I have no name, but that doesn’t bother me. What is a name anyway? I live in the woods near the farmhouse at the edge of the village they call Pierzwin. The little girl lives in the farmhouse. She’s small, so small, and toddles when she walks. She is mine, this I know. I am hers. This she knows. The one who doesn’t know is the old woman with whom the girl lives. The girl must always beg for a scrap of bread for me, which the woman throws far from the farmhouse door, as though this would keep me away from the girl.
When I first saw the little girl playing along the edge of the creek, I knew she was mine to watch over. She was stooped down looking at a rock, the sun glinting off her flax-colored hair. I stood downstream, regarding her. The girl looked up at me and laughed. I can still hear the sound—like a thin, golden strand twirling up into the air. I walked to her and nuzzled into the crook of her arm. She laughed again, breathing sweet breath on me.
Today everything is different.
Yesterday as the day darkened, the little girl played alone in the farmyard. Snow started, then grew heavy, swirling from every direction. Instead of going inside, the girl toddled toward the woods. I watched the farmhouse door to see if the old woman would call for her. She did not. I followed the girl, a few feet behind her, whining and willing her to turn back.
She meandered to the edge of the creek. Looking up at the sky, she stuck out her tongue to catch the snowflakes, lost her balance, and slipped down the steep slope toward the water. I caught the edge of her skirt in my teeth but it did not stop her. The cloth ripped, the water splashed, and the girl cried. I leapt to her. She took hold of my fur, and I pulled us up the slope.
I tried to lead her to the farmhouse, but she turned the other way. I barked for her to follow me, but she kept her course, away. I followed. At the edge of the woods I tried to steer her back, but she sat down, shivering. I took the arm of her coat gently between my teeth and tugged, but she lay down and cried. I peered into the darkness. Was there no one who would come for her? I thought to run to the farmhouse door and bark, but I couldn’t leave her. I lay down, circling myself around her small body, willing her shivering to stop. More snow came. The girl slept, and so, eventually, did I.
At first light, I heard the calls. I nosed the girl awake and barked, again and again. The girl sat up. I nosed her again: call out, cry out. She sat mute. I continued barking. I sensed the footfalls on the earth before I saw the people. I ran to the men, then sprinted back and forth between the men and the girl, trying to tell them. They followed me. A man scooped the girl into his arms and carried her away. I stood watching for a few moments then, hanging back, followed.
The old woman ran from the farmhouse door and grasped the girl. There were so many people, so much noise. I watched, then retreated. As I walked into the woods I heard a whistle. Looking over my shoulder, I saw a man coming toward me. I thought to dash away, but something in his manner seemed gentle. I sat down and waited for him to approach. He extended his hand for me to sniff and touched my head. “It was you,” he said, “you are the one. Come.”
I walked a few respectful paces behind him. We entered the farmyard. The man said some words to the old woman. She studied me, then opened the door wide and with a sweep of her hand asked me to enter the farmhouse. I looked into her eyes for a moment, and then stepped inside to warmth.
German shepherd photo by Maggie Smith