By Warren Eastland
There is a gray land. Through it is a path that is free from thorns and stones; to the sides there are a few pebbles and some weeds. Beyond those there are rocks, sticks, and yet further out, thorns. It is a scentless land, mostly, except along the path there is a faint, friendly smell of dog feet. The gray land is dark, lit only by the glow of the hikers. In the far distance there is a single bright spot of light.
The hikers' glow is never the same. There is usually the same basic shape; somewhat like a teardrop. The tail starts out tiny, merely a faint speckle, then it swells to a bulbous end that isn't quite rounded. It is flattened on that end. A human could see it. What the human couldn't sense is the invisible accompaniment of scent. For each hiker it is very different. For some it is complex, with waves of different molecules, all at different density levels. For others it is rather simple with the density of molecules scattered at the the tail of the glow and packed tightly at the flattening of the bulbous end.
The hikers are all dogs. The glow that surrounds them is that of their devotion and love and the scent is of those that they loved. The sudden ending is their death, and the merciful removal of the hour or so before their life ended. The trail leads to dog shadowland, and the bright light is Greyfriars Bobby. For those dogs with the dimmest of glows, that bright light holds little attraction, nor does the scent of domesticated feet that permeates the trail. Their light is dim and the accompanying scents are few. An odd scratch behind the ear and a biscuit rarely tossed their way aren't much to generate either. Others have a glow that lights far out into the dimness and the mixture of scents. The glow is their reflected love of belly-rubs, brisk brushings, and repeated pats accompanied by kind voices that spoke of nothing but love, whatever the words might have meant, and the medley of scent is that of small humans that were almost littermates, of the ones that accompanied the dominant one and with whom the dog shared innocent violations of the rules, and of the dominant one who was obeyed and in turn obeyed the responsibilities and the bond of love.
They recognize the call and stride through the darkness to the bright shining light with the attached scent of a single molecule at an almost palpable density. The dog that has hiked down the trail looks at Greyfriars Bobby and stretches into a bow that ends with a shift to the back end and the hind feet are drawn slowly up, dragging in the soft dust. Perhaps the dog started the journey barely able to drag along, but as it neared the distant glow, its joints eased and the flex of stiff muscles became that of a younger beast. Somewhere on the trail between death and Greyfriars Bobby, youth and health were regained.
Bobby returns the bows and the dogs circle, gently smelling of each other, passing and passing again, until they end nose to nose. Greyfriars Bobby indicates, in that mysterious way that only dogs can, a direction. The newcomer wanders that way.
The land is no longer gray and dusty. There is grass; some green, short, and soft, other patches higher and rougher. There as bushes of all different textures and heights; some smooth-barked and some armed with thorns. And there are trees of all sorts; some standing alone and others in dense thickets. The dog can run, and sniff, and play, in those that are welcoming and avoid those that are unfamiliar. But there is a faint scent, a familiar, desired and loved scent, that draws the dog on.
From out of one thicket comes another dog. Its glow mingles with that of the stranger and they sniff each other's globe. Within each is that smell. They are joined by another, and another. Each dog shares some of the same scents in their globes. They puzzle out their relationships. There is no dominance and there is no submission. For that of the first dog there is only that of the dominant one that was loved so hard. For a second one there is added a second scent that is loved equally, but differently. And others smells are added from each globe. Friends of the loved one that were also loved, and those that were just tolerated. And the dogs' camaraderie expands, and their scents mingle.
The luminosity of their glows changes a bit with time. Those that are often thought of glowing occasionally more bright, and those that are only occasionally remembered dimming occasionally, but none winking completely out. Their own love animates part of their glow so the dimness is never total.
In the distance there is a flare that exceeds even that of Greyfriars Bobby. The flare balloons, shrinks, and finally winks out. A human has joined his dogs and they've gone elsewhere. In that special way that only dogs know, they realize that they must wait a little longer. Wait they must, but they also know that their time is coming.