The sunlight streaming in through the second story window fell right across my bed. I stretched my long, canine limbs and then snapped my muzzle open in a yawn. My velvet ears swiveled to catch the nuances of breakfast sounds that floated up the stairs. The window was open just enough to let in the fresh breeze of summer, and I inhaled it with all my being. Smells of the garden permeated my being, and I bounded up with unbridled enthusiasm and joy. We were going to work out in the garden today, and it was going to be special.
I raced downstairs and out the sliding door before I even saw my family seated around the kitchen island for breakfast because I knew I had no time to waste on such a glorious day. My padded feet touched the warm grass as I hopped off the patio and surveyed my green kingdom of towering sunflowers and rose bush trellises. All of the flowers were in full bloom and filled out the edge of the yard where the fence hugged the perimeter with their vibrant and diverse hues. It truly felt as if I was entering a magical kingdom, and not far behind me came the little prince.
“Star Dog?” Max peeked out the sliding glass door and tentatively stepped out onto the patio. His young, round face was full of worry, but I trotted back to him to give his hand reassuring licks. I took the edge of his sleeve at his wrist and pulled him gently into the yard, and his face brightened at the sight of the flowers showing off their colorful petals.
“You don’t have to be afraid, Max,” I said, my voice firm with conviction as we surveyed the garden together. I watched as he turned and took in the fruits of our hard labor for the past few months since spring broke the cold. Before the winter could reclaim the land and bury the life, I knew we had to take advantage of the beauty, and I was glad Max was finally out here to enjoy it. “You’re safe here. This is my magical kingdom.” I winked conspiratorially at my boy, and he giggled at the thought.
“Who’s the King?” he asked with a wide, boyish smile.
“Well, I am, of course,” I said, nodding at the tree that I favored. “That is my throne.” Max was sent into a fit of giggles, but I tugged at a protruding pocket of his cargo pants and lead him around to introduce him to all of the plants that I adored.
“Do you always talk to them this much?” Max said as we cover the western bushes.
“Of course,” I said. “That’s why they’ve grown so well. I gave them attention. They’re peeking out to see if I’ll tell them the end of the story today.”
“Will you?” Max said absentmindedly as he grazed a long petal from a sunflower with a firm stalk.
“I might, and I might not,” I whispered. “I’ll have you know that the best stories never end. Not truly.”
“Really? Can you tell me one of them?” Max said, his eyes full of hope.
“I suppose you’ve been good…” I teased, and then I leaned forward and bent my knees, which Max took as an invitation to hop on. His young, lithe frame was easy to carry, especially on my larger beast one. His fingers entangled in my furry mane at the scruff of my neck, and I bounded around the yard while he laughed joyously. I varied my speed and tempo, and even gave him a few close calls in a fake tumble, but truthfully he was always safe astride my back. I would guard him with my life, and deep down I think he knew that. When we were both exhausted, we finally collapse below my tree and panted in unison.
“Can you tell me the story now?” Max begged.
“Alright. Which one would you like to hear?” I relented with my canine smile spreading across my muzzle. The sun was bright and the wind was light, and I couldn’t have had better company than the boy I had sworn to protect and love as he grows up.
“Tell me how this kingdom was created,” Max said, again looking at all the different plants and how they weaved together to frame the yard and simulate their own little village.
“Very well. It all started with a seed of hope, and with a helping of love, all life was able to flourish and thrive in the kingdom.”
I never wanted that moment to end.