Once upon a time, about five years ago, I found myself standing pensively outside a goat enclosure at a local park zoo, watching the kids frolicking. It was, in my recollection, a warm spring day with many people, young and old, milling about, enjoying the agreeable weather. There were many families who were taking in the variety of ruminants and rodents that formed the zoo’s menagerie.
Now it wasn’t the big city, fancy zoo, but a local zoo in a big city that lays claim to being one of the oldest around.
It was not my intent, but with the sizeable crowd, and the close proximity, I couldn’t help but overhear the woman beside me excitedly stage whisper, with her rising, saccharine voice:
“What’s that Charlie?”
I turned to look at Charlie. He was looking up at the woman as she looked down at him and then back at the goats. He followed her gaze and turned to look quizzically at the enclosed beasts. Then almost immediately, he looked back up at her, wanting to answer, to please her, as most good boys would want to please their guardians. He didn’t have the words.
“What’s that Charlie? Huh, Charlie? What’s that?”
The poor little guy was lost. You could see it in his eyes. He wanted so bad to do nothing more than please this woman who was asking him a question whose answer was far beyond his ability to provide.
It was at that moment that I realized that I was not the only one who had eavesdropped on this private conversation, that I was not the only one who could feel Charlie’s angst.
Beside me, I heard the other bystander mutter coldly under her breath…
“Charlie’s a dog. He won’t fucking answer you.”