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Fauve climbed out of her sleeping bag and grabbed her flashlight then went outside calling to Itzal, her dog, to come with her. Fauve was ten years old and Itzal was two. It was her birthday so her family decided to take her camping for the first time. She ventured into the dark woods eager to explore the unknown terrain. The further she went the more she wanted to find adventure, she cleared falling trees beginning to run through the woods. She soon realized she had gotten turned around and desperately searched for her family’s familiar tents but found nothing. She was lost.
“Itzal, what do I do?” she cried to her dog.
Itzal stared at her blankly not sure of what was going on but he knew she was upset so he walked up to her and gave her licks in an attempt to calm her.
“Thanks, boy, you’re the best but we have to find our way home,” she said seriously.
For a ten-year-old, Fauve was brave, and when in danger she quickly regained herself so she stood up, wiped her tears, and began her search for her family.
It was now morning, she had spent seven hours searching but still came up with nothing, she was lost and it was her fault. How could she be so stupid? You don’t just run off the woods without a way to get home but she had to remain calm and be easy on herself, this was her first camping trip.
“Okay boy, try sniffing them out.” she ordered her dog but realized the only trail he would be able to pick up was her own, “Okay new plan, we will rest here for now and continue our search tomorrow.”
“We can’t give up, come on boy,” she called to her dog.
They trekked through the wilderness for days, days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months. Before they knew it a year had passed since she got lost and she still hadn’t found her family but she wasn’t going to give up even if they might have left already.
“Where are they?” she asked herself.
Itzal started growling at what seemed to be nothing but when Fauve looked up she wasn’t ready for what came next.
“Stay calm boy, back away slowly,” she ordered her dog but he was locked on the bear feasting on a berry bush.
Fauve stepped on a twig and it cracked under her weight making the bear turn on them but Itzal was ready, he leaped and landed square on the bear’s shoulders sinking his teeth down into its neck. The bear threw him and Itzal let out a yelp as he hit a tree. Itzal looked helplessly as the bear stalked towards Fauve but a gunshot sent the bear staggering backward before it retreated into the trees.
“Thank you but my dog is hurt,” she said to the strange man but the man had already left.
She was alone with her dog once more, she kneeled next to her dog. Nothing was broken but he was bleeding so she tore off a piece of her pants and wrapped it around his injured leg.
“It’ll be okay, shh, I’ll take care of you,” she whispered to her dog.
Itzal whimpered as she implied pressure to the wound and soon it stopped bleeding, Itzal was safe, for now.
Another four years passed and Itzal grew alongside Fauve, Itzal was now seven and Fauve was fifteen. She was spending another birthday away from home. Where were they? That’s when it hit her. She ran down the hill and went straight to the camping grounds, they were gone, they left the woods and went home, without her. How could this happen?
“Itzal looks like we better find the main road and begin the trek home,” she told Itzal.
They found the main road and began the journey home but how had she not noticed the year before when she came across the camping grounds that they left. It was so obvious!
“How could I be so stupid! They clearly left, it’s been five years now and I didn’t even know they were gone!” she yelled at herself.
She just felt like curling up and crying but she had to be strong, she had to make it home, no matter what it takes she would get home.
“What do you think we should do?…” she started to say but realized Itzal had stopped a few steps behind her.
She looked closer and a cougar jumped out, hissing in fiery.
“Itzal run!” she yelled the order to her dog just as the cougar leaped at Fauve.
Itzal jumped in the way and gave a fierce growl warning the cougar to back off but he didn’t get the message as he lept at Itzal and they ripped at each other. Fauve watched helplessly as her dog was torn to shreds but she knew that she would lose him if she didn’t do something. She spotted a sharp stick and stabbed the cougar over and over until it lay still and lifeless on the ground.
“Itzal!” she knelt down and held her dog close to her, crying.
It was too late, her dog had bled out and she was alone for the first time since she got lost, she didn’t know what to do but cry. She cried herself to sleep beside her dog, Itzal was dead and he wasn’t coming back, what would you expect her to do? Stand up and say it was okay, no, he was dead and it was all because she stood there and watched as the cougar… The cougar! She looked over and to her relief it was still lying there motionless.
