March 22, 2017 | Posted in WooFPAK Heroes

There’s something wrong out here. Zarro is sure of it. Even though the other members of the pack have long since fallen asleep, even though the humans are tucked up tight in their bed, Zarro can’t.

He sits at the very edge of his lead, staring at the desolate rail road tracks. Every time the wind blows, he hears the train blowing its horn again. The sound is distant and haunting. It makes the hair along his neck stand on end.

“Just have to wait until morning,” grumbles Zarro.

The words choose to be a mistake. They serve as some sort of signal, breaking the relative peace that had settled over the night. It starts small, at first. It’s just another way that makes the world feel wrong; nothing more than a sightless sensation, like fleas crawling through his fur, like ants running over his paws.

Restless, Zarro stands up. And – there – on the other side of the tracks. There’s a shadow!

It’s a large thing, with spindly legs and massive branches spiraling off the top of its head. At first, Zarro is certain that it’s some sort of monster, a beast straight out of his nightmares. But, as the wind picks up, as the clouds are pushed away from the moon, the waning silver light shines down on the shape.

It’s a deer. A buck, to be exact. The branches are really massive antlers, velvet peeling off in spots even though it’s not the right season to be shedding. He stands there on the other side of the tracks, head held up high, regal in all ways but one.

The blood dripping down his left flank.

Zarro scrambles up, onto his paws. “What are you doing out here? It’s not safe. My people aren’t hunters, but a lot of others are.”

“I need your help,” responds the deer. “I know you. I know that you are one of the good ones. Please, wolf of human lands. Give me your help.”

“My help?” Zarro is baffled. He glances to either side, but the rest of the WooFPAK are sound asleep. “I can’t. I’m bound here. My people – “

But the lead is no longer hooked tightly to his halter. The clip that hooks to the metal loop on his halter has gotten stuck; caked open with grit and grime, gathered during the earlier run and the subsequent roll in the dirt that Zarro took.

It’s very easy to wiggle about, slipping it free from the D ring hook. The lead falls to the ground soundlessly, and Zarro takes a moment to stare at it in wonder. He’s been slipping away from camp since he was just a pup. All of the members of the WooFPAK have. But it’s never been so easy to do before, and things have never just fallen away like this.

“Please,” says the deer, and it almost sounds like the regal creature is begging. “I need your help. My family is in danger.”

“Your family?”

“Yes. They’re in grave danger. Out in the forests near here, just along the rail road track.”

“And you need my help? How – “

“Instincts work in funny ways,” answers the deer. “Surely, you know that the breath of the wild can touch everyone, and that it can show you the strangest of paths?”

And Zarro does.

Instincts are a guiding force, even among the domesticated dogs. No human can truly erase their connection to the wilds. No human can truly bring them away from the place that they once called home – the open plains, the tangled forests, and the ice ridden fields of the arctic lands.

One day, Zarro hopes to see them, those frozen wastelands. It’s called Alaska, he thinks, and other dogs have told him stories of it.

Right now, though, he must content himself with the forests, and the trails, and this awful looking rail road track. Right now, Zarro has to accept that the wilds are calling, pulling him down a path that chases after a strange, nameless deer.

“Alright,” he mutters. “What can I do?”

 

Katelynn E Koontz – Author