Days were becoming longer, nights still bitter cold, and loneliness was not so bad. Shepherd’s thoughts were dominated by Nan, a radio station for the valley, and Amarok.
Trap’s mind seemed to be elsewhere, mating, with the pack, hunting, killing, and eating. Pal’s mind seemed to be on guarding the camp, playing, and wondering what it might be like to have Trap’s instincts.
A day came, near the end of the harsh winter. It was the day Shepherd wished would never happen. It was an average day filled with the usual chores and play times with Pal and Trap.
At the end of the day the sun’s glow could still be seen like a fire in another room. Pal and Trap became restless and stood by the door begging to be let out. Shepherd let them out and they stood on the porch looking to the west beyond the meadow and into the woods.
Shepherd went back inside, slung on his parka, and grabbed his rifle.
He stepped onto the porch. Pal and Trap sprung toward the open meadow. They leaped and sprinted through the snow like chasing a rabbit. Shepherd saw a large imposing figure in the meadow. It slowly moved toward the cabin. He heard Pal and Trap growl angrily. They circled it like stocking a kill. The figure dropped a huge bear-like covering. Shepherd ran towards it. The figure hoisted a rifle to its shoulder and fired one round at Pal. Trap charged furiously and pounced on the figure.
“Trap!” Shepherd bellowed. “Stop! Heel!”
Trap retreated to Shepherd’s side. He walked over to Pal laying in the snow.
Blood oozed from a wound in Pal’s chest. He lifted his head and forced a whimper.
Shepherd laid beside Pal and stroked his head. His instincts felt death was near. “Does it hurt, boy? It will be over ole Pal. I love you ole Pal. Just sleep for me, just sleep.”
Pal moved his head close to Shepherd’s. Pal licked his forehead. His head dropped.
Shepherd let out a terrible cry and Trap howled like he was the last wolf remaining on earth.
Shepherd grabbed his rifle and held it to the mysterious figure that shot Pal. Shepherd’s eyes widened with surprise – it was Dennis.
“You killed my dog,” Shepherd said. He aimed the rifle at Dennis.
“No, no,” Dennis begged and fell to his knees. “Please don’t kill me. I will get you another dog.”
“There is no other dog,” Shepherd said.
“You will go to prison,” Dennis said.
“On whose word, Trap’s?” Shepherd said. “You came out here to the kill me or frighten me away with the Amarok stuff, we fought, you and Pal lost. Score one for you and score one for me.”
“Dear god, please, no,” Dennis cried.
Shepherd aimed. “One to the head. You won’t know it. That’s all the pity I can give you.”
Shepherd was about to squeeze the trigger and Trap latched on to the barrel of the rifle with his teeth and pulled it a away.
Shepherd fell to his knees and cried profusely.
“Shepherd,” Dennis said. “I’m sorry.”
“Just go,” Shepherd said. “Leave before either me or Trap has a change of heart.”