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Howard.

By , Anchorage, AK
Rick and his yellow lab dog walked along through the Canadian wilderness. Rick thought he knew where they were going but in his mind he knew he was lost. After a few more pointless hours of walking in circles Rick finally admitted it, he was lost. Rick never carried a beacon or phone or radio. Just a backpack. He had a jacket, matches, a knife, a hatchet and some food for the pair. “Well boy I guess it’s just you and me.”, Rick said. Rick had taught wilderness survival for years and he knew a few tricks. They had been lost in a valley. Around were very tall mountains and Rick took all of this in with a deep breath. He called his pup to him. Rick decided to try back tracking his trail, going where he came from. But it always lead him in circles. As the day turned into night, Rick gave up. He walked to some trees and sat down, catching his breath. The scene was beautiful, like an artist’s portrait. It was at the edge of the woods and had a view of the mountains and the long, rugged prairie. Rick started a fire and pulled out some food. He didn’t know how long they would be there, so they only had a small bit. Rick made a bed of pine boughs and his extra jacket. They fell asleep right away.
Rick awoke to Howard’s loud puppy barks. Howard was barking at a huge shadow when Rick woke up. A bear was digging through his backpack, ignoring Howard only making him madder. All at once the dog shoot at the bear with enough force do dent solid steel. The bear swatted at Howard but ran off. Rick sat, scared, barely aware of what just happened. Howard came up and started licking his owner. Rick didn’t fall back asleep, he was too spooked from the bear. The next day, the two were up at the crack of dawn. Rick decided to ty and figure out where they were. He pulled out his compass and remembered that home was to the East. So they packed up put out the small fire and set out East. The two traveled For miles but seemed to get no where on the endless prairie. Howard would occasionally chase a small animal but for the most part seemed very tired. There was all sorts of animals. They saw black bears, moose, caribou, birds, ground hogs and wolves! By the end of the day, They had covered roughly eleven miles. Something wasn’t right because they hadn’t hiked eleven miles out into the wilderness. They had hiked maybe six? Rick was unsure. They made camp and ate another small dinner. The food was already running low and Rick had no gun to shoot game. They needed to get out of there. And fast. They arose early, split a protein bar and set out again. This time, it was cloudy and rained off and on. It became very cold and Rick knew that cold plus wet equals bad things. So they stuck to the woods, under cover of the trees. They traveled much slower than rick wanted to but, they made progress. The rain let up around noon and they were able to travel much faster. The sun came out after awhile and it became a quite nice day. They had two protein bars left. Rick watched for berries and edible roots. If all else failed, they would have to eat insects. Rick felt like Bear Grylls from “Man Vs. Wild”. Howard began to whine because he was hungry. When Rick didn’t feed him, he set out to find some food on his own. The day began to fade and the cold night began to show itself. The pair did not sleep well and when it was time to awake, they felt like they got no sleep at all. Rick was worried about if they would make it out. If he would see his wife and children again. If him and Howard would ever walk down the street again... Howard was just hungry.
The day began very bad. As they began to walk along, Rick looked back. There were four or five wolves following them, at a distance. Rick knew wolves attack humans and other dogs then things get really rough. Howard saw them too eventually and started marking his territory, challenging the wolves to intrude. They began to get closer and closer. Rick pulled out his hatchet and held it in his hand. His knife stayed at his belt. The sat down for a break. Howard sat next to his master, protecting him from anything that may come. The wolves inched up and began to surround the two. Rick stood up. He was a large man, six and a half feet tall and about 230 pounds. He yelled and waved his arms and wielded his hatchet. His dog growled in return to the wolves, baring his teeth and raising his hackles. They were ready for a fight.
Everything happened at once. They wolves sprinted in towards them. Rick swung his small axe and hit one of them in the face. Howard was challenging two others and another two came running for Rick. One of them stared directly in his eyes and jumped at him. He caught it mid air with his arms, but it was heavy enough to knock him on the ground. The hatchet fumbled out of his hands, just out of his reach. Instantly, both of his attackers were on him, biting, ripping, tearing at his skin. He screamed and yelled and saw Howard take down one of the wolves. He decided to fight back like an animal. He swung one huge fist right into the face of a wolf, knocking it backwards. The other one continued to attack, viciously. It was much stringer and bigger than it’s unconscious sibling. Rick whipped his knife out and stabbed the brute in the side, over and over and over. Then he ran over to help Howard who was quite ripped up. But it seemed like he was winning Rick ended the fight by bringing the hatchet down on the bigger wolve’s head. He fell over, exhausted...
