I remember well that first morning I laid eyes on Peepaws. My first thought was to have one of the boys put it out of it’s misery. Ordinarily, I would agree with my Buddhist friends and not harm any living thing but there are exceptions to every rule and I felt in this case it was warranted. Peepaws had to be one of the ugliest creatures I have ever seen.

Living on the back of a Buddhist Wat (Temple grounds), I had gotten use to seeing strange animals from time to time. Most Wats are sanctuaries for unwanted animals… and since we ate quite well at the Wat Opot Community, whatever was dropped off at the Wat, usually ended up at our place during mealtimes. There were always litters of scrawny kittens or small puppies wandering over, and once there was even a piglet born with only three legs. The owner, I assumed, thought it would not live for very long and therefore dropped it off at the Wat, rather than destroying it and perhaps suffering bad karma as a consequences. 

Somehow the pig found his way over to our place every day and ate a good share of our garbage, as well as raiding our gardens when it got a chance. It gained considerable weight and then one day, just before a major Holiday, where families gather for barbecues, someone claiming to be the pig’s owner, came to pick it up.  

I could see no value in preserving the life of Peepaws, however, because while eating dog meat is not uncommon in Cambodia, only the best, or unmanageable, dogs are selected for that honor and there wasn’t enough meat on Peepaws to make starting a fire worthwhile. Peepaws got his name because “Pee” is the Khmer word for two and “Paws” is what most dogs have four of. I was not sure if he was born defective or had gotten his deformity from some unfortunate accident that should have taken his life… either way I felt the kindest thing for someone to do would be to put him out of his misery.

I don’t know how many breeds went into his pedigree but I am sure that a good part of Beatle went into his ears, which were three sizes too big for his Chihuahua size body. His front paws were in fairly good shape, most likely a result of having to drag the lifeless rump and deformed back paws around all day. He could run and bark impressively and I guess that did qualify him as a dog… but certainly not one a man would want to call his best friend, especially not me. I needed a real dog, one that would make me look good when guests came around and could keep the cows from coming in and eating my garden, which anyone living in a third-world country would understand because the farm animals are protected because they act as the community’s garbage collectors, but they decide what is garbage and what is not.

It wasn’t long before Peepaws realized which table had the most leftovers and just as I knew would happen, he choose my table to sit under and my feet to lie next to. He even seemed to read my mind and tried pleasing me by chasing some of the cows out of my garden. One day he snuck up behind one of the larger ones and started barking loudly. The unsuspecting cow took off on a run with Peepaws in close pursuit and had he not tried cutting the cow off by running in front of it, he might have actually succeeded in chasing it off of the property. The cow, however, when seeing the little dog running on only two feet with its rump bouncing up and down and its back legs and tail swinging haphazardly in the air, stopped in its tracks… and if I didn’t know better, I would say it started mooing with laughter. Embarrassed and humiliated, Peepaws gave up the chase and never again ran after the cows.

The children were more accepting of the little mutt than I was and didn’t seem to mind the fact that he was deformed. They often included him in their play and didn’t mind if he would snuggle in close to their feet at night while they slept. On one hot muggy night, the children made their bed outside on the sidewalk where it is cooler and as usual, Peepaws crawled in by their feet. It was around midnight when he started barking. He ran out from under the covers and continued barking for a while… then there was silence and a short time later he quietly slipped back into his place by their feet. In the morning they found him there… two fang marks on his rump, from a poisonous snake, explained the cause of his lifelessness.

For his Act of heroism we granted him the status of Knighthood in the Kingdom of Dogs. The children buried Sir Peepaws that same day in a grave befitting of the title he had earned… and I was left with a feeling of guilt, for judging him on his outward appearance and not realizing or appreciating the heartfelt Compassion he possessed within for the children… and for me.

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