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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Bestie (05/22/14)

TITLE: To Live is Love
By Sheldon Bass


Though the sun blazed overhead, Smoke-dog’s world seemed dismally dark. His doleful eyes mirrored a heavy, broken heart. The big, tame wolf’s constant companion for the past three years was forever gone, killed by a rampaging grizzly bear. The elderly Shona Indian, Wankan had raised this intelligent canine from a pup. Inseparable, their friendship was legendary throughout the mountains of the Wind River Range.

Smoke now sat at the edge of an emerald lake, staring blankly out at the ripples dancing across the surface. They used to fascinate him. But now, thoughts of his and Wankan’s last adventure at this very spot felt like loneliness-bees stinging at Smoke-dog’s gut.

His head drooped and ears sagged from their normal upright pertness. It had been such a wonderful and joyous life when his best friend had walked beside him, but no longer. In the height of his heart-ache, it felt as if it he’d never again have a happy life—not without Wankan.

Absently, Smoke began wading out into the lake, envisioning how his master had playfully splashed water at him—how he’d ducked under the surface, initiating an underwater game of hide and seek. That memory too, worsened the hollow void inside. He continued venturing into deeper water until his paws no longer touched bottom.

Instinctively his legs began to dog-paddle, but he hadn’t the heart to make those powerful muscles exert any real strength, and soon he began to sink. At a depth of ten-feet, Smoke slowly drifted down into the murky deep. He felt the tickle of some lake-plant brushing over his face. He was holding his breath. But the saddened wolf had lost his will to live. And his melancholy thoughts brought nothing but agony.

What’s life without love?

Wankan had been a man of faith, believing strongly in living a life of sacrificial love. He’d taught that way to Smoke.

Resignedly, the canine slowly expelled his last breath of air and watched as it boiled up to the surface. A large striped bass swam near, investigating the strange furry creature making bubbles.

If only I’d gotten there sooner, I could have saved him from that bear—I should’ve been there. Wherever you are my friend… I can’t go on without you.

In slow motion the depressed Smoke-dog sank down, down, down, until his paws lit gently on the sandy bottom. He remembered Wankan talking about a place called heaven, where our creator God lives. He’d said that’s where good Christian people go when they die.

Maybe I’ll go there too? What did Wankan say about that place?

Recalling the conversation, Smoke could picture Wankan telling his twelve-year-old grandson, Billy about trusting Jesus so they could all be together again in a better life. When suddenly…

The wolf’s entire body tensed with a realization.

BILLY! I love Billy! And he loves me as much as Wankan did! If I die too, will Billy feel the way I do now? And the other town-kids… And Billy’s father, Tall Bear…

Smoke exploded into action as four powerful limbs began churning the water. He shot upwards like a rocket—hope burning brighter every inch of the way. He had a responsibility to those who love him, who still lived!

And Billy needs me to protect him. That’s what Wankan would want!

Ninety pounds of wolf-dog broke the water’s surface like a submarine propelled from a cannon. Swiftly he covered the distance to shore where his robust legs never stopped. He flew from the lake and over the rise, moving as a blur. A streak of wet fur headed west towards the Shiloh community where Billy and his family lived.

Of the many things Wankan had taught, one truth weighed heavier than all the rest. As he ran, Smoke could clearly recall that fatherly voice.

“We have an obligation to our loved ones. There’s great joy in caring for others, and in simply being there for them in times of need.”

Smoke found Billy sitting in a patch of grass down by the river with his head hung low and tears streaming. He too was feeling the heavy loss of his grandfather, the kind old man who’d shown everyone who knew him what love is all about. An invisible supply of strength washed over the boy as Smoke bounded up to him, laid at his side, and set his giant head in Billy’s lap.

“Oh Smoke-dog, my faithful friend. I still have you!”

Author’s Note: Teenage suicide is on the rise. “Smoke Dog” is a series of children’s stories, each designed to teach a single life-lesson.

The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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This article has been read 116 times
Member Comments
Member Date
CD Swanson 05/29/14
Powerful, wonderful story...beautifully written and expressed.

Well done!

God bless~
Robert Douglas Brown06/01/14
I really enjoyed reading this article very much! I love outdoor type scenarios and nature. You did a perfect job with this article from beginning to end!
Joe Moreland06/01/14
I'm not a fan of stories where animals speak and/or thing like people (nope, not even C.S. Lewis), but I did like this allegorical tale. Not just because it was well written, but because the life lesson that showed how selfish it would have been of Smoke-Dog to let his life end in that lake.

Some many who contemplate suicide have given no thought as to how horrible the consequences are to those who would be left behind. There is so much dwelling on the bad with so little consideration given to what is good in their lives.

A believe you can do a lot of good with a series of short stories if the others are as on-target as this one is.

Thanks for sharing.
Joe Moreland06/01/14
Wow...the comment I made above is what happens when I try to write something without wearing my glasses.

Geez...I couldn't have made more errors if I was the first baseman for the Chicago Cubs.
Judith Gayle Smith06/01/14
You smacked me right in my heart with this. I have attempted many times to end what I once considered my useless life. When I finally realized how my loved ones would hurt, I took my hurts to Jesus. He gave me a message I cling to daily: "Be still, and know that I Am God!" Thank you for the beautiful wolf Smoke-Dog; I will long remember this precious story.
Noel Mitaxa 06/02/14
Clever and thought-provoking material which will especially appeal to younger male readers. Great job.
Graham Insley 06/02/14
I think you brought your message across very powerfully and told it in a way that would appeal to your target audience.

I struggled with the idea of knowing an animals thoughts, but I'm not your intended audience. The reverse of this is that it may appeal to them.

I loved the way the intended lesson was brought across. I agree with an earlier comment that a series of this type could help a lot of people rethink the effects of suicide.

Do the series and I believe it would be very publishable.

Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 06/05/14
Wow this is so awesome. I had tears in my eyes. You did a brilliant job in getting the message across without creating any disagreement about if animals have a soul and can go to Heaven. They definitely can love and this ending was sheer brilliance. This is one of my all-time favorites. My favorite genre is kid's stories and often album writers make the mistake of having an adult solve the conflict, but you had the MC (who is the character the kids would relate to) resolve it himself. I loved this. I can't wait to read more in the series. Congratulations on ranking 11th overall (and 10th in Masters)! Happy Dance!