The half moon had risen, but the overcast was sufficient to mask its location in the sky and reduce by half its illuminative power. The dog, dun as the clots he traversed, was dimly visible at twenty yards, discernible then only because he was in motion. I willed my eyes to extract from the moorland the slightest hint of brown, as relief from the monochrome, as a token of warmth and life in the bleak winter world I could feel but scarcely see.
Keeping the dog close, alternately cooing and trilling in the tones he seemed least likely to ignore, I bade him to hurry with the satisfaction of his needs. We are not wont to let him roam free during the day, in fact he spends a good portion of each day inside the house to prevent his running afoul of the lawless types, lately found in such abundance everywhere. The day’s schedule had not allowed for any lengthy outdoor privileges, and it was my belief that the dog had used his short runs to little advantage.
For many minutes we journeyed away from the house and on down the winding road, past a favorite deer carcass with but a sniff and a small scolding, all the way to Gilbert’s house, which was, as ever, deserted. The distance traveled was not a quarter what we often cover on a summer walk or even on a cold winter day, but I found myself under-dressed and unwilling to continue the outbound leg of our walk, that portion which most reliably produces defecatory results. I turned about toward home, whistling and clapping for the dog to follow, which he did, as he is as nearly perfectly behaved as a dog can be. The return home, being uphill, is somewhat more arduous, and little was said as I bent to the hill, still keeping my hands in my pockets against the cold, the dog zigzagging as usual, covering three times the distance I walked.
We neared the house again, the road leveling and the curves behind us, and I began to mutter my last reminders to my charge about the consequences of his most significant inaction. Suddenly, from the valley, the sound of the village fire siren rose in its haunting crescendo, howling at the top of its register in the stead of some unfortunates, then lowering to consider another yell. It cycled up again and on the third occasion of its cry I heard, from an opposite direction, what I briefly took to be an echo. Alas, it was the wolves! Joining their alarm to that of the siren! I looked to the dog, my only companion in this moment that seemed to me unique and wholly primal. He glanced at me, and in the center of the cold and howling night, he circled on the spot once, crouched, and shat.
* Yes, there is a wolf sanctuary a mile from the house!