I am the leader of the pack. We are a good team, so none go hungry, but I choose first. I eat first and the others share what I don’t want. This is the way it must be, or why am I the leader?
We are settled here in a good camp. There is a safe waterproof cave, off the ground, and we can see on three sides. There we sleep, curled together for warmth and companionship. At the mouth of the cave is a sheltered ledge, and here we sit for much of the day. We can watch all that happens in our territory, snooze, play, and if danger threatens (real or imagined) we can launch ourselves to the defense.
Life is good. We spend much of our day at rest. We can afford to be lazy because we are well fed, and because we are quick to defend our home grounds from intrusion, human or animal, so we are avoided, feared.
It’s raining. It has been raining on and off for two days. We stay right inside the cave and smell the richness of the wet ground, hear the wind blow big drops from the treetops in gusts.
The wind blows a new smell, there is the click of rock against rock, and the pack is instantly alert. I am slower; roused by the pricking ears and the electricity which passes amongst the others. Three newly-adult male humans have just walked into the invisible (though well-scented) circle which is our home territory. I feel the pack around me tensing, moving limbs to readiness. The most vocal whines deep in her chest.
The young humans are probably only curious. Probably they have heard of this pack, which is a rarity in these times of repression of all that is wild, all that is in tune with the Mother. Perhaps they will satisfy themselves and come no closer. Certainly there is an aura of menace radiating from this cave, although our raised heads are not visible at the back of the darkened den.
I have not become leader of the pack through impetuosity. It is age which leads to wisdom, and wisdom which one needs to survive to old age. The pack, much younger, would be at them, but I hold them, quivering, with a low growl. I am a benevolent ruler, but an absolute one, and no-one moves.
It would be better if the humans went away, unknowing, unmolested, but now they come on, and I give assent to the attack. The pack charges in a scrambling burst from the den and spearheads towards the intruders. I stay behind: I am a cripple, and slow.
When the pack goes out for food, or to trot the boundaries of our range, the pack will use me as a base. As I steadily proceed they swing in far-reaching circles then come back, out and come back. It is lucky that the pack does not require speed to get food or I would be outcast. This pack has technique, and I am the technician!
The pack is rushing down on the humans now, unhindered by my ungainly paces, and the intruders are retreating, backing away, conceding the territory. I give a sharp command and the pack slows, stops, returns with many a backward glance. There is no need to force a confrontation when we have won. The young humans hurry away, also looking back to make sure the pack hasn’t turned again.
The pack returns to the cave, feeling proud, tails up. We curl together and watch the night come in peace, and then the dawn.
The peace is only shattered by the arrival of a vehicle. A man steps up to the cave mouth. I notice the badge on his shirt and keep the pack still with a growl. This I must deal with.
I come forward, sit on the ledge.
“There have been complaints about your dogs going for people passing your campsite,” he says.
“Maybe so,” I answer, “but we’ve only been barking to guard our territory.”
“From now on you’ll have to keep them on leads,” he says, looking at me a little oddly.
And the spell is broken, I am human again, so I pack the tarpaulin back into the station-wagon, and the dogs and I go home.
by T.L. Merrybard © 1991
As you can see, I was an imaginative person way back before I ever wrote my first novel! I think this was written back in about 1991, when I had indeed been out camping all alone with my own two dogs and another very nice dog I was minding for a friend. By the time I wrote this, it was obviously well past the time I should have gone home to be with the other humans!