ARTIST WANTED • by Esme Godfrey

Could someone paint a picture of my dogs?

The big white fluffy one is Marshmallow. My husband, Rob, picked her out, even though he never wanted a dog (you have to walk them, they eat their own puke). But, I told him, dogs love you unconditionally, and they miss you even when you’ve only been gone thirty seconds. He said, isn’t that why we have each other? I let him sweet talk me out of getting a dog for a while. But after his first heart attack, he agreed to get Marshmallow. Straight away she seemed to understand that it was her duty to take care of him and make sure he got his daily walks.

If he had to have a dog, he wanted a big one. Marshmallow is a Great Pyr. When she stands on her hind legs, she’s taller than me. Our niece gave her the name Marshmallow back when they were both little. She’s all grown up now too, and lives in Seoul. Or maybe it’s Chiang Mai this month. She was in Budapest for a while. We were saving up to visit, but then she moved to the other side of the planet. By the time I can afford a trip to Asia, maybe she’ll be on the moon. She doesn’t like to stay in one place for very long.

That’s like Buddy, who won’t sit still. He’s mastered heel, come, and drop it, but he won’t sit or stay. Restlessness might be baked into his DNA. His mother, a neighbour’s Goldendoodle, got out and went adventuring last year. She wanted to see the world. By the time they found her, some unwashed mongrel had interfered with her, and instead of producing designer puppies like she was supposed to, she had a batch of mutts. But Buddy is a sweetheart even if he doesn’t have a pedigree. He’s a cuddler, and he gets on well with other dogs. Meeting foreign pooches is his favourite part of our walks. He likes to sniff their bums and listen to their stories.

That might sound crazy, but I think dogs and cats and other animals can communicate in ways we don’t understand. Buddy always has a lot to say to Marshmallow after his doggy meet-and-greet. While he’s off cavorting, Marshmallow sticks close to me – we dowagers don’t like to mix with the rabble. So, Buddy fills her in on the gossip on the way home. He bounces around and yaps while she smiles indulgently at him, the way you do when your toddler’s effusing about his day at preschool.

Marshmallow has more patience for this racket than I do. She would have made a good mother. Better than me anyway. Kids sound exhausting. Dogs are enough of a handful. Just like a toddler, Buddy doesn’t want to go to sleep when we get home. He’s tired, but he’s in denial. Marshmallow always goes straight to bed. She’s a sensible person. Buddy, on the other hand, wants to sprint up and down the hallway and jump on the sofa and chew up my walking boots. He knows better, but he’s too tired to behave. I have to put him to bed if I want any peace. I sit him down beside Marshmallow and pet him and soothe him. Sometimes I sing lullabies. Marshmallow helps by licking his head. Once he settles down, she drapes a paw over him so he knows he’s safe.

Not so long ago, Rob was the one curled protectively around his pup. Marshmallow still misses him. She liked having someone to take care of. She’s that kind of dog. That’s why we got Buddy. He never met Rob. But I’m sure Marshmallow has told him stories. I’m looking for someone to paint a picture of Marshmallow and Buddy. Maybe with some lovely flowers around the edges. I want to hang it up next to our wedding portrait, so I can have the whole family together in one place. Rob would have liked that.

Esme Godfrey lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her cat and her favourite person. She enjoys reading and writing fiction about people who feel a little bit out of place in this world.

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