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I have had several individuals approach me about the meaning behind this story, and having had many requests, I have decided to go ahead and share some of my thoughts here, although if you are happy with your own interpretation then you may not want to read this note.
I understand the story, but I have the benefit of being dictated to by the narrating dog in the first place, and I know more about her and about the man than she actually imparts to the reader in the course of the story. I actually know more about the man than she did, but wanted to let her tell the story without being second-guessed at every turn. The dog does not understand all that goes on, especially since the man speaks what is to her a foreign language.
The dog and the man each have the same disease as the other; that is, systemic lupus erythematosus. This disease may be caused by various factors, and occurs in any species as far as the researchers know so far. It is genetically affected and not contagious, but in the culture of the man in question the symptoms appeared to be those of a mysterious, contagious disease.
Lupus is not like leprosy, but the "leprosy" referred to in the Bible is not actually leprosy as in the disease caused by mycobacterium leprae. In the Bible, all contagious diseases that manifest themselves in symptoms of the skin are lumped under "leprosy", while leprosy itself is actually probably the least contagious of contagious diseases. The symptoms of lupus vary greatly, and today the disease may even be brought on by various drugs, but again one has to be susceptible first.
The type of lupus the dog (an Afghan Hound) and the man were suffering from involves the organ systems as well as the skin, and can be fatal-- certainly would have been in their situation, without drugs for treatment. Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which the body essentially becomes allergic to, and attacks, itself. Almost any kind of symptom can result. The disease was reportedly given its name by the sun-sensitivity masklike rash across the face which occurs in some victims. Most victims are women, but it does have the same effects on men, and in fact it seems that susceptible boys are more likely to die in infancy, hence the discrepancy.
The man knew he and the dog were dying, and, given the opportunity that he felt he had when the dog, who _should_ have been able to catch a dove, let it get away, decided to use the sacrifice of himself to let the dog be cured and live. He died, allowing himself to die before his strength fully ran out, and wished to stay on Earth long enough to enjoy a life such as he could not know with his disease. He entered the body of the Afghan and joined her, becoming part of her and using her body as partially his.
I let the characters who wish to speak tell the stories, and therefore what ends up posted is what is important to _them_. I believe the dog wanted this story told because she had a sense that a great sacrifice was made about which her master back in the mountains, and all those he knew, would never be told. She did not fully understand the sacrifice; in fact, at the time she probably did not understand it at all. I think it is rather akin to the truly minimal understanding we have as to what Christ did for us and how free it was.