I’ve been trotting and I stop upon the hillside to catch my breath. I look across to the next hill and see the shadowed entrance to our den, eyeing it for any trouble that may have arrived during my absence. There are no signs of life anywhere close.
I drop the rabbit to the ground and stand panting. I’m trying to settle my breathing down so I can howl “hello” to my mate. Finally, I fill my lungs with the cool air of an early Fall night and let my lonesome voice drift out of my throat. All other noises stop for a moment as all ears listen to my call. I open my heart and tell the world that I long to be back inside our den, snuggling the muzzle of my mate and bringing solid food, that she will turn into milk for the pups curled at her side.
I can feel the ache that always comes when I’m away. The gnawing that tells me I have a home that is waiting for my return. This feeling always increases minute by minute until I stand across the small valley, reaching a distracting pitch right before I enter into the world that holds the meaning for my existence.
I pick up the rabbit and cover the short distance in leaps and bounds. I can no longer wait or put off my homecoming. I slip into the opening in the hillside and I can smell and hear the whimpering of the three pups.
I feel the nearness of my mate, though my eyes have not yet adjusted to the darkness. She nips my nose, to say hello, and although her teeth smart a little, I welcome what this “hello” means. It means that I have survived another hunt. It means that I have a place where I am always welcome. A place that I belong to, as it belongs to me.
I drop the rabbit in front of her and roll down onto my side. The puppies, feeling me near, scramble towards me, attacking with their needle teeth and covering my face with puppy breath. I inhale the sweet smell of them and know that I have found my place.
Suddenly, the puppies are sent sprawling and a bigger face appears before mine. Her eyes shine in the limited light, picking up every stray moonbeam that has found its way underground. She pauses for a moment to search my face for the look of love that she knows is there. I try to tighten my jaw and let out a low growl but it comes more like a laugh and she nips my ear for the sake of the game.
She moves her head closer and the side of my face touches the side of hers. Time stops as her heart reaches up and touches mine. We have but a moment of this peace before we are both attacked by yapping puppies.
I let myself be overrun and as I roll back on my back, I can hear my mate’s breath in her throat. I know that she feels the same things as I do. I know that nothing is as important as what resides in this hole we call home.