A dog without legs. It had four at one time.
You’re holding one in your hand right now.
It’s wrapped in a plastic bag.
The dog is lying on its side somewhere
trying to do the things it did before.
All it can do is wag its tail. It’s not in any pain.
Except it is. It wants to chase rabbits
and run in circles with others of its kind.
It wants to receive praise and adoration
from human beings. But now it can only lie
in one spot, wiggling a little, letting its tongue
fall out of the side of its mouth. It’s thirsty.
There’s a puddle only a few feet away but
the dog can only lie there, panting and parched.
The puddle is at the fringe of a small wooded
area. The dog can hear the gray squirrels
and chipmunks scrabbling nearby. It can smell
the richness of the earth and scent of leaves.
The dog turns its head and casts its eyes
toward the trees and softly whimpers with
frustration. It can see the fallen sticks and the
silvery-white birch bark. Everything needed
for a day or even a lifetime of adventure.
It’s thirstier now, this limbless dog. You’re
holding its left forepaw in your hand at this
moment. There’s an ethical lesson somewhere
to be learned, but all you have is this dog
leg in a freezer bag. There’s a possibility
this might be a metaphor about the loss of
family. We’ve been diminished, but we try
to go on. Maybe it’s about a betrayal of trust.
No animal is more trusting than a dog.
It looks to you like a healthy leg. It wasn’t
torn off in a car accident. It was surgically
removed. You try to imagine the dog and all
that it’s gone through, black questions arisen
from a world of blue. The dog grows thirstier.
The nearby puddle will soon dry up and fade
away. The dog will symbolically chase it as it
goes, hearing only a voice that speaks with love.
This is such a strange moment to have arrived at.
Holding this bag filled with a portion
of the only living creature that would play fetch
with its own severed limb if only you asked
and it could.
–Richard King Perkins II
Richard King Perkins II is a state-sponsored advocate for residents in long-term care facilities. He lives in Crystal Lake, IL, USA with his wife, Vickie and daughter, Sage. He is a three-time Pushcart, Best of the Net and Best of the Web nominee whose work has appeared in more than a thousand publications.