A few years ago Hollywood came up with a story they called The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, apparently based on a short story by F.Scott Fitzgerald. In the story when Benjamin is born, he is lined, wrinkled and grey, looking like an old man. But as the years pass he starts to look younger and younger. He eventually dies as a baby in the arms of his former lover.
The story is of course a fantasy. If it is intended to impart a message, that passed me by. It is certainly entertaining.
Then, not long after seeing the movie, I ran into someone who could have been related to Benjamin Button. She also illustrated for me the strange relationships that can exist between human beings and their dogs.
She was along the roadside and in her arms was the dog. From a distance I thought she was a child of eight or nine years old. She was tiny and had a figure you would associate with someone of that age, narrow hips and shoulders, skinny legs with knobbly knees. It was only when I drew close and saw her face that I realised how different she was. He face could have been that of a sixty-year-old woman. The dog was small and clearly no more than a puppy. As I watched, he pushed himself close and licked her neck. It was a gesture of love and affection, the sort that only dogs have to offer.
She had seemed to be looking for a lift, so I stopped. “Can Uncle give me money to buy chippies for my dog?” she asked.
“How much do you need?” I asked.
“Five rands,” she said.
“What’s your name?”
She was outside the entrance to a farm and I presumed she belonged there. I gave her ten and drove on.
I would have preferred not to think about the pair of them, but my mind had its own intentions and the picture of this helpless little animal showing such love to an equally helpless human stayed in my mind. I wondered what Josie would be able to buy for the ten rands. On top of that she was far from the nearest town. And ten rands? There is not a lot you can get for that amount of money. I hoped the little dog was going to get something to eat that night. When I passed the same spot later in the day neither Josie nor the dog were anywhere to be seen.
About a week later I had reason to pass the same place. Josie was there, but her little dog was not.
“Josie, where’s your dog?” I asked.
“My dog, Uncle?”
“Your little dog, the one you had with you last time I spoke to you. I gave you some money to buy chippies for your dog.”
I may as well have been asking her if she had a Martian. “Dog, Uncle?” she asked. “Has Uncle got a dog?”
“You’ve got a dog, Josie,” I said. “Where’s your little dog?”
Josie laughed. “Where’s my little dog?” she wanted to know.
It is a tragedy of life that someone like Josie who seems to need love so badly and someone else like the little dog who has so much love to give cannot find a way to be together. It is a further tragedy that someone like me has other matters to which attention must be given and cannot stop to try to make sense of Josie’s problem and her little dog’s needs.