Le jao puppy

Two days ago we saw four puppies—three, maybe four weeks old—tumbling around outside a half-finished house on the Assi-Nagwa Road, where we walk every day. I stopped and oohed and ahhed. Andy picked one up, his hand wrapped easily around the puppy’s waist, and we scratched its tiny head. A woman leaning out from a doorway said le jao—take it. No, no, no, we laughed.

Yesterday we went back. There they were again. Andy clicked his tongue to call them over. A small, dirty dog across the street started barking. A neighbor boy appeared, pointing to the barking dog. “Mom.” Mom came over and kept barking, but without much force. Dad, slightly larger, came over too, barking, also insincerely. Now the boy pointed across the street. One of the puppies was lying on its side, motionless in front of a small concrete building. “Finished,” the boy said. Now they were three.

Mom stopped barking. I walked up to buy some Parle-G biscuits to feed them, a Rs5 packet. I held out the first biscuit to mom with my hand; she lunged at it and swallowed the biscuit quickly. She did the same with the second and so I took the rest of the biscuits and broke them in my fist and spread them on the ground. The boy stood by watching. One of the puppies came over and nosed around, but he was still too small to eat and so he went to his mother, hoping for milk. Another one followed. Together they trailed after her as she scoured the road, looking for any last crumbs. Somehow she looked even more thin after watching her eat.

Dad came over again, looking at my now-empty hands. Then he crossed the street, stopping in front of the dead puppy. Mom followed and nudged dad’s paw away, then hustled the two puppies still trailing behind her back across to the safety of the rubble yard. Andy and I walked home. It’s the season for these sweetnesses, these tiny tragedies.

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