Silent Empathy

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The dog was calm.

By Poojaraj Maniyeri

The heat was blinding, the sun’s rays pointed directly at us as if seeking vengeance. The place smelled just right, the delicious smell of fur mixing with the fresh smell of plants. She rustled his ears, and something inside her stirred. He was a small bundle of fur, snuggling into her. 

He looked at her through half-closed eyes adorably drooping shut.

Blink. Blink. Bli…..nk.

With a contented gaze, he settled down in her arms, burying his face in her clothes. 

A section of her short black hair fell loose at the front, but she couldn’t care enough to brush it back. 

Right now, she could only look down at this endearing sight. She had never been more in love. The long days wondering what it would feel like to hold a dog, and pet the animal had just become reality. She wanted to hold this dog forever. 

Her siblings, however, had other ideas, all of them wanting to pet the dog, and soon she had to let him out of her hands. 

Once she put the bundle of fur on the ground, he ran all around the place, yapping loudly, all thoughts of sleep seemingly vanished.

Only then did she see a big dog waiting patiently nearby, enjoying the fur rubs. Never before had she seen an animal who seemed as intelligent as this one. The dog’s eyes were calm and had a certain depth of wisdom to it. The animal looked at all the humans as if reading their minds. 

“I want a dog, they’re so cute,” she said with a wishful look.

Several big dogs were running around with loud joyful barks, nibbling at the ears of the smaller ones to show affection.

The one hour with the dogs had to have been the best, yet the shortest, time of her life.

She went to the counter to buy a food bundle for the animals. 

The girl continued to wander around the place, stopping now and then to pet an animal, until she caught sight of the donkeys. 

One of the donkeys looked like it was staring right at her, and beckoning her over when he saw the food bundle in her hands. The donkeys went towards her in a slow trot, following her every step and not letting her out of their sight. Holding out their faces as much as they could, all the donkeys seemed to have the same thought. As if on cue, they opened their mouths, showing their impressive teeth and licking the air with their tongues, prompting her to give them the food. 

Pat. Feed. Pat. Pat. Feed. Pat. Pat. Feed. Feed.

The donkeys competed against each other, shoving and pulling. Yet, they were polite to the one feeding them. Once they saw her coming towards them with the food, they quietened down, patiently waiting, followed by what looked like a nod of thanks. 

One thing she knew for sure was she would never be using the phrase “Oh, what a donkey!” ever again, or at least not for a long time to come. 

On the opposite side of the place, the sheep began to bleat indignantly as if reprimanding her for not feeding them. 

With a long stride, she walked across to the wool-bearing creatures, with a handful of food for them. All feelings of indignation now gone, the sheep concentrated on chewing. 

“Don’t they remind you of small, cute babies whose parents are telling them to eat properly?” she asked her sibling, laughing softly.

“At least the animals will listen,” her sibling replied, grinning widely. 

The sounds of her shoes crunching on the gravel mixed pleasantly with the sounds of the animals, and soon she found herself talking to a peacock. 

Her clothes ruffled slowly in the gentle breeze. The peacock strutted about, displaying its feathers proudly. It appeared to be aware that people were watching and loved the attention. Laughing at the peacock’s antics, she went over to the enclosure where the vulture sat, perched on a branch. 

The vulture’s attitude contrasted that of the peacock sharply. With a menacing look, the vulture exuded a dominating aura. A short walk away, the bats hung upside down, unbothered by the goings-on. 

“They look like they’re chilling,” she said. 

This visit had been one that left her with many thoughts. The entire day was spent walking and interacting with animals. It gave her a much-needed break from staring at the screen. It had been a day to relax and take her mind off studies. 

Although they can’t speak, it felt like each animal had something to say, something she could learn from. Maybe they do speak, but we lack the power to comprehend their language. That may be why we feel like we can sometimes understand just a tiny bit of what they express. Spending time with the animals had been a source of unexplainable joy. The compassion radiating from the creatures were soothing. Feeling light-hearted, she made her way back to the car. The entire ride back home was spent in silence, pondering at the happenings of the day.