Shannon lifted her head and howled into the empty black sky. It was a sad, mournful song, shattering the cold silence.
Slowly the old wolf dipped her muzzle to her toes in a sort of bow. Her graying white coat bristled slightly in the chilly breeze. Snow surrounded her, looking like a big, beautiful quilt of cotton. Only her soft paw prints disturbed it.
She howled again. It echoed off of the nearby mountains, but again, there was no reply.
Shannon stood up and shook herself of the snow, which sprayed everywhere. Then she walked over to the trees, her paws sweeping lightly over the snow. She stopped and listened, but heard nothing.
The great, snow-topped trees loomed above her, as though taunting her, but she just walked on. She heard crackling in the bush next to her and flinched. Then she broke out into a fast-moving trot.
She trotted through the big cluster of tall trees, pausing once in a while to sniff around.
Finally she came to a small clearing. A small, wooden cabin lay nestled tightly in the deep snow; the tiny windows leaked long, eerie shadows onto the tree trunks nearby.
The door of the cabin swung open to reveal a young woman with curly, chestnut-red hair, and a big moose-skin coat. She walked out and shut the door quietly behind her.
Shannon paused for a second before coming out of the trees to greet the woman. Her brilliant green eyes darted around.
"Hi Shannon, are you hungry?" The woman smiled and pulled out a small can of dog food, which Shannon eyed. The woman laughed. Then, with her mitten, she dug a shallow hole and dumped the contents of the can into it.
"Eat," she commanded, and gave Shannon one more pat before turning back to the cabin. Shannon dipped her head and started to eat.
Once she was finished, Shannon walked back into the trees and pawed the snow, checking how soft it was. Then she lay down, tucked her nose under her tail, and with a sigh, closed her eyes. Instantly, she was asleep.
* * *
Shannon was awakened by the barking of some young, energetic dogs. Heaving herself to her feet, Shannon yawned. Then she trotted back to the same clearing as the night before, taking great, sweeping strides. She knew exactly what was going on, and she did not want to miss it.
* * *
When Shannon reached the small clearing, she was met by the woman who had fed her the night before. In the woman's hand was a dog-mushing harness.
"Shannon, do you want to go for a trail run?" the woman asked kindly Shannon wagged her tail before dropping her head so that she could be harnessed.
Just as the woman was finishing up with Shannon a short and rather stocky man stepped out of the cabin. His eyes focused on Shannon right away.
"Smart dog ye got there Kayla," he said, his blue eyes twinkling merrily.
"She isn't a dog, John, she's a wolf. Caught her myself, as a pup, I did. But yeah, she's very smart and tame all right." Kayla hooked Shannon up to the rest of the team, and snapping the last piece into place, waved at the man.
"I'll be back before dark; you can count on that. I'm an experienced musher of course. Well, bye." Kayla waved at the man. Then she bent over to make sure everything was packed, just in case. Shannon tossed her head restlessly. She loved trail runs, as long as getting ready didn't take too long.
Most of the dogs in harness were just getting exercised, and knew the trail well. Only one dog didn't. Roxy was a dark gray husky with a pure white mask on her face. She was fairly young, new to the trail, a little bit skittish, and was extremely afraid of thunder and lightning.
This was who Shannon was placed beside. She was not extremely fond of the idea of running with a pup, and was ready to teach Roxy that, except Kayla called upon them to go.
Shannon trotted along, enjoying the beautiful scenery The trees that had loomed so high above her the night before, now seemed welcoming. The snow now sparkled as the strong, early morning sun shone down upon it, creating a dazzling sight.
Shannon wished her partner, Mendae, could see it. Like her, Mendae was a wolf, caught and tamed by Kayla. She was, like most wolves, gray. But unlike most wolves, she had one blue eye, and one green.
Recently, Mendae had taken a bad fall and broke her paw. The vet said she would never walk again, but she proved him 'wrong. He said she would never be a good sled dog anymore, but Kayla hoped she could prove him wrong again, but so far she hadn't.
* * *
Roxy leaned over and bit Shannon's ear playfully Shannon gave a warning growl and bared her gleaming, white teeth. Roxy whined.
"Shannon, Roxy, break it up! You guys are supposed to get along!" Kayla jiggled the sled ropes, trying to catch the team's attention. The dogs threw all of their weight into the chest pad of the harness. The sled creaked as it slowly started to move. It bounced along the trail, hitting many bumps as it gathered speed.
Roxy began to bark excitedly as the dogs fell into an easy rhythm. Shannon just pushed harder into her chest pad, her paws turning up small clouds of snow. It seemed as though she was trying to get away from the pup, even though she knew perfectly that she couldn't.
"Keep going! You guys are doing great! Go!" Kayla called, trying to encourage the team into going faster. A gust of wind blew softly, tossing Kayla's long red hair this way and that.
The team trotted on, through the winding trail that seemed almost endless. Soon the wind started to pick up, howling as it galloped throughout the trees. Roxy bolted, dragging Shannon and the team with her.
Off they went, racing at top speed across the snow as Kayla fought frantically to get them under control. Shannon tried to slow them by hanging back and dragging her feet, but the team was too powerful, and their speed too great, to make a difference.
