Molly had a permanent smile fixed to her face. It was just part of who she was. Sometimes this angered Rachael. She could be crying on Molly's shoulder and her companion would still be beaming away like an idiot.
Rachael was always scornful when books talked about dogs knowing how their owners were feeling.
'Molly never has a fucking clue! She's just in a constant state of 'Happy'! She's the least empathic animal on the planet. I swear, her internal monologue is just 'I'm a dog! I'm a dog! I'm a dog!' on loop.'
Once Rachael had held Molly's tail down to try and stop it wagging. Molly had grinned at her, good-naturedly and the four vertebra at the base of the tail had continued to wiggle side to side.
Rachael and Molly spent a lot of time together on the front porch. They would survey the garden and listen to Rachael's parents scream at each other inside the house. Sometimes a parent would join them afterwards and say something like 'sorry you had to hear that, champ. It must be tough on you. Geeze! That mulberry is getting big! We'll have to cut it back soon.' Molly would radiate contentedness. 'I'm a dog! I'm a dog! I'm a dog!'
One day Rachael's mother told her to pack her things. They were going to visit Rachael's grandmother in Ohio for a 'girl's weekend'.
Rachael didn't want to go. She hated visiting relatives. They talked over her head about sore feet, dietitians and how Rachael's breasts were starting to grow at last.
Rachael said goodbye to her father with a quick kiss and to Molly with a belly-rub. Molly pulled a stupidly blissful face and her leg convulsed with pleasure. 'I'm a dog! I'm a dog! I'm a dog! Its good to be a dog!'
'See you Tuesday, Boof-head. You keep an eye on the mulberry for me.'
Rachael never saw Molly again. When they arrived in Ohio, her mother sent for their things. Her Grandma didn't have a garden so 'of course we can't get the dog sent up, Racheal! Please don't keep asking me about it!'
Six months later her dad came to visit. He brought her an ipod nano and a big poster of a band she had never heard of before but he thought she should get into. He beamed at her.
'Aren't you glad to see me?'
'Molly's gone to live with a new family. I've been working long hours and without you there to walk her Molly was really lonely. She'll be much happier now.'
'And you didn't think to call me and ask how I'd feel about this?'
Rachael stared at her father's fading smile. 'He's trying really hard' she told herself. She went out to lunch with him and didn't cry or yell the entire time. It felt like she was trying to hold all the atoms of her body together. Her father pulled out a digital camera and asked her to smile. She did. 'Is this what being a grown-up feels like?' Rachael wondered.
That night, Rachael dreamed she had big, floppy paws and a long tail and a nose which wanted to follow everything. In her dream her father flung his arms around her and cried into her big, shaggy shoulder. 'You don't understand! You don't have a fucking clue what its like!' he sobbed. 'I'm a dog!' thought Rachael and beamed.