The maple and evergreen woods is not deep. Woofer is gaunt and tired, but he easily follows the scent of his mate, Mother, hoping to find her well with at least one pup. He crunches across light snow laden with pine needles and dried maple leaves. He knows some of the litter of five pups have been captured by man, stolen from Mother’s abandoned nest tangled around the fence enclosing the lighthouse keeper museum building.
Darkness is falling. There are no lighted windows in the building. Woofer has decided there is no point in investigating the building’s enclosed entryway for an open door, or window, that might accommodate his entry to search inside for his missing pups. Woofer knows from experience that man has locked the building for the night.
With Mother’s scent strong in his nostrils, Woofer stops at the snowy thicket marking the middle of the woods growing between the Marblehead Lighthouse State Park grounds and the highway skirting Marblehead Peninsula. There is little daylight left, and he suddenly loses Mother’s scent. He scans the thick evergreens dimly lighted by the thin blanket of snow. He fears Mother is moving, unaware that it is he who seeks her. She must be called to, for she instinctively will be moving her offspring away, also, from what she may perceive to be danger.
Woofer knows calling out will be a dangerous choice that could alert any nearby humankind, but he must do so to identify himself to Mother if she is down wind of him. She easily could have heard his leaf-rustling footsteps and feared a predator.
Woofer calls softly: “Woooof.”
Glancing behind himself to be certain he is alone, Woofer hesitates and listens to distant humankind highway traffic and a soft swirl of wind that noisily disperses the brown leaves and needles over the patchy areas of snow around him.
He calls again: “Woooof.” There is no answer; neither are there any disturbing sounds near him. He raises his pitch to repeat his single-word call: “Woooof.”
Silently, Woofer surveys his surroundings: tall evergreens, bare maples, patches of pine needles, snowy dry leaves sliding and hopping across the surface of the woods at every breath of wind.
Then he hears it. A tiny, soft gift of sound floats toward him. He listens intently. Hope springs to his heart. Yes! There it is! “Woo-woo-woo.” A small voice and a giant remembrance floods Woofer’s head. “Woo-woo-woo.” It is his son! His first-born of a second litter — his first living son!
“Woof! Woof!” Woofer shouts joyously.
“Woofer? Is it really you? I’m here!” calls out Mother.
Woofer’s heart swells within his chest as he hears his mate’s cry. “Mother! Yes! It’s me! Where are you?”
“Here!” crys Mother, leaping from the underbrush yards off to Woofer’s right. From behind her, peeks a tiny head, then another.
Two! Woofer rejoices with a yelp. Two pups safe!
“Woo-w00-woo,” calls his wide-eyed, first-born son.
+++++Credit: Photos and Short Story from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg