That was his name now, he supposed. The boy had declared it with such certainty that he almost doubted that it hadn't, in fact, been his name before now. He looked up at the boy as a blue collar was fastened around his neck and a leash attached to it. The young boy was careful and very deliberate about it, making sure to slip his slim fingers between Redbeard's fur and the collar to make sure it wasn't too tight, and the seriousness of his face made him just slightly apprehensive about his new master.
Until the young boy sat back on his heels and his face broke out into a brilliant smile.
Redbeard marveled at his twinkling eyes and dimpled cheeks as his bright, clear laughter sang through the air. And Redbeard promised that he would fight as hard as his canine heart could to prevent his new young master from ever being any less happy than he was in that moment.
Thus began the Great Adventures of Redbeard and William Sherlock Scott Holmes.
From the moment that Sherlock curled his thin arms around Redbeard, they were inseparable.
When thunderstorms rolled in, thick and fast late at night, Redbeard would wait until Mummy had checked on Sherlock before sneaking into bed and curling around the boy under the covers. He'd tip his nose underneath the boy's hand, urging it onto his neck where Sherlock could nervously twine his fingers through the long, soft fur there.
When Sherlock came home crying because the other boys at school refused to play games with him, Redbeard would find the wooden sword Sherlock's father had made for him, and spend hours in the large backyard dodging carefully placed swings and "storming the deck" with a black pirate flag fastened around his neck.
When Mycroft left for university and Sherlock lost touch with the one person in the world who truly understood what it was like in his busy mind, Redbeard was always close by to catch his tears with licks and helpful barks, trying to make Sherlock smile again.
When Sherlock had secrets, Redbeard was there.
When Sherlock injured himself during one of his forbidden experiments, Redbeard was there.
Wherever Sherlock was in the small part of the world that encased his existence, Redbeard was never far behind.
Sherlock was Redbeard's world, and not a day went by that he didn't think his lucky stars that the amazing young boy had selected him and not one of his siblings.
Each morning the two had a system. Sherlock, never short of energy, would bound out of bed, well before Mummy and Father were awake, and he would sprint downstairs. Redbeard would hear the thud of small feet on the floor above and rush to meet the young master at the bottom of the stairs so they could adventure and explore more of the seven seas before breakfast and Sherlock leaving for school. Redbeard would follow him to the gate, receiving his goodbye pats and giving out as many licks as he could manage, just to remind the boy that whatever happens at school, he is loved beyond a shadow of a doubt at home. And then he would wait in the front yard, taking time out to nap or chase squirrels until Sherlock made it home and they played some more.
And so, day in, day out, life continued in blissfully harmony.
Until the day Redbeard couldn't get out of bed.
It had been a long time coming; he'd been Sherlock's constant companion for 7 years and could feel his senses dimming, his movements slowing. Luckily, as Sherlock grew up, the time he spent running around got shorter as he spent more and more time on various experiments. Redbeard was happy for the respite, and would calmly nap by his ankles as chemicals bubbled away and notes were scribbled down. But this morning, he'd heard Sherlock climb out of bed, but just couldn't make his legs obey his wishes. He tried a few more times before giving up, exhausted, and waited for Sherlock to come find him.
Sherlock's eyes had filled with worry as he looked as his whimpering best friend, and his energy dimmed while he sat next to Redbeard and started checking him over with soft touches. "Just a little sick boy, aren't you? That's alright. You can rest today and I'll stay here with you to make sure you're okay." Redbeard whuffed drowsily, curling back up to go to sleep.
But Mummy and Father had different plans for him. "Sherlock, you can't miss school, not for a dog." "He'll be fine with us for today, we promise." And after much kicking and screaming, Sherlock was bundled off to school and Redbeard was packed into the car for a visit to the dreaded vet. He'll never forget the way Sherlock looked back at him as he walked down the footpath to school.
He couldn't understand what was going on, why was the vet looking at him with those big scary eyes? The machine that whirred around him made him whimper again (an x-ray, he heard them call it) and even though he'd only been around for a few short years, he knew the look that Mummy got in her eyes when the vet said he had cancer.
"Best to put him down straight away, ma'am. He's too far gone at this stage, there's nothing I can do to help him now."
And as the chemicals pulsed through his veins, all he could think about was Sherlock - that beautiful, incredible, amazing young boy, who he loved with all his heart, who he didn't get to say goodbye to, who was going to have to make it through on his own from now on.