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Chapter Four

The Last Homey House

The morning slowly turned into late afternoon. Billy's progress was slowing, his feet and shoulder throbbed. The pain in his side was unbearable. He had to stop often now. He needed to find shelter and soon. Evening was coming, the sun dropping in the sky, almost as fast as the temperature. There was no place for shelter here with no homes or sheds or barns. He sniffed the air looking then began again. Billy needed to get off his feet and rest his shoulder. He walked a little further, there was a clump of cedars by the side of the highway that broke the relentless cold northern wind.

The dog laid himself slowly down next to the highway, took a mouthful of half frozen brown snow for water and surveyed the landscape as he chomped on it. Billy laid there for a bit then began licking his paws and picking out the snowballs that had formed between his toes. An air horn sounded, as a transport passed. Eight of its sixteen tires hit a huge puddle that had gathered in a hollow on the road. It sprayed the dog again and again and again with a wall of half frozen salty slush as each of duel wheels of the transport passed.

He dashed back into the ditch, road brine had splashed into his face and open wounds stinging his eyes, soaking his coat with the filthy mixture. It oozed down from his coat. He did not want to shake, but it was instinct and the salty mess had to go. Billy began to shake it free from his coat then stopped, then tried again, each back and forth movement causing unbelievable pain. He stopped from pain then shook a second time then a third. His neck would start the movement then snake its way down from his front shoulders to his hind legs and tail.

The thin spray that was left behind on the dog's coat began to freeze quickly. Catching his breath from the pain, he looked back quickly to see if another truck was approaching not wanting a second bath. The dog climbed and out of the ditch then limped down the highway hopefully closer towards his home. The sunset, twilight then darkness.

The traffic lessened, the houses became further apart. The cold northern wind picked up and the snow began to fall tiny flakes at first. Wind caused the snow to swirl across the icy crust that lay on fields carrying them to the edge of the roadway. Billy walked another half hour. There were farm smells in the air now. Smells of livestock and wood fires gave him the feeling he was a little safer, a little more like an environment that he was raised in. It had taken him all day to walk fifteen miles leaving the city lifestyle behind.

A tractor with its distinctive diesel engine that thudded was approaching from behind. The familiar sound caused him to stop. Turning he hoped it might be his friend, he looked up into its cab his tail wagged a little then slowly placed itself between his hind legs as it passed with a trailer in tow. The driver gave way to him a bit then slowed and came to a stop a few hundred feet down the road, The operator turned around in his seat looked at Billy through his rear cabin window. The Collie's ears picked up in some desperate hope that might be his friend. The operator turned around once more adjusting his cap. The tractor continued once again slowly down the road turning into a barnyard not very far ahead.

The cold north wind was picking up and the snowfall increased drifting now filling the road with snowdrifts. He lifted his head and sniffed the air and slowly began on his way once more. The snow that began to fall had stuck to his wet coat. With no dry hair insulating him from the cold air, there was no escape from the freezing temperatures.

Billy was at his limit it had been days since he had a full meal, a good sleep, or any form of comfort. He knew inside that he couldn't go much further. Something new began passing through his mind. It was a tap that was being turned off. He had never felt this way before. There had always been the next turn, the next hill, a handout, a barn he could curl up in, there had always been hope.

But feeling the feeling of hopelessness flooded the dog's mind. This hopelessness was the only sure thing he had felt in a long time. There was a strange comfort in this new feeling that was taking over, and he welcomed it. He wasn't as cold as he once was, and his feet had no feeling of pain was leaving him. His once noticeable limp became a stiff and slow walk.

There was a large drift of fresh snow just ahead. Billy looked behind him then to the side. He thought he would lay down on it and rest, just for a while and just go to sleep. He limped toward the soft snow, circled it a few times patting down the snow preparing a bed for himself.

The wind shifted, and in the night air he could smell a wood fire burning. If there were a farmhouse, there would be a barn to sleep in; maybe food. Peeking through fir trees and bushes, he caught sight of a porch light. He forgot about the snow drift, walked into a driveway a few yards ahead. He stopped at its mouth. Billy looked around cautiously as he entered it reluctantly, stopping every few yards looking around watching for the dogs that had marked their territory both males.

Barking began now coming from the farmhouse, he was being informed that whoever you are, you are not a welcomed guest, and best just keep going. Somehow they knew or sensed his presence. Billy looked back at the snowdrift bed he had just prepared then back at the home that was just a few yards away now.

The winter storm was getting worse, the dog squinted batting his eyes trying to keep his vision clear. The air was crisp, cold, and clean. He could smell bread baking now, meat cooking. He took a few steps closer toward the farmhouse. He raised his head, took in the smells that were coming from the old farm house. What lay inside was better than the sleep in the snowdrift A chance at a meal was too much to resist. He stepped closer, howls and angry growls from the dogs now. They were in a frenzy now, scraping at the door wanting out. Billy stopped looked behind him at the snowdrift wondering if it might have held more comfort for him than what was about to come from inside this home. His ears perked up, as he heard a female voice telling the dogs to stop and be good. The woman's voice was kind. He continued timidly being lured by her now as well. It was men that he had learned to watch out for.

He had made it almost to the steps of the porch. His paw just touched the stoop and stopped when the door opened. Two large Huskies bolted from behind it. Billy stood there motionless, he broke into a nervous pant and sat. Another light turned on, Billy squinted at its brightness. The woman peeked out from behind the storm door as she wiped her hands on a dish towel. She had been looking out the window wondering what on earth was causing her dogs to be so excited, hoping it wasn't another porcupine.

“You two hush now and be good boys.” The woman said.

She had not seen the collie limping up her long driveway. The dogs had noticed somehow. The Huskies circled Billy growling then sniffing then barked again around him. Billy didn't move, he had been trapped and he knew he would not be able to outrun them, let alone stand and fight. He just sat there defeated, making no movements waiting for the attack that was sure to ensue.

She looked down at the animal that had just entered her drive and gasped at the sight

“Oh my dear sweet merciful God,” Kaye gasped.

Her hand covered her mouth when she saw the stray make eye contact with her. The animal looked half dead, it was shaking from the cold staggering to keep its balance. She knew her dogs would not attack it, so she darted back inside. Returning with a parka that she had grabbed from the coat rack just inside, she zipped it up to her chin put on her mittens and hurried toward them.

The dogs stopped barking; to Billy a sure sign of what was about to take place. Billy gave in to the Huskies, he lay down hard on the icy covered driveway rolled on his back his front paw raised in submission as the two large dogs closed in. No teeth this time, but the barking began once again. The Huskies were not sure what to make of this intruder. Their barking had in no way caused the dog in front of them to run or become defensive Billy had confused them.

“For the love of Pete!- Dodger!- Benny! Stop now; I mean it!” She barked at them as she returned.

The Huskies stopped barking but continued showing their excitement through quieter means of communication, tails slowly began to wag. They sniffed him tail to head. Billy's body language assured them that he was little threat to her or their home. Dodger sat close beside side her just in case. Benny whined with the occasional high-pitched bark.

The young woman talked to Billy softly kneeling down in front of him, put out her hand slowly reaching in case her touch might not be welcomed. Billy licked her fingers softly, savouring the scent of food odors that were on them closed his eyes and laid his head down in the woman's lap.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

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