Last Sunday after we taught our morning classes and had some lunch, Stephanie and I were sitting in our normal spots in the teachers’ lounge, planning and just waiting for class to start. Our typical spots are right next to the window and we both tend to stare down from our third floor (fourth floor by American measurements) vantage point and people watch.
On Sunday however, the people watching was far more entertaining than usual. In the intersection of two busy walkways, a dog was lying there, not moving. I watched people walk by for at least 15 minutes and the dog did not move. I was three floors up and at least fifty meters away, so it was rather difficult to tell if the dog’s chest was taking in air or not. I believed this dog to be dead.
At first, as people walked by, many didn’t take notice. They just walked around the dog without giving it a first -much less a second- glance. But after a few minutes people started noticing. They stopped and looked at the dog. They undoubtedly wondered the same thing I was wondering, “Is this dog dead or just sleeping?”
It’s not uncommon for untamed dogs to be in the streets. It’s not unheard of for them to fall asleep in the streets either. But for a dog to not move for so long was a bit unusual. Many people after looking for a few seconds kept moving, glancing back at the dog to see if it would move or not. This led me to believe this dog certainly had died.
We pointed this out to the other teachers. One said that he had seen the dog earlier in the day walking around. Another said he had seen it lying in a different place not far from where it had now come to rest, but we all watched at the window and the dog did not move.
After a while, one passerby prodded the dog’s paw with his own foot. The dog still did not stir. This action told me, the dog was indeed dead.
Eventually the other teachers went back to their planning as did I and I glanced occasionally to make sure the dog was still there.
Then, out of nowhere, the dog twitched its back legs. I was surprised, but I’ve seen these involuntary spasms in other dead animals. Then, it put its head into the air and looked around. Then put its head right back down again. That couldn’t have been a spasm.
I told the other teachers the dog was alive and they crowded back around the window watching intently as an animal control truck pulled up. They prodded the dog awake and it did indeed stand up and walk half-heartedly into their truck (with some assistance). It was certainly an old dog, a mangy dog in poor health. I’ve heard that Turkish animal control never puts animals down, but I have never heard if that is definitively true or not.
What struck me about this scene with the dog and the people walking by was that it reminded me so much of the good Samaritan story Jesus tells, as recorded in Luke’s Gospel. (Here’s the Turkish version, start reading at verse 25, finish at 37.)
In that story, a man gets beaten up walking from Jerusalem to Jericho. From cultural context, most scholars believe this man is very likely this man was a Jewish person. Three people meet this man after he gets beaten up. The first is a priest and he walks right on by. The second is a Levite who also passes by on the other side.
The third is a Samaritan. Jews and Samaritans didn’t get along in the first century AD at all. They were sworn enemies. Jews in Jesus’ day would travel hundreds of miles out of their way just to avoid passing through Samaritan areas.
The Samaritan not only stops to help them man, but bandages up his wounds, takes him to a hotel, pays for his stay and asks the hotel’s manager to help the guy out as he recovers and promises to pay him back whatever he spends.
The zombie dog, as I call him, reminds me of the guy who got beat up. People walking by on their phones and not even noticing the dog remind me of the priest. The story doesn’t really make any distinction between the priest and the Levite, but I wonder if one barely noticed and the other actually stopped and stared for a while-checking to see if the man was dead or not, but eventually electing to continue on their way and not offer any help.
I don’t know who called animal control, but somebody must have. Perhaps a nearby shop owner noticed the dog and asked for its removal. Sadly in the Zombie dog’s life, there really wasn’t a good Samaritan, there was no person showing this dog mercy as the good Samaritan showed the man who got beat up. Animal control was just doing their job, certainly helping, but not really showing mercy. Who knows where they took this dog?
Of course, Jesus version of the story is much better than mine. If I could make the story ideal, I would have had a child perhaps stop and put a leash on the Zombie dog and walk it home and feed it and take care of it, but alas, I wasn’t creating the story, just telling you what I observed: a zombie dog with no good Samaritan to help him.