The feet of her pajamas offered no protection as she trudged through the deep drifts. She had been crying throughout her ordeal and, when she lowered her head for protection from the wind, she almost missed a light piercing through the trees. As she instinctively turned in that direction, she heard a train whistle…

(Entries must touch on the topic in some way to qualify.)

Last time she’d seen her boy was in the bright room with the metallic smells. Worried, she’d whined, trying to alert the others to the danger she sensed. The boy’s man stroked her head. Hearing a deep catch in his throat that she didn’t understand, she looked up at him, feeling a heaviness she had no experience with. She whined again, then bent her head to pick up the rubber ball she’d brought with her. It squeaked when her teeth gripped it. She walked toward the boy lying so still. Jumping up, she rested her forelegs on the side of his bed and dropped the ball. When he didn’t respond she nudged it toward his hand with her nose. She had seen him like this before, sleeping, and decided to wait at the foot of the bed until he woke. She began to circle round to lie down, but the man said, “No girl. It’s time to go.” Before leading her from the room he kissed the boy, then turned away, clutching the ball tightly.

That had been in the time of falling leaves. Since then she’d searched for him in all the places they had been together. For many days she wandered the house from room to room, smelling his scent everywhere. She walked through the neighborhood, the park, along the old railroad bed. Each afternoon she picked the ball up from its spot on the floor and walked to the boy’s school several blocks away. She waited and watched, even after the children were long gone. Sometimes the man came with the car to take her home. She continued the search even after the snow fell.

And then one day, the boy’s man put her in the car and they rode for hours. She rested in the back seat, confused. When the ride ended, the man opened the door. She stepped onto the sidewalk and looked up and down the unfamiliar street. “Come on, Girl. This is our new home.” She raced through the strange house hoping the boy was there, concerned by his weakening scent. Finally, in desperation, she left the man to return to the house where she and her boy had been together.

For days she traveled along the roadside, stopping only to lick at papers she sometimes found flapping in the crisp winter air. When dark came she dug a hole in the snow and lay down to rest. Often she did not sleep. Instead, thoughts of retrieving her boy’s ball – his warm hands rubbing her fur when she returned it ñ relaxed her. When she did drift into slumber, memories of the boy’s soft voice blended with the howling winds and she would awaken, sure he was calling her. She trudged on.

Weak and weary, beginning to feel discouraged, she lay down early one evening in a field beside a thicket. After settling in the snowy hollow she’d dug, she dropped her head to her paws with a heavy sigh. In the quiet of the night, she chased fading memories of her boy. Something woke her just as the moon began to rise. Lifting her head, she pricked her ears, listening. Far off she heard a soft squeaking. The ball! She stood and listened again. Yes, her boy must be near. Without hesitation she bounded through the snow, stopping every few yards to listen. Squeak, squeak, the sound called her, growing louder. She searched frantically, knowing he was near. Standing alert she let her eyes roam the area until they lit on a figure nearby. She leapt in that direction, running quickly, then stopped suddenly.

Lying in his own hollow was a small boy. She sniffed him and felt a familiar pang. The squeaking had stopped, so she licked his face, warming it with her breath. There was a deep sound from the boy’s throat, one she recognized now. She nudged his small red body, urging him to move, to stand. He remained still. She barked and he rolled over. She understood the danger now, so reached for the thing he held in his stiff arms. With the thing in her mouth, she bounded a few feet away. He sat up then and reached for her. Instinctively, she tracked his scent toward the woods. He stood and followed as she led him back, toward safety and the light that pierced the darkness through the trees.