When Ruby, a wolf, gets separated from her pack, she must find a new one—or survive on her own
Red eyes sparkled in the shadows of night and injected fear like a shot into any animal that glanced in their direction. This proved true for the deer that was staring, lost in the eyes, wondering if her blood would be as red as the pulsing pupils. A furry, red creature sprang into the air and collapsed onto the deer.
It was a wolf. Alone. She had been alone for a week. The wolf hadn’t expected that a little run to clear her mind would get her lost from her pack. She chewed the deer in sadness and confusion, wondering why she couldn’t sniff her way back. The stars peppered the sky in dots of glowing life. So still, so quiet. It had been a hard week, but somehow she had powered through it.
“Ruby, why haven’t you returned yet?” her mom would be asking.
Suddenly, a beating of air sounded through the still night, and Ruby looked up. A strange metal bird with huge propellers on top created a whirlwind of snow, questions, and fear as two strange, furless animals emerged from it. Hoomans, thought Ruby. Her pack had talked about how dangerous they were and about the shooting object they used to poach: a gun. They were also horribly naked, without any fur covering their bodies. Instead, they wore fake fur to cover up. They each held a gun. Fear struck like lightning at her heart as she snarled, but one of their gun’s shots hit her in the neck with a loud, cracking peal. A sharp pain shot through her body, and she collapsed.
Ruby woke up to the sound of a voice. The two hoomans were chattering. “That wolf is a beauty—the reddest coat I ever saw,” one said.
“Agreed,” said the other. “And the eyes. Got a perfect ruby sparkle, like an albino. Except her coat is red too!”
Ruby felt sick from the swaying that was going on beneath her feet. A cage of cold metal bars surrounded her, and Ruby shivered in fright. How long have I been asleep? Suddenly, the pit of her stomach dropped, and a feeling of descent made her insides lurch. Then she felt a sting on her neck, and she fell over. Her eyes caught a glimpse of the gun that had made the shot as she closed her eyes. This is the end, she thought.
Ruby woke to a hot sun beating down on her red coat, which glistened like a flower against the green grass. She looked up at the sky; a soft blue lake dotted with clouds greeted her eyes.
She sniffed the air and a flurry of smells played in her nostrils, some of them new and unrecognizable. Where am I? Ruby wondered. She looked around and saw a forest and a stream beside her. She trotted over and drank. Cool, refreshing water slipped down her dry throat. This place is amazing, thought Ruby. But this new land hadn’t fixed anything about being alone. She still needed a pack. Ruby looked around and took off into the forest. A few days passed, and soon, Ruby knew the park well. She knew it was called Yellowstone, and she knew hoomans often visited here for a trip.
It took a little bit to get used to the heat. She stayed in caves at night. After a while, however, she realized that she had been seeing a lot of deer. Too many deer. The sun sank beneath the mountains as she traveled to Old Faithful, a famous geyser in her new home. She often saw wolf packs over there, hunting and talking about the geyser. That was how she heard its name and learned about its popularity among the hoomans. She never joined these packs. They’re just a gang of nutheads, she thought. They said things differently too. Humans. “Must just be a mispronunciation,” Ruby whispered to herself. But if she wanted to fit in, she had to say it like the Yellowstoners.
Soon after she had set out, a waning crescent moon sent a luminous glow across the hills. She soon arrived at Old Faithful and saw signs around the shop that was next to it. Become a Yellowstone Junior Ranger! Bike to Morning Glory Pool! Bikes are allowed on the paved path between the Old Faithful Lodge and Morning Glory Pool. What were these mysterious letters? Probably advertisements, like humans like to do. All of sudden, a huge, roaring wave of water shot up from the earth, steaming and boiling.
Ruby flinched as the geyser erupted, laughing and gurgling, churning and broiling at 204 ° Fahrenheit, until she saw a deer. She ran toward it just as the geyser’s water ceased; the deer took off into the forest. For some reason, it turned around, right into Ruby’s paws. It fell, dead, as Ruby swiped at its neck. She looked over to where the deer had suddenly turned and saw a young, grey, wolf, probably around four years old—Ruby’s age.
