“Hello, Hunter, what brings you here?” I asked.
Remarkable, I thought, that the large, handsome German Shepherd dog should remember, and know where I was, or where to find me. Now, as the inside door to my office was open and just the screen door closed to the mild Autumn air, there had come a sniffing and scratching at the metal lower-half of the door.
The University’s English Department had assigned to me an office—an unusually generous assignment to a new and junior member—and it was on the outer edge of campus, which meant, on the fringe next to the woods. Only yesterday, I was showing it off to Jess, who had Hunter, her dog, with her. And here he was, back again.
I opened the screen door and he came in, but very restlessly. He sniffed my outstretched hand, gave it a quick lick, and began pushing against me, as if toward the door.
“You want me to go out?” I questioned, as if the dog might answer. What he did was to give a sort of whine and a stronger push.
“Where’s Jess?” I asked, going to the screen door and pushing it open. Hunter was passed me with a bound and out the door ahead of me. I followed, wondering where Jess might be; since he surely wouldn’t be there without her.
No-one was in sight; but Hunter kept nervously trotting a few yards ahead, then coming back. I decided to try following him, picking up my jacket, then closing and latching the door behind me.
We didn’t take the paved walk out toward the street. Rather, we went quickly into the woods. Hunter kept running ahead; then stopping, looking back, to see if I would follow. I did, keeping up with him the best that I could. At first, the going was easy; the woods, rather clear. Then it got harder; but Hunter pushed his broad body through, and I followed.
I was soon disoriented. There were up-and-down slopes. The sun was hidden by thick clouds. There were few leaves left on the trees; but even so, the woods were dense, and it was hard to see very far in any direction. I could only trust to Hunter, who appeared to know very well where we were going.
Then, suddenly and quite near, I heard a voice, a glad cry:
“Hunter! Is that you? Come, boy; come here!”
It was Jess. She was sitting on a fallen log, one leg stretched out. Hunter had gotten there first, of course; but as I came up, I could see that the ankle was grotesquely twisted. I shuddered with pain, just to see it.
“Oh, Jess, dear Jess,” I babbled, gasping.
“Don, I’m so glad—so glad,” she was saying, when I got close enough to hear—then to sit on the log, beside her, and put my arm around her.
“Jess, it must hurt so much,” I said, looking at the ankle.
“Not as much as it did; now that you’re here,” she answered. “Hunter, good boy!” She was rubbing his ears, as he nuzzled her hands.
“It was Hunter,” I said. “How would anyone have heard you, or known to look for you, except for him?”
I took Jess on my back, while saying to the dog,
“Hunter, you’ll have to get us out of here. ‘Home,’ Hunter. ‘Home.’”
Author Notes: After publishing 5 books, at age 102, Don Fletcher continues to write short stories, prose pieces, and poetry.