January 2, 2018 | Posted in WooFPAK Heroes

Jag leads the way when they go off the trail. He usually does. It’s one of his unspoken responsibilities – something that he does without thinking, that the others allow without question.

There are parts where the cliffs are sheer and difficult to get through. The shale crumbles under the humans hands, and the ground shifts under their feet. Turner’s Gap, on the surface, is a fun little trail to get through. But, outside of the path, of the trail that most people go down, it becomes a completely different world.

With the connector trail for the Pine Knob Shelter long behind them, and the sound of bustling traffic finally completely gone, WooFDriver finally seems able to breathe.

Jag says, “I think he’s rattled about that raccoon.”

“The rat?” Princess tilts her head to the side, sharp gaze landing on their owner.

Jag nods. He picks his paws up extra high as they veer into the forest, entering through a particularly dense spot. “People shouldn’t shoot animals if they aren’t going to eat them. You’ve heard him say that before. And that man – the one that shot the ‘coon. He was a police man, right? He’s supposed to be a good guy. I’ve heard WooFDriver say that, too.”

Princess asks, “do you really think it has him that worked up?”

“I do,” says Jag. “I just don’t know what to do about it.”

The mountain laurel was in full bloom. Little white flowers are scattered over the ground, the base of the trees. Yellow fungus grows along the bark and the branches hang low.

Chase rushes over to one of the trees, sniffing furiously at the ground. “Guys! This is it! This is the branch!”

Zarro lets out a bark of laughter. “What, are you going to carry it the whole way through this trail and then back to the car?”

“Yes,” says Chase, cheerfully. He picks up a branch in his jaws; the dried wood is longer than the husky dog is, and drags awkwardly on the ground beside him. He has to tilt his head this way and that way to try and keep it from catching in the brush, from knocking against the trees.

The forest is mostly level ground. WooFDriver and his companions chatter on as they walk, but they don’t really talk about anything important. It’s about the trees, the plants, the prospect of getting some footage out at the lake.

The trip is peaceful.

It’s nice.

Peace cannot last forever.

That’s something the WooFPAK knows all too well.

The forest breaks out into more stone, and the hike turns into a climb up the side of a rather steep cliff. Warm, brown stone serves as their pathway. Chase refuses to let go of his branch, and the wood scrapes over the rocks in a way that is completely on Jag’s nerves.

Gruffly, he asks, “are you really going to keep dragging that with us? Just lay it down somewhere, we can get it on the way back.”

Chase stops walking long enough to set the branch down. He says, “we might not take this trail back to the Jumbo Jet. And this is it, Jag! This is the perfect branch!”

Jag sighs. “Perfect for what?”

“I don’t really know. It’s just a feeling. I wanted a stick, at first, because they’re so much fun! And I was kind of hoping that I could get WooFDriver to throw it for me! But the more that I thought about it, the more that I knew I needed to get one! And this is it, Jag. This is that one!”

Jag is about to say something else, but WooFDriver gives out the call to keep them moving forward. Wagging his tail, Chase picks the branch back up.

The scraping resumes.

Jag sighs.


Katelynn E Koontz – Author