July 11, 2020 | Posted in WooFPAK Heroes

That night, as the humans make what will be their last camp for the trip, the WooFPAK makes a plan. They don’t know how a bird might mourn another bird, but they know how a dog mourns a dog – that it transcends through the wild breeds and the domesticated ones, that you can hear a mourning wolf be echoed by the dogs in the neighboring cities and know what’s taken place.

And so, when the humans are sitting, gathered around a camp fire, and the dogs have been hooked to their leads, they make their plans. At Princess’s insistence, they will mourn for Acorn…just as they would mourn for another canine.

The moon creeps higher into the sky. There are few clouds out. The WooFPAK gather together in a tight knot, sitting so they’re all touching another husky. And then Princess throws her head back and howls. One by one, the other dogs join her, howling and baying at the moon, long, low sounds.

WooFDriver points it out to Chris, who’s quick to pull out a camera and catch it on film, recording the event for posterity – and to show WooFDriver’s wife when he gets home.

They howl, and they howl, and they howl.

When they finally stop, the sound carries, distant, picked up by a wolf, or a coyote. Picked up by hunting dogs, by city mutts. A series of howls swept across the land, carrying out further than the human ear can hear.

Jag asks, “feel better?”

“I do,” says Princess. “I feel like that was the right thing to do.”

It’s the middle of the night. Princess startles awake, not sure why at first. It takes a few moments of searching for her to realize why.

There’s a cardinal sitting on the ground, just a few inches away from where her muzzle had previously been resting. His bright red feathers are fluffed up against the night chill. “Hello.”

“…hello?” Princess sits up, fluffing out her own fur. “Can…I help you with something?”

Beside her, Jag stirs but doesn’t wake up. The humans sleep through it.

The cardinal shuffles forward. His voice is shrill but quiet. He tilts his head to the side, chattering his beak together. “Are you Princess?”

“I am,” she says. “Who are you? What – pardon the rudeness, but who are you?”

“Bounty,” answers the cardinal. “I was looking for you. I’ve been sent along with a message for you.”

Princess’s ears flick back. “A…message?”

“Yes,” says Bounty. He chatters his beak. He fluffs his wings. He shuffles his feet. “From Acorn.”

And the relief that crashes through Princess at the name is warm and sweet.

Princess flops back onto her stomach, stretching out so she can rest her maw on her paws. She belly crawls forward, getting as close to the cardinal as she can and says, “please, tell me!”

 

Katelynn E Koontz – Author

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