I am Emerson.
This is something I know. I don’t need to say it, because I know it. Like a good smell, the quiet corner under his bed, the scrape scrape scrape on the pan that means eggs. I know it like I know I’m dog, a dog named Emerson. Did he give me the name? I don’t remember. I just am. It’s human and strange to say the thing you don’t need to say because you already know it, know it like I know the size of my territory, the coolness of the creek outside the fence, and that Ralph is in trouble.
I’m a big dog. When Ralph was a puppy and I was a puppy, I grew so that I could reach my tongue all over, before he caught up and went higher. Now I sit, I’m at his waist. I like it. I run, run, crush the earth, gravel, gravel, gravel, grass, and I’m swallowing ground with paws as big as people hands. I left my territory long ago. I see Ralph, see what I knew. Two people, Ralph comes to one enemy’s chin, the other is holding him from behind so he can’t move. He’s trying. They have their hands on him. On mine.
People are dogs, but taller. Only not dogs. They can’t run as fast on two legs, but they can do things with their big hands. Open things. Throw things. I don’t know how. It’s fun! Sometimes.
Ralph isn’t as big as other people his age. He’s girl-size but he’s boy, and sometimes puppies take a while to grow. I know – like I know smells – that we’re at the place where Ralph goes every day without me, where there are other people puppies that think they are grown dogs but are not. They grew faster.
One Enemy—deaf, dumb, blind—finally sees me, says with words that are afraid: “Holy crap, Michael—”
And I’m glad I’m big.
Ralph understands what I’m doing. That’s why we’re pack. Stupid Enemy drops Ralph’s arms to save his person and Ralph kicks because he does not have teeth. If he had claws he could scratch, but people-puppies come with so little. Just courage and smells and strong desperation and everything that makes a boy good.
Ralph is mine. I’m his. He’s springy, on pup legs, but he’s Alpha. He stomps hard and the Enemy makes a sharp noise.
Ralph is amazing.
I feel things one at a time. Happy. Sad. Afraid. Ralph feels all at once. Happy when he’s angry because he isn’t sad.
Mostly he’s sad. This isn’t the first time they’ve taken his arms and held them so that they can hit and hit and hit. I missed some of those times. I cannot forgive. Not them. Not me. I don’t know what he does to make them hit with triumph in their bared teeth.
Don’t they see what they’re missing?
I like it when Ralph is happy. It makes him warm. He should be happy more. He’s not. Ralph is sad a lot of times, but mostly he’s angry. I think he’s angry because he’s afraid. And he’s afraid because he’s sad. Lonely.
Yes, that’s it. A terrible word. Lonely. There are only two in his pack. We are it.
I taste blood in my teeth. Smell it in my nostrils. Enemy screams and I let go. Something hits me. Snarling, turning, it’s Ralph. The other Enemy kicks him again. He might have been trying to hit me.
I jump. Ralph jumps to the other, shouting, “Try it, Buttface! You wanna’ come at me again? Hit me again, a-hole!” I bare my teeth.
Not a smile. A challenge.
Ralph’s hand on my head. He smells like blood, but only a little. Mostly like Ralph.
Entirely like triumph.
I’m yawning now, eyes closing to feel his fingers better. They scratch at that exact place I can’t reach. Rub under and around each ear. So good. He’s sitting suddenly, heavy against me as he leans. I lean too. His head is next to mine. Curly hair, pale eyes, but I don’t need to see them. I know, know it like I know I’m dog and he’s boy. His smell is mine in my nose.
The Enemies are gone, running, afraid. So he lets himself kiss me. Strange human thing, they press their faces against another. Like licking but not-licking. It makes a strange, good, familiar sound next to my ear: pch. Ralph only does this when no one’s looking. THUMP goes my tail on the grass, letting him know I approve.
He whispers, “Good boy,” and buries his nose in the fur on my neck.
Ralph is happiest when he’s with me. He’s happy now. I do that.
I am amazing.