The cold settled in like a being trapped in a cold steel vault. Nothing moves. Shepherd heard the sound of his heart beat, bones in his vertebrae crack, and joints grind when he moved. The sound of snow falling from the branch of a tree and on to the roof of the cabin sounded like a massive avalanche.
There were times outside he sat on the stump used to split his fire wood and listened to nothing. Occasionally the sound of wolves in the distance broke the monotony of nothing. The screech of an owl and the cry of a rabbit signaled the brutality of the abhorrence of the cold in the wilderness.
Pal occasionally ventured into the woods and quickly returned. He was growing and resisting the spirit to wander. Long ago the spirit to wander had been bred from him. He needed Shepherd and Shepherd needed him.
There were times when Pal watched over the camp like a loyal sentinel.
“You don’t know it little fellow,” Shepherd said to Pal, “but you are eager for your first kill. You want to prove your worth and loyalty. It will come, but until then enjoy your puppy-hood.”
Shepherd tossed a stick. “Fetch!” And Pal retrieved the stick.
“Good dog, you are a most excellent dog.”
There was a noise in the woods just to the north of where Shepherd split the wood: a peculiar sound. Shepherd and Pal looked hard into the woods. And through the trees a timber wolf appeared. He moved cautiously, low and snarled. Pal, about a third less the size of the wolf, assumed the same posture. They moved close.
“You brave little pup,” Shepherd said to himself, “You will not back down. He will chew you up.”
Pal moved back as if to say, ‘don’t come any further or pay the consequences.’
The wolf looked up at Shepherd.
Shepherd slowly brought the rifle to his shoulder and took aim.
The wolf backed down and trotted back into the trees.
Pal charged forward and barked at the retreat.
“Pal! Come here. Leave him with some dignity.”