Mrs. Shahid wakes up before dawn, with the first call by a Muezzin from the green masjid her modest house shares its fence with.
This is her routine.
She freshens up, lays out her prayer rug, and facing west, the direction of the holy Kaa’ba, begins her morning prayer.
Hassan tiptoes out of the bed after his mother and sits quietly watching her pray and recite the Holy Qur’an.
“What does it say, Ammi?” he asks.
His question brings Mrs. Shahid a smile.
“It asks us to be kind,” she answers, without shifting her focus from the holy book.
Hasan says nothing, his silence that of a man trying to absorb what he just heard, not of the 4-year-old he is.
When Hasan leaves for his school later in the morning, he sees a dog with her four newborn pups. The same stray dog his mother used to feed their family’s food leftovers.
The dogs hide behind a box by the fence of Hasan’s house.
But when he returns from school in the afternoon, he sees only three bitterly crying pups.
He rushes inside to tell Mrs. Shahid.
“Where do you think the dog and the fourth pup go?”
Mrs. Shahid looks outside the window.
“Here,” she calls Hasan.
“The dog is returning to the pups. But there is no sign of the fourth.”
As they watch and wonder, the dog takes one more of her pups in mouth and walks away.
“I think she is taking them somewhere safer,” says Mrs. Shahid.
“Let us go play now.”
Hasan doesn’t move an inch.
He stays there, his eyes fixated on the box, watching the dog return every fifteen minutes to take her pups one by one to safety.
“Ammi, I want to see where she took them. Will you take me?” Hasan tells his mother.
Happy, Hasan embraces his mother.
He takes her hand, as she leads him to the spot where they find the dog with her four pups safe inside a hollow log on a barren piece of land.
They see no houses in close proximity to the dogs’ new shelter, so, obviously, there shall be less food for them.
The dog recognises Mrs. Shahid, who understands the look in her eyes.
“Shall we go now?” she says.
They merrily walk back home.
Hasan gets busy playing and doing his homework.
Mrs. Khalid cooks supper and calls everyone to eat.
Hasan narrates the tale of the dog and her pups to his father, while they eat.
After they are done, Mrs. Shahid packs the leftover band bones read in a steel box.
“Let us go, Hasan,” she says.
“To be kind to the dogs hiding in that log.”
Hasan smiles, as they walk hand in hand towards the barren land.