The dog bounced in and chaos ensued.
He had just gotten them settled for a nap when the door opened, and the dog- a wiry mutt sprung about, licking and tail wagging everyone with slobber and cold noses.
"Heel! HEEL!" A dopy brunette bounded in, followed by his mother, and chased the dog around their rooms. The children quickly turned it into a game, keeping the dog away from the adults until their mother snapped them into order.
The boy fretted at the mess, at the wound up kids, but secretly wanted to join in the fray and be a kid.
"This is Miss Sanjula Jaitley. We work together in the ambulance," his mother introduced, trying to keep the dog on the floor, "and this is our new canine partner- Markie. Sit!" the dog sat. Sort of. Its rear sat for one second, then bounced into his lap.
He giggled as the tongue licked his cheek clean and nibbled his ear.
"We're just here for a little while, Kiddo," she said. "Thought you'd like to meet the mutt."
"Can we keep him?" He asked, then cringed.
His mother grew quiet. "No. He is Miss Jaitley's dog. But he might be able to visit. Maybe we could be his foster family. Later on. He helps Sanjula and me so much on the ambulance."
"That's right!" Her friend laughed. "One time he brought me gauze to help wrap this woman's arm. Ever so helpful. A great soul, he is!"
"That wasn't helping: he was playing in the gauze and accidently drug some to you!" his mother laughed.
"Competent play is preferred over incompetent help," Sanjula intoned pithily.
"Don't give me that eastern religion nonsense," her partner giggled back, petting the dog. "You're no more a swami than I am."
"And how do you know I am not a secret Brahmin high priestess come to London to do my bit for the war and return to Benares once I have obtained enough good karma?" Her almond eyes sparkled, her back straight and proud. The boy suddenly heard distant music and bells and smelled curry and saw purple carpets and blue women in her stance.
"Because, O Little Friend of all the World," his mother grinned back, "I know you were born only two miles away from here- we were at the hospital last week. AND I might be wrong, but I'm pretty certain that Jews aren't Hindu high priestesses."
"Well, there is that," Sanjula laughed. The boy blinked, his dreams of genies and flying horses and large spiders instantly gone. The exotic woman he saw in veils and gold snapped back to being Miss Jaitley again.
"Oh my goodness! You've a little tin hat for Mark!" his sister yelped, digging into the woman's bag. "Can I put it on the puppy?" the children all clustered around the find before their mother could chastise the breach of etiquette. Soon, the dog was prancing about in his hat, showing off his working skills by digging around the rooms for hidden food scraps. The children then raided their mother's cookware and were all banging around wearing pots and pans atop their own heads.
The boy played the game a bit, but quickly grew bored, returning to the adults with the dog in his arms.
"And this is my eldest son, the good lad. I couldn't get through this without him. He's as much a father to the little ones as my husband. Patient and kind, he is," his mother beamed wistfully. "He's growing up so fast. Here, why not take Mark out for a walk. Just a small one, but be back before dark."
He was out the door before his mother could say anything else. They bounded down the stairs in twos and burst out into the world. The boy and dog ran and ran through the streets, past rubbled piles and puddles of water, the city already morphing into ancient Troy. The dog stopped to sniff twice, but carried on being a dog with the boy. They played fetch a few times, tossing wood scraps up and down the alleys and backways. Then the boy, breathless, led him to his box. He took out his key, ushered in the dog, proudly showed off his treasures (only one artifact nibbled on), and took the canine through the universe until far past dinner.
A month later, his mother brought a new Mark home with a more somber Sanjula. The children played with this one too; happy to be around a dog, unable to recognize the differences. But the boy could see the different markings and size, could sense a more doggedly passive spirit. He played along- that this was Mark too. And took this pup on a new adventure to an alien sun in his blue box.