The Butcher

I could never understand how someone could look into the eyes of a dog and not find the true meaning of love and compassion. I could never understand how their little happy pants and excited yips don’t cause the weights your heart constantly carries to lift, and I could never understand how the sadness in their knit brows or the pain in soft whimpers don’t immediately spur a response to soothe whatever may be hurting them. 

Within the pueblo in which my mother spent her childhood, there are more strays than my heart could handle to count. Hungry, hurt, and sick, they are too weak to run from me when I approach them. Despite all they have been through, their eyes’ downhearted look to me somehow lets me know “If you are kind, I can still, with what little I have left, love you”. 

Unfortunately, I am only one person who visits this pueblo once a year for about two weeks. During these two weeks, my mother, my aunt, my cousin and myself bring it upon ourselves to make sure whatever strays roam around our home are able to have access to food and water. We would gather some food and leave at the corner of my grandmother’s home for them. Eventually, we would walk outside to see them waiting for us, tails wagging contently in gratitude for what we could offer them. 

Some, even after living in fear and hunger, would even let me pet them. I have to say, it’s one of the highest honors I have ever had the privilege of in my entire life.

However, after my time in the pueblo comes the guilt of leaving my new friends behind. As we mount the bus that would take us back to the city, I could not help but feel my heavy heart at the pit of my stomach. 

Who would take care of them? How would they eat? Who would give them water? 

As these thoughts ricocheted in my mind while I watched the pueblos speed by, my sorrow started to turn to anger. 

Why wouldn’t anyone take care of them? Why does no one care if they eat? Why can’t there be someone to care for them like we do? 

The amount of venom and misanthropy that my aching heart created as a result surprised me. As I started to physically scrunch my shoulders and grip the armrest of my seat until my knuckles whitened, something suddenly caught my eye. 

At a rest stop in one of the small pueblos in which some people got off the bus and some boarded was a humble butcher cutting up meat in front of his little stand made of planks of wood nailed together. He had a canopy made of plastic over his stand and cutting area held up with four sticks to protect both himself and his products from the sun. 

What made all the pessimism melt away, however, was the sight of about six stray dogs, seated patiently around the butcher’s cutting table. None of them flinched or barked when the cleaver he wielded came down harshly on a particular cut of meat he was working on. The simply waited, tails lightly wagging as they watched him. 

At first, I thought perhaps they were just chancing grabbing something that accidently fell from his skilled hands, but I noticed he wasn’t shooing any of them away as he worked. While he was cutting, the butcher threw pieces of meat towards the patient puppies, one by one. No one fought over them, no one made a fuss, and no one ever questioned whether their turn would come or not. They trusted the butcher and he never disappointed. 

My heart instantly melted, watching the scene in a kind of manner that felt like it was nourishing a life bar that was critically low. Everything I had questioned about humans and their disregard for what I considered to be the epitome of love and innocence in this cold world became silent. 

This man, with what little he had, gave what he could to creatures that could not pay for his product. He had eyes for those who were otherwise invisible and ears for those no one heard. 

If people like the humble butcher existed in this world, just like all the dogs I’ve met before, I can say to humanity “If you are kind, I can still, with what little I have left, love you”. 

-Cin


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