Orlando sleeps, curled, nose to tail, eyes tight shut, tip of tongue protruding through his open mouth and his paws twitch, paddle, gyrate to unheard music.
“Must be dreaming of rabbits” say the boys and they laugh, the idea of a dog so tiny, so completely urban having any idea of rabbits or what to do should he actually meet one is both ridiculous and faintly endearing.
But Orlando is dreaming and in his dreams he is so much more than his waking self.
Orlando is running, muscles taut, pads hardened, a loping run that effortlesly covers the endless african veldt.
The yellowing grass tickles his stomach, his testicles, this is no eunuch dreamtime.
He feels the joy of movement and for no reason other than to fill the air with sound, Orlando barks and all around him the pack replies, a celebration of one-ness, a certainty of identity.
The pack is back.
Deeper into sleep now, head resting on a pink fluffy cushion, Orlando growls.
The boys laugh again
“Must be a really big rabbit”
And Orlando is still dreaming, the pack are hunting now, nostrils flared, catching the scent, they fan out, herding the choosen prey towards the kill zone.
He leaps, first dog to make contact, teeth sink into the deers’ leg, pulls it down, warm blood in his mouth, deer twitches as other dogs begin to bite at the flesh, but Orlando has had the kudos of the kill.
He feels the pack approval, his place secure, the dogs feed until they can eat no more.
Almost waking, Orlando smacks his lips, tasting the fresh flesh, the crunch of bones against needle sharp teeth.
In the kitchen the boys are chopping up cooked chicken and boiled rice into the the black bowl with his name picked out in little silver stones
He slips easily back into his dream
The pack are sated, belies full, muzzles still marked, they lie together in an untidy tumble of fur. Orlando is content, idly licking spots of blood from the flank of a dog who sprawls next to him, perhaps his son, perhaps not.
In unison the dogs move off, thirsty now, heading for a water hole. Orlando, with the glory of the kill still on him, is the first to drink.
The boys are packing the work bag now, bottled water for when the tan cabs make the salon so warm that he & Rocko lie on the cool white tiles next to the wash basins, panting gently.
Orlando struggles to stay in his dream, extends his legs to capture the heat of an african sun, but the chink of his harness, his lead, pink with tiny real diamonds, drags him into wakefulness.
The boys look out of the window, debate the weather, decide that neither dog need to wear a hoody today.
Orlando stands at the front door, poised, ready to lead his pack.