I was walking along a path when I encountered three unfriendly-looking dogs, teeth bared and tails between their legs. I offered my hand, but they snarled and backed away. Cautiously, I skirted them and continued on.

As I walked, one of the dogs followed me, eventually shoving her head beneath my hand. She was an enormous black-and-white bulldog, velvet-furred and warm and nearly shoulder-height. As we kept walking, she pressed up against me, and I rested my arm on her back. We loved each other. We came to a field and playfully tussled together on the grass.

I said, "If only you were a shark! We could live together undersea, and you could be my [k--]."

"K---" was a two-syllable word, possibly "kaner" or "kalen," meaning something like "warrior companion." It was a person or animal sworn to protect someone and to be their right-hand person, best buddy, shield-brother, etc.

It was only as I said those words that I realized that, appearances to the contrary, I was in fact a mermaid.

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