A translation from NER 35.4.
Translated from the Polish by Bill Johnston
Our old bitch is slowly dying. It was her hearing that went first, as I recall, then her sight, then finally her sense of smell. But she still gets around a bit, and she has a huge appetite. Every now and then she’ll try to bark at something. She can barely keep on her feet, she stares with unseeing eyes and barks at her doggy thoughts, imaginings, maybe she’s barking at her doggy memory. She’s been with us for sixteen years. We’ve had her since she was a puppy. One summer a woman friend of ours brought her and left her here with us in the country. At the time we neglected the routine shots you’re supposed to give puppies, and she got canine parvovirus. But we somehow managed to save her, driving her to the vet every day for an intravenous drip without which she would have died of dehydration. She was left with a slight loss of control over her hind legs. But for fifteen years she ran around and kept up with the other dogs. Once in a while, in the winter they’d disappear for two or three days at a stretch. I’d be furious, but in the end I’d climb in the four-wheel drive and comb the empty valleys, forcing my way through mounds of snow. They’d be found eventually, exhausted, skinny, half-dead, and, it seemed, utterly clueless about what to do with their doggy freedom or how to find their way back home. They would meekly let themselves be loaded into the car and for the next week they wouldn’t budge an inch except to go to their feeding bowl.
Andrzej Stasiuk, one of the foremost writers of his generation in Central Europe, is the author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction. His work available in English includes Tales of Galicia (Twisted Spoon, 2003), translated by Margarita Nafpaktitis, and Fado (Dalkey Archive, 2009) and Dukla (Dalkey Archive, 2011), both translated by Bill Johnston. His most recent book is Grochów (2012), a set of short lyrical essays on the subject of dying and the dead, from which “Dog” is taken. He lives in a remote village in southeastern Poland and travels extensively in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.