Howard licked at Ricks scratched face. Rick felt pain in every joint, muscle and limb of his body. He tried to move but cried out in pain. Howard was cut up in his face, but would make it. There were two dead wolves laying on the ground. The otheres apparently retreated. He sat up. Everything came flooding back to him. The fight. Howard. The wolve’s snapping jaws... He looked at the dead wolf. It seemed freshly dead so he hadn’t been unconscious for too long. He got on his feet and decided to start cutting up the meat. They had a dinner of lots of wol meat. It was very stringy but much better that some dirt covered roots. Rick skinned both large dogs and hung up their fur to dry. It would make a good blanket or maybe a jacket of some sort, Rick thought to himself. Howard lay on Ricks jacket, asleep. His face and nose would be permanently scarred. Rick had sprained numerous bones, pulled muscles, had a ton of cuts and he had one heck of a head ache. Rick wondered why they had attacked. He had seen many other animals through the past couple days of traveling. It made no sense. That night, Rick began carving a spear, in case anymore wolves decided to attack them. Howard’s face was horrible looking with all of the scabs and cuts and bruises. But if he hurt, he wasn’t showing it. His head stayed high on his shoulders, showing no weakness, like he could go and do it again. They made a fire and set up a bed on the edge of the woods. Rick had almost given up. He didn’t believe anyone was looking for him. He didn’t think they were going in the right direction. But if he wanted to survive, he had to keep trying. It was beginning to get colder at night. The light extra jacket was not as effective as before and the wolf skin was still drying. When it rained at night, they had no protection. They had to huddle together under a tree, trying to stay warm and dry. Rick made the decision that he would wait for some one to find them, they would stay in the same place. His clothes were in tatters, barely even doing anything. They had to keep and ever going fire going, it was very cold and windy even in the trees. They had been lost for almost a week now. And they didn’t know how much longer they would be stuck in the wilderness, fighting for life. The meat had to be stored in the ground from the wolves, or other animals would get into it. At night they heard the lonely cries of the wolves, as though they were trying to call to their dead brothers. The wolf skins were finally dry after a couple of days. He used on as a blanket and it was very warm. The other he made a very crude tent with. It was made from sticks with the skin over the top, to keep it warm. There was enough room for the two to lay side by side, but Rick’s feet stuck out the bottom. He decided to pack the little holes with mud to keep the cold breeze out. Howard’s face was healing up leaving little scars from the battle all over his face. Everything seemed to be going well. And then it didn’t.
Ricks feet were frozen. His toes would not wiggle. He sat up and bonked his head on the roof of the shelter. Outside, there were no birds chirping, no sun shining, no sound of the river flowing. It was pure white. Everything was covered with snow. Rick was not ready for this. He had hiking shorts and no socks with worn out boots. His jackets were still functioning and he had the wolf skins but he still had a lot of work to do, just to live. Rick used the blanket of his shelter as an extra jacket. Howard seemed fine, he wasn’t phased by the freezing cold weather. Rick smiled while he played like a little puppy, bouncing around. The small river was frozen solid and Rick had to chop at the ice to get water. Even then, it was freezing cold. This was going to be rough if they didn’t get out soon. Rick had seen signs of a bear then had not yet hibernated. He kept his eyes open and his spear at arm’s length at all times. He wasn’t taking any risks. Rick had made a very rough door from a bunch of sticks and twigs. It was much better than having nothing. Rick had to curl up at night to stay warm and to fit inside. They went about a daily routine of waking up, eating, checking the shelter, keeping the fire going, having a nice hole in the ice etc... Rick began to grow used to this. They had been out for two and a half months.
One day, Rick sat by the fire next to Howard with the wolf skins around him. He was eating his breakfast of boiled meat. It was not the most pleasant thing and Rick was growing very tired of it, but he needed to eat something to live, especially in this cold. Howard smelled the air then jumped up. Rick looked around. Seeing nothing, he went back to eating. Howard trotted around the fire, smelling the air. Something was up. But Rick didn’t see that. Until it hit him right in the face. A huge brown figure came charging out of the brush. It it Rick full on in the face. He was unconscious but the bear was ready for round two. It began to pick up speed as it barreled towards him again. Just then a flash of yellow hit the bear in the side, biting and slashing. It caught the bear off guard. It was stunned for a few moments then realized it was being attacked. Howard was fighting like a crazy hound with rabies. The bear began to fight back. Finally, Rick regained consciousness and speared the bear in the left hip. It ran off growling and making a big fuss. He did a small victory dance. The looked at the bloody yellow lump on the ground.
Rick kneeled by his dog. Tears rolled down his cheeks. He spoke in a whisper, “You saved my life. Agin.” Howard couldn’t stand. He was too weak. He whimpered to Rick making him cry even harder. He examined the wounds. They were deep and there was nothing he could do. The dog would die a slow painful death. He walked to the shelter. Without any words, he grabbed the long hunting knife. He cleaned the blade with his shirt. He walked over to his whimpering dog. He layed him on one of the warm wolf skins, right by his favorite spot in front of the fire. He whispered a prayer and with a heart full of lead, inserted the knife right behind the dog’s shoulder.
(a sad song would be playing if this were a movie and all’s you would hear is the sound of a helicopter. Rick would be screaming and running, waving his arms, in a dramatic scene...) Rick was picked up by the national guard helicopter. He was brought to a hospital and was treated for his wounds. He went back home to his wife and two children. “Where’s Howard, Daddy?”. Every time they would ask, Rick would hide his face and cry. He wrote a book about what happened, his psychologist recommended that to help him with the pain. His book is with a publisher and will most likely be published. He felt some of the weight lifted off of his shoulders but every time he saw a yellow lab, he thought of Howard and the day he saved his life...





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