They whipped around a corner and came to a fork in the trail, where they slowed ever so slightly, before the lead dog jerked right. A bolt of lightning split the sky, and a loud clap of thunder soon followed. Roxy went even faster, her heart hammering in her chest.
* * *
The dogs soon reached a big, frozen lake, which they had to either cross or go back. Immediately Shannon put on the brakes. She was not going over it. She thrust her head up and sat down. The dogs tried to pull her, but they couldn't, they were just too tired. They finally stopped, a confused look on each of their furry faces. Kayla jumped off the sled and unhooked a trembling Roxy She dragged her over to the sled where she lifted the dog up and in. She strapped her in tightly, then turned to Shannon.
"You wanna lead girl? 'Cause you don't have a partner." Kayla looked at Shannon, who wagged her tail. Since Shannon had been a lead dog when she was younger, Kayla thought it a good idea. So she shuffled the team until they were prepared to move again.
"Lead the way Shannon," was all Kayla said.
Shannon gave a mighty thrust with her hind legs, pulling the other dogs into action. The sled began to move slowly over the ice, which groaned under the weight. Shannon stopped uncertainly, and sniffed the air.
"Go on, it's OK."
Shannon stepped gingerly back onto the ice. She tried to step lightly, but the groaning continued.
Suddenly an ear-splitting roar shattered the almost silent air. The ice had collapsed and sunk into the freezing cold water beneath.
A scream slashed the air, making Shannon cringe. She looked back in time to see the sled tip towards the gaping hole. Kayla tumbled into the water, a wave of water crashed up against the edge of the hole. Shannon watched in fright, her heart racing. She bent over and gnawed on her harness cord. But there was no progress, so she barked at the dog behind her to help. With both dogs chewing on the harness cord, it snapped in no time.
Shannon, wasting no time, plunged into the icy water. The cold gripped her like cold claws, ripping at her flesh. She swam over to Kayla, who was starting to fall unconscious, and bit into the soft, moose-skin coat that covered her. Kayla's red hair fanned out around her in the water as she started to sink. As Shannon dragged her closer to the edge of the hole, Roxy too broke free of the harness and into the water. But being a pup, she did not know how to swim and sank quickly Shannon tried furiously to catch the attention of the dogs by barking, but it was muffled by the coat. Luckily Keenia heard her and started to chew on his harness cord. Soon he was free and dashed towards Shannon. He grabbed part of the coat and started to pull, but he found that she was too heavy, and called for another dog to help. Nanook took up the challenge, and puffed out his chest. Then he too grabbed hold of the jacket, and together they dragged Kayla up onto the safety of the sled. Kayla shivered, then was still, only her chest moved as she breathed. Then her eyelids flickered.
"Shannon . . . where's Shannon? And . . . Roxy? Where . . ." Kayla's head dropped and her eyes rolled. The dogs tried to get close to her so that they could keep her warm.
Shannon splashed over to Roxy, who had sunk, her head ducked under the water. Shannon took a deep breath and dived down to meet Roxy, who was floating in and out of consciousness. Shannon bit down into Roxy's neck and dragged her upwards. Roxy started to move, her legs fighting to get her to oxygen, which she was almost out of Shannon too, was running out of air, and tried frantically to get Roxy and herself up, but then her muscles froze, and wouldn't move. She let go of Roxy and began her descent down to the bottom of the lake, never to be found.
Only Roxy emerged when the surface of the water broke. She scrambled up onto the ice. One of the dogs managed to break away from Kayla and the harness. He gave two quick barks and darted away and into the great forest of trees.
* * *
The dogs lay huddled against Kayla quietly until the dog came back, and with him was a man who all of the dogs knew and loved. It was Brendan, Kayla's husband. He ran as fast as possible, tears stained his face as he looked desperately at Kayla, willing that she be OK.
"Good dogs, that's it. OK, off now. Good dogs." Brendan looked Kayla over. She was stone cold, but still alive. Without the dogs' help, she would have died.
Brendan saw Roxy, who was looking like a drowned rat, and sighed.
"Did you save Kayla? Good girl Roxy! Good girl!" He stroked her.
"No, Shannon . . . Shannon did . . ."
Brendan spun around. Kayla was trying to keep conscious and was watching him.
"Is she . . . dead? Where is she?"
Brendan sighed. "I don't know sweetie, but we have to get you home, and fast." He bent over and picked her up.
"Come," he commanded the dogs. Then they walked together into the trees.
* * *
Once they got to the cabin, Brendan immediately took care of Kayla. He ran a warm bath for her.
"I'll go and feed the dogs. Will you be OK by yourself? I mean, I won't take too long," he asked Kayla, frowning. Kayla nodded.
* * *
That night, a silvery mist hung in the air. Brendan called the dogs and dumped the food into their dishes. He looked sadly at Shannon's empty dish, and muttered, "You saved my baby, but I couldn't save you. I'm sorry."
The wind blew softly, and he looked up. There, outlined by the mist, stood Shannon, and the silver mist swirling about her paws.