“I can’t get home without you.” she sobbed and held on to Itzal like she would never let go, “Please, don’t leave me…”
She laid there for weeks and only got up to get food and before she knew it a whole two years had passed and she hadn’t even tried to get home because she was so heartbroken. She closed her eyes and submitted to the cries threatening to take over. Then she felt his tongue on her cheek, she smiled and wiped away her tears.
“Itzal!” she shouted with joy.
Then she opened her eyes only to find he was still lying motionless, she had imagined it but she knew what she had to do. She buried Itzal under her favorite oak tree at the camping grounds and stood up.
“I love you Itzal and I will go home, for you,” she said to her dead dog.
She stood up and walked up the road until she found the highway. She had memorized the way to the camping grounds so she knew where to go. It was time to go home.
It was almost her eighteenth birthday and she still hadn’t found home but she wasn’t going to give up. She walked on the side of the road for months hoping she was going the right way but she didn’t know for certain. Then the roads grew familiar and she knew where she was now.
“I’m getting close,” she said to herself.
She traveled by night so it was cooler and this was her last night before turning eighteen but when she thought she was wrong about being close but just when she was about to give up she saw her house. She raced to it just as the sun began to rise.
“Mom! Dad!” she yelled as tears rolled down her cheek.
An elderly woman she didn’t know walked out and her anger dropped when she saw the dirty kid who looked like she’d been in a train wreck.
“Hey, are you okay?” the old lady asked, “You look like you’ve been through it.”
“W-Who are you?” she asked, “You're not my mom…”
“That I am not. What happened? You lost?” the old lady questioned but she wasn’t listening.
This wasn’t her home and this wasn’t her family. She stepped back and ran back up the hill and sat by a tree crying.
“I thought I was home! I’m sorry Itzal, I failed. I failed…” she sobbed.
An hour passed and she realized cops were talking to the old lady and they began to walk up the hill calling for her.
“Hey, girl! We just want to help!” he shouted.
She wasn’t about to go with them, she ran, she ran and didn’t look back. Several minutes later her legs had grown tired and she stopped.
“This should be far enough,” she said as she laid down to sleep.
She woke to be in the arms of a police officer. She screamed and tried to get away but the officer held on tight.
“Shh shh, it’s okay… I won’t hurt you, I’m taking you to where you can get some decent food in your stomach and water, then we can take you home.” he soothed.
She immediately stopped struggling. Home. She was going home.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
She had fallen asleep in his arms. She never really realized how tired she was until then, she woke to be on a comfortable couch with her parents waiting for her to wake.
“M-Mom… D-Dad… You're here!” she stuttered then shouted.
“Sweetheart!” they said in unison.
She hugged them and then they realized the dog wasn’t with her and looked at her and when her smile faded they knew.
“Itzal didn’t make it?” her mom asked and she nodded.
“Oh, sweet baby girl! I’m so sorry,” her dad said.
“It’s okay, he died a hero, he saved me. Twice! Once from a bear and then some man shot the bear and then again from a cougar but he… Didn’t make it the second time.” Fauve said sadly. “But I’m home and that’s all that matters.”
They were a family again, Fauve, her mom, and her dad but Itzal was gone and that hole would never be filled.
“I’m going to miss Itzal,” a tear rolled down her cheek, half joy half heartbreak.
“I know honey but your home and that’s what matters.” her mom said as they both pulled her in and they stayed there for a while.
A week had passed since they came home and her new home was amazing, a big backyard, her own queen-sized bed, but she had no one to share it with.
“This room is kind of empty without Itzal,” she said with a sigh.
“That’s why we went to the shelter and…” her dad said with a grin as she pulled a puppy out of a box and handed him to Fauve.
“Oh! Dad! Mom! Thank you!” she squealed with joy as she held the new puppy.
“He’s just for you,” her mom said smiling.
“I’m going to call him… Shadow.” Fauve said with a smile.
The family was complete. Shadow, the newest edition to the family, filled the holes that were carved out after the loss of Itzal but there would always be a special place for Itzal.
“Welcome to the family little guy.” Fauve whispered to her new husky, Shadow.
After that, the family stayed together but Fauve would never forget her adventure with Itzal and how he saved her when they were out in the wild, unleashed.