I found myself with dogs on leashes, ten in each hand… the ones that had come over to sniff me, the two puppies Tanifas had been drying and their mother, along with another five.
Tanifas had the other leashes in hand but no dogs linked to any of them… they seemed to be more a symbol of his authority than restraints. None of the dogs even stepped out in front of him as he went to open the rain-drenched door and took us out.
Mine… half of them… seemed to want to run off in the direction of the stables, several more wanted to sit. Others seemed to think that Tor Ench was our proper destination. By the time I got everything untangled, Tanifas’s pack were all out and pouring up the bowl of the steps.
The outside steps were a bowl cut in half and the water poured down the stone in waterfalls, disappearing in various stone drains cut into them all the way to the bottom so things didn’t just fill up with water and hold a pond against the kennel door.
I gasped with the shock of rain but followed up after Tanifas who trotted out, at the head of his dogs, out along the paved path to the Wolves Garden. “Come on, dogs,” I said. I had a few who seemed to be more on my side… the Mahid dogs looked to me, and the rat-catchers. The others, including the puppies, kept my run interesting by darting between my legs or running ahead, pulling, choking and coughing as they tried to tow the rest of us along bodily. Considering that it was the little dogs that were doing this it might have been funny if I hadn’t been so annoyed.
At one point the lion dogs stopped and humped up their backs to shen on the path, their sheer bulk stopping the rest of us in our tracks, almost. Our momentum dragging them forward a shuffling step or two, trailing clots of shen. The fluffy, thwarted in his forward movement circled around ducked under and over three other leashes and around my feet, barking. I almost fell over, almost lost my temper, managed to hold onto it, barely and got everyone moving in the same direction. I couldn’t tell if Tanifas even saw my difficulty. We were on the Alpha walk which ran in a single wide loop all the way around the perimeter of the garden so I could see Tanifas and his thirty or so dogs between the shade trees, all loping smoothly along. All I could hear was the sound of the rain on the pavement and the broad leaves of the trees, a steady, sheeting patter.
It was almost as bad as a workout in the snow. We were all soaked through and I was winded long before Tanifas lead us around the furthest gazebo where we could have stopped to rest without being rained upon, and headed back to the kennels. I found myself whining inwardly. Surely we could have stopped just for a klick or two? Surely? I opened my mouth to ask and realized he was just too far ahead. I’d have to shout to ask and he… they… were already past the rain darkened structure, heading back to the kennel and inside.
A little more discomfort now would lead to more comfort faster. I shut my mouth and we managed to pick up the pace to try and catch up. It was easier somehow when I quit thinking of other things and focused on just the running and trying to catch up. My little pack settled down and we ran back to the steps, down and into the dry, warm kennel.
Of course we were then showered again as every dog braced and shook itself. “All right, ye lot,” Tanifas said. “Thet’s enough.” All the longer haired dogs trotted over to the grooming bench and hopped up, waiting.
“If ye like, lad, ye kin wipe down the short hairs… there’s a robe for yeh afterwards an’ ye kin get yerself dry.” I’m not a dog boy. I’m a Spark of the Sun’s Ray, by vote. I recognized that internal whine inside, for the Brat, and could almost hear Gannara’s or Farasha’s voice… ‘…don’t be an idiot, Minis. He’s doing this his own way. Like any good teacher.”
Chevenga had surprised me. Misahis had surprised me. Ailadas had repeatedly surprised me, and still did. Zinchaer had surprised me. Surya had surprised me. I’d give Tanifas his chance to surprise me. I already trusted him, which was startling in and of itself. Was it his voice? His manner? His acceptance of me instead of bowing and scraping? That had always gotten me interested, right from when I was young.
I wiped dogs down and it was a river of slick, wiggly bodies from goofy panting head all the way down the squirming bottom and waving tail as they half danced under my hands. You could feel every moment, every grain of bead, every klick of the clock, how the dogs felt. They hid nothing. They liked you. Or they did not. They were happy. Or they were not. Nothing complex here. Like Ky’s dog Socks. You always knew exactly what he felt about you.
The robe was actually one of a number, hung on hooks behind the door in a neat line next to a garderobe and dressing cubicle. I supposed he’d get wet or dirty and need to change his clothes on a fairly regular basis. Either that or go naked, and while Yeolis might do that without a thought, even okas never would.
Tanifas was done long before I was, squeezed the water out of his sleek hair and donned a robe. All of a sudden he looked much more like a healer and less like a dog-man, expecially with his tan. I came out of the cubicle where I’d hung my wet things and found him just pouring tea. “Please. Sit. Which one would yeh like?” Either his accent had shifted when he put the robe on, or I wasn’t noticing it as much. He sounded a lot more Haian to me. “The left one, please.”
I accepted the hot cup and wrapped my hands around it, letting the steam warm my face, and looked between the cushion on the floor and the healer’s chair and though I hesitated I settled back down on the floor.
I immediately had one of the Mahid blacks settle next to me. He was an older dog, with gray on his muzzle and over his eyes and looked so much like Ailadas about to make a point I almost expected him to cough. He lay down and I put my hand on him.
“That’s good.” Tanifas said. “He didn’t push your space and accepts you as dominant.”
“Really?” I pushed the fluffy away for the third time. “Lie DOWN!” The dog looked hurt but I was in no mood to indulge him and stared at him as he hesitated. Very slowly, his hind end sank down. Then he hesitated again. “Down,” I repeated. He took that as an invitation to stand but Tanifas hissed at him and he immediately sank all the way to his belly.
“Yes, and this one, Floo-Floo—“ He nudged the fluffy lying between us with a bare toe. “—does not.”
“Oh.” As I spoke the fluffy started to get up again and I hissed at him the same way Tanifas had. He stopped, looked confused, then sank down again.
“Excellent.” Tanifas smiled and sipped his tea. “If you are calm in yourself and sure then controlling a dog is easy.”
I drank my own tea slowly, looking at the the dogs around me. “They… are all so calm.”
“Because I am. Minis, your Grandsire spoke to me and asked me all sorts of questions. What kind of help did you need me for?”