She invited The Black Dog to live with us when he was just a pup. Feather-haired and ice-blue eyed, he spent many of his early days lying at her feet, an ear flopped idly to one side, his tooth-grooved tongue lolling lazily from his mouth.
At that time, although he was still so small in size, I always walked at a distance from him; cautiously creeping on tiptoes as not to disturb him as he slept, his long, sinewy body twitching in the throes of a dream.
She would often beckon me over, encouraging me to pat his head or sit by his side, but I’d shake my head and she would laugh and reassure me that his boisterous biting wouldn’t hurt me.
As the years grew, so did the pup. His once soft, unsullied paws became cracked-leather cushions caged by grubby grey claws. His wiry fur was flecked with silver flashes and his eyes changed from ice-blue to the darkest black, like hollow gunshot holes in his head.
She would take The Black Dog on lengthy winding walks, his invisible lead an unbreakable bond that she grasped, knuckle-white tight, in her hand. Her requests for us to walk alongside them had long since stopped, and we could only watch wistfully from the window as The Black Dog and she disappeared into the distance together like pin-heads on a horizon.
One day, we requested that The Black Dog should live outside in a kennel; his sullen skulking had started to unnerve us all and a cigarette-smoke of mistrust hung heavily in the air. She would not hear of it, of course, and so The Black Dog remained in the house, sleeping by her side despite his stenching smell and arch-backed growls.
Alone she often sat, with only The Black Dog as company; it seemed that they spoke silent words to each other of which we just couldn’t understand. She would feed and stroke The Black Dog, her hands would twist and turn through the coarse coat on the nape of his neck, and in turn, he fed her a snare of solitary seclusion.
He went away once, they both did, to a place full of broken-promises to train The Black Dog to heel and sit. They returned, she crushed, The Black Dog victorious, for by then, he had become too wild even for the dog-tamers. A feral animal now prowled the house, his menacingly gloomy shadow slowly draining our souls.