent the better part of their day off hunting Rocky, but he proved to be as smart as he is tough.  There were several Rocky sightings over the next few days, although I began to doubt these reports and assumed he had gone somewhere and died.  A few days after the shooting, I saw Rocky walking around near the Polish military compound about a quarter mile from our street and convinced myself it had to be a dog that looked like Rocky.  The dog I saw was walking normally and didn’t seem to be in any distress.  It certainly did not look like a dog that had been run over and shot three times.  Proof emerged in the succeeding days that the dog was Rocky and that he had returned to take charge of his street.

 

Rocky’s future was still very much in doubt due to a gaping wound in his neck.  We asked our veterinarian to take a look at him now that he was back on the street, and she concluded he could not survive.  He would not allow anyone to get close enough to treat him.  That was about three weeks ago, and Rocky is doing well.  His wound is closing and as Brendan, our always insightful security provider puts it, is “kicking butt again.”  Rocky has even learned a few lessons.  He now barks at the Polish convoys from the safety of his bushes rather than charging out at them.

 

I have decided that Rocky’s story is a metaphor for Iraq.  It has been badly abused and some of its greatest strengths, such as religious faith and oil resources, are in many ways its greatest weaknesses.  I received an e-mail recently from someone who was skeptical about the future of democracy in Iraq.  I have had my doubts on more than one occasion, but I doubted Rocky’s survival, too.  He has proven to me that anything can happen and happy endings are as much a part of life as sad ones.

 

Rocky recovering after his trials