General Fiction posted October 23, 2010


Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
a crossbreed dog survives

A Long Winter's Night

by Realist101

The snow swirled, softly at first, then with blinding vengeance as the storm whipped around the little white house in the hills of Pine Valley. The white crystals sparkled fresh and clean, covering the world in it's blanket of cold.

The wolf cross lay curled in a tight ball, waiting out the storm, his nose tucked tightly beneath his thick tail. It had been days since he had been fed and watered. The elderly woman, his caretaker and friend, had last let him out of the house days ago. And he had not heard a sound from inside, or seen her once, since the noisy, bright thing had carried his human away, disappearing into the swirling snow.

Like a gray ghost, he had watched from the edge of the yard. Low growls of protest at the intruders were the only sounds he made, as his world was turned upside down.

The woman had run out of chow for her dog long ago. And saving the last cans of her tuna for him, she had carefully placed all of them next to the porch steps. Now, as the temperature plunged, his bucket of water froze, leaving him to lick at the newly fallen snow to quench his thirst. His urge to stay home was strong, but survival was the stronger force and he slept fitfully, knowing he would soon have to take to the woods.


He finally emerged from the wooden box that had been his home for eight years and he stretched, his belly just barely above the snow's depth. He stood, searching the wind with his nose. He knew his mistress was gone and shook out his coat in resignation. He walked through the snow and just once, he glanced over his shoulder, toward the front door of the house, knowing he would not come back.


And as the long nights passed, the dog stayed to himself in the forest, an occasional rabbit keeping him alive. He was lonely for his human companion, but had never been around anyone else but the woman who had taken him in as a pup. Now, when he detected the scent of people, he shied away, fearful and untrusting. Yet, he longed for them. He was lost and starving in a world unfamiliar and cold.

He traveled for many miles, searching for something, something intangible, something unknown and he curled up each day, out of sight, blending in with the underbrush. But on this cold, sunny day, he found a den. And his nose told him it was occupied. Standing as still as a statue, he waited patiently. There was a groundhog in it and his wolf instinct was itching for a kill.

Patience gone, he began to dig. The old dog rarely barked, but this excitement triggered his vocal chords to let the world know he was after something. Shrill and loud, the sound could be heard for a mile. Finally, dog and varmint came face to face and with teeth slashing, the fight ended with the tenant being permanently evicted.

The old dog did not want to eat the groundhog. He had killed it because it was in him to do so. He sat, bloody and tired and as the sun began to disappear, he howled, a long and mournful call of the wild.

The sound carried for over a mile, clear and distinctive, it sent chills up the spine of the man carrying firewood to his porch. He set the logs down and froze, listening intently, he couldn't believe it. He hadn't heard a wolf in years. It could be one down from Canada, or possibly DNR was re-introducing them to the area.

The sound came again, this time, softer, lonelier. It was a single wolf, not a pack. He picked the wood back up and went inside. Tomorrow, he would have to check his small herd of Angus cows. There were several smaller calves, late comers that would be a good kill for a wolf and right now, every calf mattered. The bills depended on these calves growing up fat and healthy for the winter auctions.

Inside the warmth of the farm house, his television droned on, with baby killings and government cover ups, the man puffed on his pipe, disgust and disdain filling his senses to the brim. He tapped the pipe out and left his easy chair to go look after the cattle. Life was just overflowing with things that were simply beyond his control and he needed to just go outdoors.

The thermometer read twenty-five degrees. He looked at his deceased wife's picture, as he always did, each time he walked out through the backdoor.

"Wish you were here, Suzanne. Sure miss your meatloaf on these cold and windy nights."

It was his way of dealing with her death. And he visited her grave almost every Sunday, sometimes leaving a sprig of evergreen, or in the summer, her favorite flowers.

He walked to the pastures, carrying his heavy-duty flashlight and his cell phone. Snow had accumulated to almost a foot, making the trek a hard one and he wished he had jumped on the Gator. But it was good to walk. Spring was a long way off and he needed to keep moving. Suzanne would have come with him on this night, her love of the cattle had been phenomenal. She had been there every time a calf was sick or hurt and his heart ached for his wife.

As the beam of the light scanned the snowy field, a pair of eyes shone from beneath a hedge to his right. They glowed green, it was canine. He stopped, regretting leaving his pistol in the house. His cattle were no where in sight, probably down in the ravines out of the wind. He saw no dead bodies, or blood, so whatever lay in the brush hadn't gotten to them yet.

He stepped forward to get a better look. If it were a wolf, it would already be gone into the dark.

"Hey, boy, you a dog?" He walked slowly forward. A low growl emitted from it's throat.

"It's okay, fella ... you alright?" As he softly spoke, the very tip of the dog's tail began to twitch back and forth.

The man knew that tail wagging was not always a sign of friendliness, so he stopped and kept talking.

"Hey, dog, come now, I won't hurt you." He averted the bright light and the growling stopped.

"Come on, old boy." The dog was thin as a rail, it's face gaunt and hollow. Cautiously, it unwrapped itself from the snow nest, it's tail wagging with a hint of trust.

"That's it, come here now." Still speaking soft and low, the man stretched out a hand. The dog stopped, uncertain and afraid, but longing for the touch of human kindness ... .

And in the cold and dark of a long winter's night, the lonely man and half-starved dog found each other when both desperately needed someone and as they made their way back to the house, to the warmth of the fire, the moon emerged from behind thinning snow clouds, promising them both a better day.


Recognized


This is for Judian James who was worried for the dog left behind in "At The End Of The Lane". And to all dog and nature lovers too. DNR stands for "Dept. Of Natural Resources", a government entity. And a Gator is an atv that has a bed like a little pickup truck. Thank you for reading and to photobucket.com, for the loan of this photo.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.


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