The orange dog refused to fade.
She still trotted her guard route across the yard and patio, though her black claws no longer clicked against the brick.
Her humans couldn’t see her.
The little boy ran right through her once, waving his giant stick.
Worst of all, her once ferocious bark made no noise.
And it was nearly time for the red demon.
The orange dog had protected her yard, her people, and even the dog-smacking cat for years. Once a week, just after the sun rose, the red demon approached the house, growling. She could smell its oily scent long before she heard it—a combination of metal blades, minerals, and death.
Every week, the orange dog raced along the fence, warning the demon off with her deep, fierce bark. The red demon would draw close, but turn away at the last minute—unwilling to challenge her.
If there hadn’t been a six-foot fence between the orange dog and the demon, she’d have killed it long ago. Instead, she could only drive it away weekly.
Now, without her fierce bark, how could she scare it away? Without her fighting claws and strong jaws, how could she protect her people? Her packmate had died years before, but that dog had been useless even in his prime. If she hadn’t been around, he’d have invited the demon in to play ball and been slashed to bits by its blades.
Labradors were stupid like that.
The orange dog was both German Shepherd and Chinese Shar-pei. Nothing came in her yard without her permission. Burglars, basset hounds, utility men—they all fled from her.
Even the red demon never tried to breach the fence.
But would the red demon turn away this week? Or would it realize, without her barking, that the yard was unprotected?
Would it try and get her humans?
The red demon’s day dawned cloudy. The mother and the little boy were eating when the orange dog scented the demon. She raced along the fence, chest heaving, her jaws opening and closing.
But the only sound was the red demon’s growl.
The orange dog raced into the house, around the table, frantically trying to warn the humans.
They didn’t see her.
The red demon drew closer.
The humans kept eating.
How did they not hear its growling? Or smell its sharp metal blades?
The red demon was nearly at the house when the woman cocked her head and said to the little boy, “It’s the mower for the school field.” She sniffled and said, “I keep expecting to hear Fey barking at it. Remember? She really hated that thing.”
Then the woman barked. Just a small, “Roof-roof-roof!” Nothing at all like the orange dog’s powerful, “ROOF-ROOF-ROOF! MOVE ON OR DIE, RED DEMON!”
The little boy began barking, too: “Roof! Roof-roof-roof!!”
Crying and laughing, the humans barked. Joyously, Fey barked with them, though they could not hear her.
The red demon turned away. Just as it had for the orange dog for eleven years.
The humans understood. The yard was protected.
Content, she slipped back out to her patio. A stray shaft of sunlight had warmed the brick. Fey curled up in the light.
And faded away.