I go and wait for him at the door, upright and excited, but he doesn’t come. The happiness leaves me bit by bit, so that first my ears flop, then my head sags and then my whole body slowly deflates. When the joy leaves my paws, I drop on the ground with a deep sigh and rest my chin on the scratchy mat. Waiting is a heavy task. The mat smells different when He is not there. I get up and walk into the other room so that I can turn around and walk back and make him come. For many hours I do this. In the evening, finally, it works.
As I smell the car coming home, all the happiness rushes back into me from my feet to my ears, whoosh, and all my hair stands up and the world is bright and loud again. I hear His steps and His voice and the jangle of His keys and then he is home and I don’t jump up but I stretch as far up his body as I am allowed to and I rub myself in his warm comforting scent. He is home and the long wait is over. Gooddog he says, gooddog. I am gooddog and He is gooddog and everything is gooddog. We eat, and then we go out into the evening and we sniff the news and race the breeze and run fast on our legs for joy. When we come home, He flops on the chair and I stay near him in case He is losing happiness but he strokes my ears and I feel he is OK.
This is life with an Immortal. We all live it. I can sense it in the other dogs at Beach and Street and Park. We sniff each other and we know. The love that comes from them. The wish to please them. The joy in their presence and the grey of their absence. They do not grow old like we do. They do not stay always in Territory or Pack. Their ways are mysterious and confusing and sometimes cruel. But they are everything to us.
So New Dog was strange to me.
I met her at the fence when He was away and I was waiting in the yard. I caught a glimpse through the bush next to our territory, just a second before I caught her scent. She had already seen and scented me. She stood still like a tree, and we watched each other. I tried out a low growl but she ignored it, haughtily, like a cat. She slunk out of the trees and came nose to nose with me, nothing but the wire of the fence between us. I started to bark and she looked at me and I stopped. She smelled of wild things and danger; of dead things and damp things and fresh meat. Her low growl was exciting, like wind from the sea. I growled back, my tail low and pushing towards the ground. Her fur was short and sleek, stripes running down from her spine like tree shadows. She could bite my neck if she wanted to. I checked the strength of the fence. We greeted each other in this way, finding our places so that we were ready to be together, but when we were ready, she gave out a small yip and a sideways prance and turned and ran back into the bush, leaving me to wait alone.
That night when He came home I ran to Him and He loved me and said gooddog and we were happy together but there was something missing. My scent bothered me. So bland. So like His. I resolved to find a dead animal and roll in it, even though it was Bad. The thought of His rebuke sent shivers through me but under the shivers was a new thing; a hard, wild, dazzling thing. It smelled of bush and rain and wild.
The next day I waited at the fence, instead of the door. As I waited, I noticed new things. The rustling in the undergrowth. The stink of ants on a tree trunk. The noisy mess of birds scratching and chirping and dropping things from high up. If I concentrated, I could smell distant water, dark and mossy and flavourful in shaded gullies. Dead things, scat, scent messages on trees. She came swiftly this time, appearing at the fence before I even heard her. I felt her distain for how prey I was. I asked about her Immortal but she did not understand. There was no scent on her but Dog. Come out, she told me. I whined. I couldn’t get out. Try, she indicated with a prick of her ears. I whined some more and put my head on my paws. She left, then, and took the wild with her. When He came home, I was still outside. I only ran when He called me. Gooddog, he comforted me. I ate my supper and lay on His lap and tried to forget. It was enough that he was home.
It wasn’t, though. The next day I stopped waiting and instead started trying to leave the yard. I was surprised and a little shamed by this, but somehow the joy of His praise, which had always been my greatest desire, faded when I was alone. The thought of the wild was louder and brighter. When I grew tired of trying to escape, I pressed myself against the fence and listened and sniffed and watched. I could smell her out there, but she didn’t come close. She had things to do. I had things to do, too. Now when He brought my lead, I was careful not to squander all my excitement in jumping and barking at him, and to save some for watching. I saw how He opened the gate. I saw from the outside where the fence was weaker. Where there were ditches and paths and hiding places. The scent of the bush followed us to the Park and back and I was alert to it the whole way.
The day I escaped was calm and sunny with no wind to make me anxious. When He came home, I ran past him and out of the gate. So easy. I had never thought of that before. Outside was intoxicating, alone. Outside. Outside. Outside. All the scents and sounds jostled for attention, so that I could hardly hear Him calling after me. Up under the trees, the ground was crunchy with bark and leaves and sharp little bushes. I smelled possum and wallaby and rustling rats. It was a while before I picked up her scent, against a smooth knobbled trunk. My tail thumped against it with wagging. Nose down, more scents, and then more. I would find her soon. A wild sound escaped. I was running now, leaping over and ducking under, spinning in circles with delight. Her scent was fresh in the gully, where the mossy water was. I stopped to slurp at the creek and surprised a frog. So green.
There she was, on the other side. Brown like the creek and stripes of shade. Eyes shiny, watching. She was waiting but not like me. Listening waiting. I took a step and she barked danger. Snap. Pain and tumbling down. I fell into the water, black snake stabbing at my leg. I had not seen it. She crossed the water fast fast to me and bit and fought the snake. In her mouth, it writhed and whipped until finally it fell limp at her feet. She licked me then, but I was fading. The happiness was leaving me, pushed out by snake pain. She barked at me, and nosed, and pushed me up. Go go go. But I could not go far. I crawled out of the water and lay on the dry leaves. I closed my eyes.
He found me. I don’t know how soon. He called and she barked and He called and she barked and when He came to me she was no longer there. She had melted away into the wild.
He cared for me. He comforted me at Vet and stayed with me in our home. I slowly grew further away from dying. The wild smelled terrifying to me now. When I was finally able to go out alone into the yard, I stayed well within our fence. As He stayed with me my happiness grew back, my tail wagged, my ears pricked, and then, one day, He left me alone again to wait and I filled the waiting with the anticipation of His return.
I am gooddog and this is my life with an Immortal. I wait for him at the door, upright and excited. Waiting is a heavy task. The happiness leaves me bit by bit, but when I smell the car coming home, it rushes back into me from my feet to my ears, whoosh, and all my hair stands up and the world is bright and loud again. We eat and we sniff the news and race the breeze and run fast on our legs for joy. We have a good life together. I want nothing more than this.