The Dead Dog and the Nazi

IMG_5317I was driving to work after my meeting at the SPCA Thursday morning when I spotted the unmistakable form of a dog, lying in the center of the road up ahead.

As I passed, I realized it was possible that it wasn’t dead. And unlike other times I’d passed roadkill, not only was it not unmistakably dead, but I wasn’t doing 80 on a freeway with no way to turn around. This time, I could turn around.

I parked in front of the house nearest where the dog lay. Another dog, a small black mixed breed, was on the sidewalk where I parked, keeping an eye on his fallen buddy. Dear God, do not go into the street and get hit too.

Fortunately, I had with me a bag of SPCA-bound old towels and beddings I’d forgotten to donate. I popped the trunk, grabbed a towel, and crossed to the center of the road.

Her eyes made it immediately apparent that she was dead: slightly open, still, dark. Dead. Yet I still nudged her with my foot, just to be sure. Her buddy paced and watched from the sidewalk. Thankfully he was too frightened (or smart) to come see for himself. I placed the towel over her, and carried her stiff body to the side of the house in front of which I’d parked, placing her under the US flag waving over the property.

The little black dog moved in, planting himself next to his dead friend. Loyal, sad, confused.

After being on hold for five minutes with Animal Care and Control, I was informed my call was number three in the queue. In front of the house where I’d parked, a man stood by a little white picket fenced area off to the side of the front door (the same side as the American flag and the dead dog). He was holding up a phone, presumably texting or Facetiming – though he looked a little old for that.

I called out, “Do you have a dog? Are you missing a dog?”

He didn’t respond.  He stood there, motionless, holding up his phone. And then it occurred to me… was he filming me?

Someone finally answered the phone, and told me they were county – I needed to speak to city, and they put my call through, only to be placed on hold again.

It was then I noticed the open white gate behind the man holding up the phone. Had it not been open, I would not have been able to see what was behind it: a red flag bearing a swastika, draped over a low wall.

Swastika, white supremacist, Nazi: until now, these have only been constructs for me. Real, but not my reality. But he was real, standing there. That flag behind him, it was real too. His shirt was red. The other flag, waving high alongside his US Flag – what was that flag? – it was red. The Nazi flag was red. Everything was suddenly red.

Thank God I’m white. The only thing more shameful than having that thought is the immediate realization that in this case, you are absolutely right to think that. Thought quickly turned to instinct. Flee.

But I couldn’t, not yet. I was still on hold, and needed to give the location of the dead dog. Plus, there was the other little stray dog, still watching over his fallen friend. I couldn’t leave him behind.

I didn’t flee, but prepared to do so, if necessary. I drove to the end of the cul de sac and made a U-turn, so that I’d be facing out onto an open road, rather than a dead end.

Almost all of the homes on this cul de sac had US flags out front. One house also had a flag meant to honor US Veterans. Not long ago, these flags would have represented nothing more than pride of nation.

But in a neighborhood where a US Flag waves just feet away from a swastika, suddenly these symbols seemed like code for something very dark.

As I was on the phone, a young woman approached my window, asking about the dead dog she’d seen earlier in the road. I told her I’d moved him.

“What about the other one, the little black one?”

“He’s right over there. Can you take him to the shelter?”

“Yes.”

I gave her a handful of dog treats that I always kept in my car for just such an occasion, and thanked her.

Having given the cross streets to the city shelter, I felt relieved of my duties, and left.

I thought of my father. A first generation American, WWII Veteran who lied about his age so that he could fight Nazis. He died with a Purple Heart and a bullet in his arm, a bullet he took in Germany. What would he make of this, these flags together, on US soil?

Because I have nothing.


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