A Man and his Dog
Men and dogs have been sitting by fires together for thousands of years, Rusty thought. Pete lay napping at his feet; the dog’s bushy tail wrapped neatly around its side. Rusty tossed another log in the fireplace and imagined himself as a caveman sharing warmth and the meaty spoils of a hunt with his tamed wolf beside him.
At his cabin in the Montana forest, it was not difficult to imagine.
There was little outside the cabin that resembled civilization –just a dirt trail that led through the forest to his pickup two miles away, down the hill and off the road (if you could call it that).
He reached down and ran his fingers through the husky’s fur. Pete let out a contented dog sigh. Rusty began to doze in his chair as the logs in the fireplace turned to embers.
Pete began growling, facing the door of the cabin. His master continued sleeping. Pete began to bark loudly. Rusty sat up in the chair, the blur of sleep wiped away.
“What is it Pete?”
Rusty got up and took his binoculars hanging on a hook near the door. He scanned what was visible from the windows. He could barely make out the forms of trees, all was merged together in the darkness, except for two spots of luminescence – the eyes of a lone animal watching the cabin.
“Easy boy, it’s probably just a bear.”
The dog began to bark again.
“Alright Pete, shush up. He’s not going to bother us.”
The dog whimpered.
Rusty went into the bedroom and knelt beside the bed. He felt around and pulled out his shotgun. He walked into the kitchen and opened the box of shells he kept on the counter. Empty. He went to the kitchen cabinet and opened his back-up box. There was one left. He loaded it into the chamber.
He picked up the binoculars and looked outside again. The eyes were still there, watching. Pete continued to growl towards the door as the lumbering shape of what Rusty knew was a grizzly approached the cabin.
This wasn’t the first time he had seen a bear at the cabin. Normally they would pass through and get a scent of “wolf” – in this case Pete – and go on their way. Rusty got his skillet and a soup ladle from the kitchen and began to bang the two together. He knew most bears couldn’t stand such a loud, clanging noise.
The grizzly continued towards the cabin, unfazed. Rusty felt his stomach clench. The only way in or out of the cabin was through that door. He thought of his rations in his bear-proof canister, hanging in a tree nearby, tied 20 feet above the forest floor.
“I guess he must be hungry.”
Rusty began to assess possibilities. He remembered his canister of bear spray. Why hadn’t he thought of that before! He rifled through his pockets and realized that he had left the spray in his camouflage jacket for hunting expeditions.
The bear was just outside the door now, making a low whuff, whuff sound. The animal stood on its hind legs and looked in the window. It must have been seven feet tall. With a simple swipe of its paw it smashed the window to pieces; its claws sliced through the wood frame and left deep gauges.
Pete began barking wildly and snarling in a way Rusty had never heard before.
The bear stuck its head into the opening, the wet nose inhaling the scent of venison both man and dog had for dinner that night. Rusty wished they had some left, so he could throw it out the window. But they had finished what they cooked.
The rifle leaned up against the kitchen counter with the skillet and ladle just above. Rusty picked up the pan and in one fluid motion smashed it down on the bear’s tender nose. The animal pulled its head out of the window and roared in pain. The bear sat on the ground and shook its head from side to side.
Pete continued running back and forth in front of the door barking. Rusty dropped the pan on the floor and lunged for his rifle. He tripped over the dog and fell into the rifle, which clattered to the ground. Rusty bent over to pick up the gun, just as the cabin door flew open. The bear pushed its way through the doorway. Pete launched himself onto the bear’s head and bit down.
Rusty sat on the floor with the rifle and pulled back the trigger. He aimed for the center of the bear’s face and hoped one shell would be enough. The explosive sound of the rifle going off inside the cabin echoed into the dark woods outside.
Pete lay on the floor of the cabin, bleeding from a claw wound in his side. The head of a 700 pound grizzly lay beside the dog, almost as if it was asleep. Rusty’s hands shook with adrenaline.
He took his jacket and wrapped Pete in it. The dog whimpered. Rusty picked the dog up and put it on the back of the dead grizzly. Then he climbed over the shaggy mountain of flesh and through the doorway; he gingerly took the dog from its back.
As he made his way down the dirt trail with the sixty pound dog in his arms, he wondered if Pete would make it. He was at least a half an hour from the nearest ranch.
“Hang on boy.”
When they reached the truck, Rusty opened the passenger door and put Pete inside. The dog looked up at the man, seemingly satisfied his master had not been harmed. Rusty got in and started the truck, gunned the engine, and took off towards the highway.