A white dog bounds through piles of crusty leaves. They drop like snow from knobbly branches high in the horse chestnut trees that circle the entire village green; a barrier for the wind, shade for the walkers, a home for the birds and insects. The branches shudder violently, swaying back and forth and back and forth, a steady rhythm, constant, like a beating heart.
The white dog pauses over a spot that bears no significance to humans and buries her nose deep into the crisp foliage. A wash of aromas overcome the white dog, earthy smells, floral smells, wonderful nutty smells. There are other smells too, bad smells: the scent of decay, rotting plant matter, wet boggy clay and mud.
The white dog moves on, kicking up the leaves and jostling the empty husks that used to encase the many conkers that have been kicked and scattered around the dewy grass. The scent of the village returns to her, traces of human life waft through the crisp breeze: a child being taken home from school, a young man running to catch the bus, an old lady that stinks of cats. Each smell is like a still image for the white dog, a memory captured in scent. There are other smells in the air that the white dog recognises, non-human, bad smells: a mix of ash and smoke from a log burning fire, oily fumes from a gigantic lorry, the foul tang of discarded plastic.
A flash of neon green soars over the white dog’s head and her attention changes, focusing on the object, running towards it with all her might, galloping across the open field. The tennis balls hits the ground, bounces once, twice and the white dog catches it in her mouth, mid-air. The ball tastes like chemicals, grass and saliva, all rolled into one glorious mess. The white dog turns on herself and sees the human that threw the ball, jumping up and down, calling for the white dog, saying her name over and over. She trots back to this human, proud and triumphant and spits out the ball at the human’s feet. The human throws the ball again and the white dog returns it, the process is repeated again and again….
“How was she today?”
“Good as always, lots of ball today. She doesn’t know when to stop, bless her, tired herself out again.”
“Thanks for taking her, she always enjoys your walks.”
“I enjoy them too! Same time tomorrow?”
The white dog lies in her bed next to the fireplace, panting heavily, eyes focused on her human who is making her way slowly across the room in her wheelchair. Her human stops next to a sofa and uses hoist to lift herself out of the wheelchair and into a comfortable position on the sofa.
“Come on then you, up you come!”
The white dog jumps up into her usual spot at the end of the sofa and buries her face into the lap of her human.
Nothing beats the smell of home.
The white dog’s tail wags.