Taki lay in the sun for hours . . . until there was nothing in the world but heat and hot ground and burning nostrils. Eventually, she allowed her muscles to relax the tiniest bit. Never had she experienced so strange a day. Later — much later, the handler stood, spoke, and tossed a bit of food into her crate. Taki eagerly jumped in, the food but an afterthought. Soon, the Land Rover began its bouncing, jolting progress, and before the sun had set, Taki followed the handler back into her own yard. Dinner awaited, and she ate gratefully. Weariness added an edge to her appetite, and the food seemed better than usual.
Weeks passed. Taki grew accustomed to her new routine. Inevitably, curiosity won out and she examined this strange place with no walls, no boundaries. The hot, sharp wind, the golden grasses stretching out forever, the strange scents mingled with the ever-present smell of the handler and the Land Rover, the sky that went clear down to the ground all around her — all so strange — yet it seemed familiar in a way she couldn’t quite figure out.
The handler stood one day, after they had sat in companionable silence for a while, and began to walk. Taki, feeling the tug on her collar, followed. They strode, the two of them, into the vast blowing grass, past stunted plants, down into dry run-off areas, over hills, until the sun drew low on the horizon. Before the last light faded, the Land Rover reappeared at the top of the next hill. Soon, Taki was leaping into the opened crate, her snack tossed in after her. Unaccustomed exercise had sharpened her appetite, and she tore at the raw meat with relish as the Land Rover bumped across the savanna.
After that, they walked every day; Taki and the handler. Sometimes they walked into the sun, sometimes away, and always they returned to the Land Rover as the light began to fade. Taki’s sore muscles grew tougher, stopped aching. The handler had taken to bringing Taki’s meal along, watching her rip into the meat and devour it before asking her to return to her crate. Soon, the routine changed again. She didn’t mind so much. She was becoming accustomed to change.
Taki watched the handler’s behavior curiously as, the next day, he brought out her supper and started doing something with it at the back of the Land Rover. When he had finished, he walked around to the driver’s side, got in, and started the engine. Had she not been so puzzled, Taki would have gone for the meat as soon as he set it down. But this was odd behavior, and she wanted to know what it meant.
The vehicle began to move. Taki looked on in alarm and took a step forward. Then the meat, began to move and skitter along the clay road. Taki felt a twinge — a desire — a feeling that she should chase down her rapidly retreating dinner. In a few bounds she had it and had ripped it free of the rope the handler had tied round it. A curious satisfaction washed over her, and Taki, licking her paws, began to purr . . . a very large, deep purr. Something had changed today.
The Story Continues Here . . .
(Credit to Milt Rodriguez, from whom I heard this parable.)