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Maria’s dog, Gortaithe, was coming along well. He had relaxed into his inner city, household life; as relaxed as a German shepherd like him gets. He had stopped looking aggressively at people and even let them pat him. He wasn’t overly enthusiastic about human attention, other than his own human, but he tolerated it with relatively good grace.

Other dogs, however, were a different matter. Every dog was still considered a possible life threat and treated accordingly. If Maria and Gortaithe walked the streets of Eraldus, he looked like a wild animal pacing the boundaries of his territory; head erect, ears up, leaning forward, eyes peeled. It was hardly pleasant to walk him and disconcerting to other dog owners. It made life easier to walk the laneways where dogs didn’t tend to go. Except for today, that is.

It was a calm, bright autumn day with the type of mild, warming sun which we crave after a bout of dreary, cold weather. As Maria and Gortaithe came around the corner, there was a huge dog, off-lead and unattended. Maria panicked expecting an all-out dogfight until she realised it was Galahad from the North Country. Instead of being his normal composed self, he seemed affronted.

“Who is this?” he said looking at Gortaithe.

For once, Gortaithe had lowered his head, crouched, and was backing away. Far from a wild beast, Gortaithe seemed a boy in the presence of a man. Galahad was still not satisfied. He stared at him and Gortaithe knew to look away.

“Don’t cross me,” Galahad said to Gortaithe. “Ever.” Then he was gone as quickly as he appeared.

Well, I’ll be, thought Maria. Everyone meets their match or, in this case, superior. It only took a minute and Gortaithe was back to his grandly dominant self, strutting the laneways as if he owned the world. Almost.

Ten minutes after returning home, Maria heard a knock at the door.

“Stay,” she said to Gortaithe who knew he had to sit at the far end of the hall, although, his spirit was bounding for the door. It was Mr. MacArthur. Maria hadn’t seen him for years.

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