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The Good Dog

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Humans didn't understand how much hard work it took to be a good dog. They blamed all bad behavior on bad breeding but it just wasn't that simple. Initially, there was the luck of the draw in who owned you and it got even more complicated if you were a natural pack leader. Who did you respect? Who did you trust to lead you?

His first owner while not completely hopeless had always smelled of sweat and fear. The bad men who had killed him reeked of hate and anger and hadn't been able to speak the language his first owner had taught him. They'd named him 'Butcher', a name that caused humans to avoid him like he was a bad dog and so he'd begun to smell of fear as well.

Until he'd been rescued by the man called Reese who spoke his language. Reese was kind to him and so he felt bad that Reese smelled of sorrow and regret. Reese made him part of his pack and named him Bear, a name that made people smile at him and want to pet him again, despite his size. For the very first time he had an owner he proudly recognized as his pack leader. Being a good dog took care and diligence and his pack leader praised him for it.

Confusingly though, Bear's pack leader had a pack leader of his own but then humans were strange. He'd first thought that Finch was his pack leader's mate but he didn't carry Reese's scent and Reese often smelled of other matings without objection from Finch. Humans obviously had defective noses given their compulsion to constantly wash off all that useful information but did Finch not know or just not care?

The more he watched Finch the more he knew he cared. Finch's eyes tracked Reese all the time, the way Bear tracked a squirrel or a ball and with the same sort of longing but he never ran after Reese, despite Reese moving extra slow sometimes like he wanted Finch to catch him. It was the strangest mating dance he'd ever seen in that it didn't appear to be about mating or at least not all about mating. Finch often studied Reese's haunches when he thought no one else was watching.

 

And then Reese got badly wounded and Bear stood over him, refusing to let anyone else approach him, refusing to even trust the other pack members until Finch arrived. He was the only one of them who smelled right, the concern pouring off him, the willingness to give his life to save Reese. Finch would have been a very good dog.

 

It was two long days before Reese woke up and Finch and Bear stayed with him all that time.

"Finch, you look terrible."

"Charming as ever, Mr. Reese."

"I'm fine, but you should get some sleep."

Bear didn't understand what they were saying but he knew what it meant when they smiled at each other and Reese took Finch's hand in his. If they'd been dogs their tails would have been wagging.

Bear jumped down from his side of the bed and pulled on Finch's coat until he bumped up against the bed frame.

"I think Bear wants you to lie down here with me, Harold."

"And you?"

"There's nothing I want more."

Once they were comfortable, Finch under the blankets and curled up next to Reese, Bear jumped back up and settled at the bottom of the bed, a pack of good dogs, all together.