I knew from the moment he walked into the room that he was different; he was calm, not excited like the other men, because he knew what he was doing – like he had a Purpose. But I was still infected with the nervous energy of the men who kept me, so I yelped and barked, keyed up without knowing what for. These men had never told me anything, never explained to me what they expected of me, although it was obvious they expected me to do something. But sometimes, I realized, even they weren’t sure what they wanted me to do.
And then he Spoke. He knew the Words of Command. All of my senses became focused as, for the first time in who knows how long, someone told me what to do. I sat, almost reflexively; lay, my ears thrilling to hear those Words; and, when he whispered the Command to Attack, I leapt up on the man who had been feeding me. I owed him no loyalty, for he was only a man; this new one was a Master.
He had more power than any of my previous Masters as well. He moved quickly and decisively, incapacitating the other men in mere moments. I saw him throw the one man out the window and yelped – feeding, fighting, and mating are things every dog understands by instinct, and this Master was a Fighter. Not only that, but the Victor, too; he would always get the first choice of food and females in a Pack. The two men who had been brought in by the others followed him out and if they had tails they would have been tucked squarely between their legs, for they understood who the Master was, also.
I watched him leave with a yearning in my breast, a hollowness growing in my belly. When I heard him whistle, though, those feelings dissolved in an instant, to be replaced by a fierce, all-consuming joy. He wanted me to follow him; he wanted me in his Pack. No longer would I be led by inept handlers into tense situations with no meaning. No longer would I be yelled at and harangued by men who did not know the Words. I was in his Pack, and he was my Master now.
I was excited to experience new things and new places, but most excited just to be with Master. However, it was boring when he wasn’t around. I found some paper in the car, so I chewed that while I was waiting. The men who used to keep me gave me all sorts of paper to chew and laughed and patted me when I shredded the pages with my sharp teeth. They didn’t take me for walks often and I made short work of the few rawhide chews they got me, so I learned to be content with paper. One of the men in Master’s Pack seemed upset about it, but Master was fine with it so I knew it was all right. Master’s opinion is the only one that matters.
He left me with the other man in his Pack for a long time, but at least this one spoke the Words – not with any power, but he still used them, so I obeyed. He fed me well and took me to a building with a lot of other humans and interesting smells. It wasn’t boring, but I did wonder sometimes where Master was. It was a little frightening to think he might not be coming back. But I could smell him on this man, and a few times I heard Master’s voice – not speaking the Words, and with no smell like sometimes humans did, but it was definitely Master’s voice, so that made me feel calmer. Even if he didn’t come back, he was still in charge. My role was to do what this man told me, since Master had left me with him and he was beginning to be a Master, too.
Then Master came back, slipping into the place like he was stalking prey, and took me away from the other man. I was overjoyed to see him again, and he allowed me to lick his face. He rubbed my fur with his large paws and I was glad to have his scent on me. Everything was all right when Master was around. I hoped he would keep me with him now, at least for a while.
He took me to a quiet building, a very different sort of place. There were smells of many people but they were old and faint. There were only two scents that were fresh in that place: Master’s and another man’s. And there was a lot of paper, which was also old and smelled of dust and mold. Master had a bag of things – food things – with him, and he set out my dinner in a new bowl. While I ate it, he put water in another new bowl. So, this was where I would feed; this might even be where I would sleep. It was not as exciting as the other place, but at least there was a lot of paper. I wouldn’t be bored for a very long time.
Master left, but I wasn’t worried – his scent was all over this place, both old and new, so I was confident that he would come back again. He smelled of confidence. He also smelled of that strong, acrid thing that made a loud noise, as well as the oil that was used for it, but I didn’t mind; it was all part of Master. And when he rubbed me, it had become part of me, too.
The scent of the other man was interesting. It smelled of a complex chemical, like what humans put on their skin and fur, but it wasn’t one I was familiar with. It also seemed to be mixed with the scent of paper, which intrigued me: this man smelled of paper and his scent was on most of the paper in the building. I wondered if he chewed on them when he got bored, but it was his skin smell, not his mouth smell. Since his smell was overlapping with Master’s, I could tell that they had been here together; and if he was in Master’s Pack, he was in mine as well.
I found one chunk of paper where his scent was especially fresh – the freshest sample other than the furniture – and started chewing on it. His skin smell told me he was older than Master, more anxious, and less active. Of course, I knew that last bit from the fact that his scent stayed in the same places. He didn’t move around as much as Master did. Master’s scent, though lighter, was spread out through more of the space. That made sense. He was the Pack Leader, so he would have to patrol his Territory.
It wasn’t long before Master came back, and I rushed to meet him. Standing next to him was the other Man, the one whose smell was on all the paper. I had brought the chunk of paper I was chewing on to show Master, in case he wanted to chew it, too, but he only Commanded me to drop it. The Man picked it up but didn’t chew it, either. There was still plenty of it left, but I guess humans just aren’t as interested in keeping their teeth sharp. Plus it would fill your belly and make you feel full, which is a very good thing, but humans like stronger-smelling stuff for food.
I looked up at the Man, interested to see what he was like, and noticed a new smell on him: fear. A woman’s voice came through (with no scent) on the little hard thing Master had, and the Man’s fear intensified. Even Master became tense, cold, hard – he was dealing with an Enemy. I felt a low growl forming within me, but before I needed to let it out, the woman’s voice stopped and Master led me back to my bowls.
He set out a big cloth and patted it, letting me lie down on it. So, this was where I would sleep. It was a nice, quiet, den-like place to sleep, and my tail wagged with pleasure. Then Master gave me a soft, round thing that felt good to chew. Before I could really sink my teeth into it, though, he Commanded me to drop it. I wondered if he wanted to chew it first (which is his right as Pack Leader and Master) but instead he threw it. It bounded down the ground like living prey and, before I could stop to think if it were all right to do so, I’d raced after it to catch it.
When I had it between my teeth I remembered that first bites always went to the Pack Leader, and turned to look at Master. He was squatting low to the ground and exuding pleasure. I went back to him and offered it for him to chew, but he only threw it again. And again. Oh, so this is what it was meant for: to retrieve, not to chew! This was a much better way to enjoy it. And I loved how it bounced, like a squirrel, along the ground. It was almost as good as real prey.
After a while, Master stopped throwing it and Commanded me to lie down on the cloth. He brought over the paper I had chewed and told me, in Words I could understand, that I was not to chew this paper. I hadn’t known this paper was not for chewing, any more than that the round thing was for throwing and chasing, and worried that he might hit me (like some men had before) or bite me (as a Pack Leader would) as punishment. But he only rubbed me again, letting me know he was not angry with me, and took my water bowl. Not to punish me, but to refill it and set it back down on the ground. I was relieved and contented.
Master scratched my head one last time before he left with the other Man. He would be back; they both would be back. Their scents told me so. And even if I couldn’t chew on the paper here, I had a feeling I would never be bored.