It looked like an ordinary night when our Two Legs let us out to do our business. All the squirrels were aloft, the rabbits gone to ground, and the bird feeder out of seed. The trash can that had been tipped earlier that day had its cover fitted tightly and taken back in. The Stupid Cat watched us from her window, her tail twitching in futile agitation. There didn’t seem to be much business to do but catch up on the news at the fire hydrant, squat on the sidewalk, and go back in to spend the night with our Two Legs sleeping at the foot my bed, when the wind shifted to the North-by-Northeast and Beagle picked up a scent.
Beagle was proud of her nose and we were tired of hearing about it; but, I have to admit that, whenever she says she smells something, if we take the time to follow her, there’s something to it. I’ll never forget the time she claimed there was a deer carcass decomposing three miles out. We thought she was crazy; but, when we followed her, sure enough, there it was in the bushes by the side of the road. We all had a feast and rolled in the delicious fragrance so much that it lingered a month thereafter. Yes, Beagle has a good nose, and she talks a lot, but it’s generally worth listening to what she has to say.
Setter was off, following her, until he caught the scent as well, and took the lead. The stupid Labs, dumb as a box of rocks, flanked him on either side. I prefer to keep a quiet dignity, as befits my station. I ordered them to keep me informed about their general location and direction while I accompanied Dachshund. It’s not that I liked his company, but I felt it’s my responsibility to keep everyone in line.
Dachshund was yapping about how, if he was the Alpha, he’d do things differently. He’d show a few teeth to Setter and the Labs for running on ahead, if it were up to him.
“I agreed it is better to be feared rather than loved,” I said. “But I’m a St Bernard and am able to inspire both fear and affection. Should I ascertain a lack of obedience due to a deficiency in the latter, then they will get my teeth, I assure you.” I didn’t say how close I was to giving that hot dog a good chomp. All he does is complain.
We caught up with Beagle, who was out of breath with all her baying.
“Barefoot Two Legs…hasn’t had a bath in a week…scent of marijuana, espresso, and fear…bearing nine degrees…passed by, oh, maybe…twenty-four to twenty-six hours ago.”
I licked her face in admiration. “Well done, Beagle. When we down her, you get the liver.”
She licked her chops and nuzzled me back. If you want to lead dogs, you have to understand what motivates them.
She knew as well as I that we were highly unlikely to down a Two Legs. They’re an extremely difficult game to kill, very cunning and dangerous. Some of us, having made pets of them, may hesitate to go for the throat; but, a dog can dream, can’t he? Even if she never got to taste the Two Legs’ liver, Beagle appreciated the pleasure of being out at night with one’s pack, pretending to be a wolf.
We must have trotted five miles before catching up to the Two Legs. She lay very still at the foot of some stairs. Setter and the Labs surrounded her, lolling their tongues, and waving their tails as we approached.
“Good dogs,” I said and looked over to make sure Dachshund saw them so obedient. They not only located the game, but they waited for their betters to arrive. That’s the kind of loyalty you summon when you’re a St Bernard. However, Dachshund didn’t seem to notice. He was complaining that his feet hurt.
“She hasn’t moved since we got here!” said the Labs, who could barely speak properly, with their tongues in the way. “We nosed her and she’s cold! Can we keep her? Huh? Can we keep her? We followed her here!”
Beagle licked her chops again. I only had to give the order and she’ll have a taste of that liver. The entire pack was arguing in favor of consuming the found game. Dachshund contended that, since we had come all that way, we deserved our dinner, even though it was not likely to be any good.
I was in no hurry to give the word. Rewards should be accorded gradually, so they taste better. I commanded Beagle to sniff the perimeter while I examined the Two Legs. Except for a few ants, who don’t count, there were no other animals by the body, guarding it. There was not another Two Legs in sight, either, although a very large stone Two Leg den was nearby. I was concerned that a Two Legs might come by and claim the body, or worse, catch us all and put us in jail.
I have never been able to understand the morals of a species that would incarcerate a dog for something as ordinary as a bite. I have been Alpha for years. I’ll admit that, from time to time, another dog has taken some food that had been reserved for me. I give them what they deserve, a good nip in the hindquarters. Therefore, I would never have a problem if a Two Legs did the same regarding some game they thought was theirs. I wouldn’t think of chaining up a dog, or worse, shutting him up in a cage, away from his pack. There is something terribly brutal about the Two Legs kingdom. We can only hope that someday we will succeed in taming them, so we can trust them to be around.
It’s hard for me to say for sure because, except for the Two Legs that lives with us, they all look the same; but I thought I recognized her. She was a tan colored female with matted fur and some discolorations on her limbs. I always felt sorry for her as someone who had no one to give her a brushing and take her to the vet. Perhaps years of neglect had finally caught up to her and she died here for us to find. I began to feel sad, but then I reminded myself that she was just a Two Legs and one must not let oneself get too attached. It is perhaps too caninepomorphic of me to treat them as conscious creatures, possessing awareness of their mortality.
I inserted my nose far up her crotch, where the black box recording all the Two Legs’ activities is kept. The smell of fear was strong and there was a base note of marijuana and espresso, just as Beagle had said. She seemed to have been in heat and a male had mated with her recently. Her body had the distinctive odor of a wet Two Legs, far greater than what you might expect from the trace left behind on the trail, as if the male she had mated with was more aromatic than she. There was no blood, but her head was cocked at an unnatural angle, leading me to believe that the cause of death had not been disease, but a fall down the stairs.
Beagle reported that the perimeter was clear of carnivores, although a murder of crows had assembled in the tree tops. Setter and the Labs didn’t even flinch when Beagle stated there were six squirrels and a couple rabbits nearby, indicating that they really expected me to give the go-head on the Two Legs.
Honestly, I was highly conflicted about giving the command to consume the meat. Like any dog, I had often fantasized about sinking my teeth into the soft pink thigh of a Two Legs; but I was raised, since I was a pup, to be solicitous of a weak species utterly dependent on us. I am a St Bernard, after all, and was told, with my litter, all the stories of our fore-dogs, rescuing travelers in the Swiss Alps. I wondered, had any St Bernard ever consumed a traveler, rather than let her drink from brandy keg and keep her warm until help arrived? I didn’t think so, but this Two Legs was already dead, and I had left my brandy keg behind. Moreover, I had the welfare of the pack to think about. They were counting on me to lead with judicious wisdom, and I had promised Beagle the liver.
It’s rough, rough, being the Alpha, let me tell you. Few things are black and white. If one is to lead, it’s necessary sometimes to do the hard thing, to sacrifice one’s own principles for the good of the pack. I was glad my mother, refined bitch that she was, was not there to see me now. Although she would have been proud I was an Alpha, she would not have approved of everything that entails. Scruples have no place in leadership; the only thing that matters to a pack is survival.