"A Dog Pondering the Meaning of Life on a Streetcar" by Graeme Lottering

“A Dog Pondering the Meaning of Life on a Streetcar” by Graeme Lottering

Today on the streetcar, crawling through the construction site otherwise known as College Street, I encounter humanity in the eyes of a canine.

In the back, under the glass dome, a woman sits with her dog at her feet. He’s a collie with a long, slender snout. I don’t notice them right away. Instead, I stare forward, following the parallel tracks towards a vanishing point somewhere on the horizon.

The car is relatively empty, and for a moment the only sounds are the metallic bell dinging and the musical overflow of an iPod belonging to a kid in baggy clothes. Then, there is a howl that could mollify a fossilized heart. Despite the commuters’ determined focus on their destinations, all heads turn to look at the source of the wailing, which is now filling up the cab. I ignore it at first, but soon the young woman and her dog move up to sit beside me, near an open window.

The dog looks spooked.

It tries to lie down, but feels the unfamiliar motion of life moving ahead whether you want it to or not. It is a sensation that perhaps only humans, dolphins, and God can understand. It is the feeling of the uncontrollable flow of time, of being a free-floating particle in the tide of destiny.

The dog stands up and begins to whine, conveying a true sense of anxiety. I look at the collie and realise that those dark eyes are not concerned with the window or the rocking of the streetcar, they are looking at me, trying to divine the purpose of existence. I can see myself reflected in those questioning eyes. He is begging me to tell him it will be okay. He knows that I can feel it too—the cause-and-effect of life blurring by independently of us all, much like the scenery on the other side of the open window. Gradually, people turn back, cooing soft thoughts at the poor animal.

I even see the B-boy with the iPod sending love through brainwaves. At that point, with the woman hugging her dog between her legs, all the primates in the moving train say in dog language: “It’s OK, puppy. Life will not overtake you on this streetcar.” And the dog just nods.


Graeme Lottering was born in South Africa at the edge of the Kalahari Desert. Currently, he lives in Toronto, Canada. His work has been published in The New Quarterly, The Montreal Review, Lost in Thought, and Nap Magazines. In January of 2011 his first novel, ‘98% Grey’ was published by Infinity Press on Amazon.com