“You,” he said. Ruby didn’t know what to say. “I’m Ash,” said the new wolf.
“Go back to that last part. What are you talking about? You’ve heard of me?” said Ruby in surprise.
The wolf just stared. “Of course. It’s not like you see a red wolf just wandering around with no pack. You should seriously join one, but not with the morons that hang out by the geyser. Those guys are twerps.” Ash thought they were idiots too!
“Yeah,” Ruby replied. “My name’s Ruby, by the way.”
The wolf looked around. “Okay, Ruby. We should get back.”
“Back to where? You’re all alone. What happened to your pack?”
Ash chuckled. “I got lost, but I know my way back. Tonight they’re meeting at Den Four.” Separate meeting dens? I wish my pack were that organized, thought Ruby. “You could come with us if you want.”
“Really?” said Ruby. “I was looking for a pack even before I came here!” Ash nodded.
“Of course,” he said. “We’re a huge pack because we always give homes to the new wolves that are brought here. In fact, I was sent to find you. Did you know that we all came here the same way? It’s for the ‘Bring the Wolves Back’ project.”
Ruby was filled with pride. A pack, sent a wolf . . . just for her? It was amazing. “Let’s get heading back,” said Ash. Ruby nodded. Then they took off into the night.
All through the trees, black shadows followed them like the creeping panthers up in the mountains where she used to live. She was worried something would jump out at any second. Her thoughts were confirmed a minute later when a large, snarling, angry puma jumped into their path.
Ash yelped and leapt back. Ruby pulled back her teeth in a snarl and circled the puma. Ash gathered his senses and helped look intimidating with Ruby. “Back off, pal,” snarled Ruby.
“I’d say it’s you who should back off,” said the puma. “Wouldn’t want you to get hurt.” At that moment, Ruby sprang and locked her jaws around his throat. Howling, the puma swung wildly. Ash slammed into the puma’s side and bit but was kicked back. Ruby knew she had to use her special power. She unlocked her aching, bloody jaws and sprang to the side. The puma backed her up against the thick trunk of a white pine. She stared at the puma, into his deep soul . . . The cat froze.
Red eyes glared back at him with a killing stare. The cat suddenly snapped back to his senses and took a running start toward Ruby. She gracefully jumped over him, and with her hind legs, kicked him into the trunk behind her. She sank her jaws into his stomach, killing him. Horrified, Ash went over to her. “Nice . . . job . . .” he said with a wobbly voice.
“Thanks,” said Ruby. She had shown that puma who was boss! The pride from the battle enhanced Ruby’s healing of her sore jaws and fueled her legs to run to Den Four. Ash pointed out flowers along the way. “That’s phlox,” said Ash. “And there’s lupine, and ooh, my favorite—Indian paintbrushes!” Ash rushed over to a striking red flower.
“We should be here now,” said Ash. He looked recovered except for a nasty bruise on his side. As soon as they entered the huge cave, a silvery wolf ran over to Ash and nuzzled him.
“Oh, Ash, I was so worried when you didn’t come back! But you found her! And what happened to your side?”
“Mom,” grunted Ash, pushing her away. He grinned back at her. “Don’t worry, Mom, I missed yah. This is Ruby,” he said.
A darker-grey wolf with white paws bounded over to Ash. “My son, you’re back!”
“Dad!” said Ash happily. “This is Ruby, the red wolf I was sent to find. Ruby, this is my mom and dad.” Ruby didn’t answer. What she saw filled her insides with happiness—a huge pack, full of wolves that would help each other out, wolves that would care if she got lost, wolves that would send a wolf to find a missing one!
“Welcome home,” said Ash, smiling. “Do you like it?”
“I love it! This is a pack that will take care of each other, a pack that will stick together through tough situations, a pack that will care for every wolf like a brother or sister.” Just like mine, thought Ruby. She knew that she had finally, after a long, lonely, frightening journey, found her home.