‘The Promotion’, a sweet little dog story by James Tate

At times, lost for reasons and rationale, when words don’t come as I’d like them, I’ve tried in my weird ways to be worthy of love. A longing to escape wherever I am and be the dog. Maybe someday, I’d wake up like the salesman in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis albeit not as a bug but as a dog.

Flipping through the delightful pages of The Big New Yorker Book of Dogs, on this otherwise gloomy Delhi morning, I stumbled upon this sweet little story ‘The Promotion’ by James Tate. This engrossing read tells of a man who was a dog in his previous incarnation

The promotion dog story

The Promotion

I was a dog in my former life, a very good dog, and, thus, I was promoted to a human being. I liked being a dog. I worked for a poor farmer, guarding and herding his sheep. Wolves and coyotes tried to get past me almost every night, and not once did I lose a sheep. The farmer rewarded me with good food, food from his table. He may have been poor, but he ate well. And his children played with me, when they weren’t in school or working in the field. I had all the love any dog could hope for. When I got old, they got a new dog, and I trained him in the tricks of the trade. He quickly learned, and the farmer brought me into the house to live with the family. I brought the farmer his slippers in the morning, as he was getting old, too. I was dying slowly, a little bit at a time. The farmer knew this and would bring the new dog in to visit me from time to time.

The new dog would entertain me with his flips and flops and nuzzles. And then one morning I just didn’t get up. They gave me a fine burial down by the stream under a shade tree.

That was the end of my being a dog. Sometimes I miss it so I sit by the window and cry. I live in a high-rise that looks out at a bunch of other high-rises. At my job I work in a cubicle and barely speak to anyone all day. This is my reward for being a good dog. The human wolves don’t even see me. They fear me not. 

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