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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