Photo taken June 2018
I’m excited. I’m also pensive. I’m going to give you a complete story – yes, it’s short – one I wrote a long time ago, long before I made it part of my book, entitled Devoted to Dogs, published in March 2002. Devoted contains fourteen dog stories written for the young and old and everybody in between.
The story’s title: Sirius The Dog Star. ISBN 0-9720588-0-8 Copyright. No parts of this story, in any form, may be published without permission
Here’s the story.
The sunrise was beautiful. From far away, beyond the junction where earth and sky meet, great shafts of colored light – pink, violet, amber, orange, yellow, red – tumbled through the heavens. Their descent was so swift that when they hit the earth they exploded into dazzling colors of light and then arched, rainbow-like and bounced brilliantly across the whole of the sky.
Sirius sat on the edge of the world and admired the dawning of the earth day. He watched the colors slide down the jagged, sparkling mountains, race across the remnants of churned and silver-flecked glaciers, and roll over the lush green plains. His eyes followed the morning as it awakened the land, caressing it with soft, warm sweet fingers of light.
When the colors came to the edges of the great forest, they halted. Only a few strong filaments ventured inside, several sliding down into the silent green depths from the topmost canopy of branches, others slithering in from the sides.
Sirius rose. He followed the bold swath of daylight until he came to a high place in front of the forest. There he paused. Looking over the tops of trees, his eyes searching the land beyond, he finally saw what he had been seeking – the cliffs bordering the sheltered valley where sunlight could not penetrate. That valley was his destination.
Climbing down from the high place on which he stood, he crossed into the forest. Yet, though he merged his image in harmony with the dense woods, several beasts threatened him. One in particular, a magnificent saber-toothed tiger, tried to jump on him. So Sirius traveled, if not in peace, in watchful quietude.
At last the forest thinned. He came out into a clearing. In front of him stretched an immense wilderness, honey-combed with remnants of recent glacial gouging. He recognized the boulder and gulley strewn wilderness as neighbor to the sunless valley that was his destination. He walked on. perceiving that the wilderness was a sweet, bursting land, rich in vegetation and animal life, massed with bushes and springing grasses. Streams of water nourished the whole of it, each winding rivulet gushing nosily at the luxurious array of blossoming plants that grew along their shallow banks.
Sirius followed one of these streams to the topmost edge of the alley. There the clear water dashed down the steep slopes to end its journey in a deep, fathomless, black pool. He walked under the humps of the cliffs, searching for the cave that the creature, man, lived in. Man, who had been put on earth to master the earth, had secluded himself in this sunless valley and did not venture out into the wilderness.
It was almost dusk when Sirius came, at last, upon an obscure narrow trail, recent footprints leading the way through a jagged split in a bush-clad cliff, back into dank shadows. He smiled triumphantly. He had found man’s hidden cave. Quickly, he changed his form so he could wait in front of the cave and yet observe unseen.
He waited tirelessly. It was only when night had shed the colors of the day and when the air was heavy with black that a man came out stealthily, afraid of what the blackness held, yet courageously, combating his fear. Sirius followed as the man crept down into the valley, his feet hardly breaking ground as he moved cautiously over the moist grass, making his way to the edge of the fathomless pool where he planned to hunt.
But the animals who had gathered there smelled him and avoided contact. And man, Sirius noted, did not smell the animals that brushed close by him on their way to quench their thirst at the water’s edge. Neither did his ears pick up the sound of bodies swiping quietly against the thick-bladed reeds as they moved near him. Never did he see their almost formless shadows cross in front of him in the brush.
When at last, after an interminable interval, he caught a small slimy water creature, his hands proved too clumsy to hold it. It wiggled adeptly out of them and fell, splashing into the shallows. Discouraged, and realizing that his crashing had chased all that were in the area away, the man turned around and wearily retraced his steps back up the cliff to his cave. Sirius heard sighs of disappointment greet his entrance. Then, although Sirius waited patiently for further action, silence, as cold and heavy as the dark night, lay over the cave.
He opened his record book and wrote in it. When he had finished, he closed the book, put it away, and turned around and left the valley.
The next day Sirius sat on Canis Major reporting to those who had gathered on the great white cloud of wisdom.
“It is my belief,” Sirius began, “that man does not know of the wondrous powers he has bestowed upon him. He sees no reflection of them anywhere. Therefore, he is caught on the edge of the valley of darkness, where he lives with fear and loneliness. Until he can free himself from these obstacles, he cannot go out into the bright meadowland of the world and seek his rich future.
“I suggest,” Sirius went on, “that we give man a support which he can grasp and carry with him to help him realize and achieve his potential.”
“That we cannot do,” was the answer. “Man has many powers. We need not add more.”
“But man does not know his powers,” argued Sirius. “There is no sunlight in this valley and he cannot see the reflection of his greatness in its fathomless pool. He must have help to start him on his way.
“There are also gifts man does not possess which he truly needs to survive in the world of the earth,” pleaded Sirius. “For instance, he does not have the gift of sharp, sensitive scent as do all other earth creatures. Neither does he possess a keen ear, nor sight for movement. He has little ability for bodily stealth and drive. These are things that were not given him. These he must have to some degree to survive in the wild land of the earth.”
There was agreement from all who had gathered on the cloud.
“I observed a creature in the forest,” Sirius continued, “which I believe could be given to man as a helpmate. For a time this creature followed me almost as if he wanted to go along my route as my companion. Once, he even forewarned me that a saber-toothed tiger was tracking me. When the tiger appeared, this small creature held it at bay with proud whines and threatening fangs until I vanished from sight. It was not the least bit afraid of the tiger’s extraordinarily long curved upper teeth which were capable of slashing him into two with one downward sweep. I was very moved by this little animal’s attempt to protect me.
“Once he came quite close to me and lay down on the earth and turned on his back in supplication. When I left the forest and went out into the wilderness, he watched me and he appeared only as a tawny finger of color at the edge of the forest. I met him again on my way home when traveling through the woods in the black night. On this second encounter he preceded me along the tracks as if he wanted to guide me.”
“Let us look at the scroll of creation,” said a voice from the cloud. “Read aloud what is written about this creature.”
The scroll was brought and opened, and many lengths were unrolled before the voice read off the list of qualities created in the animal Sirius had met. Many qualities were similar to those of other animals of the world.
“Except here, at the bottom,” spoke the quiet reader, “lies a trait that was not blotted well from the entry of man. Its tracings now sit close beside this creature’s record on the scroll.”
“What trait is that?”
“The trait of love. It is the only animal besides man that has this label added so exactly right next to its name.”
“Love is the reason the creature followed me so eagerly,” exclaimed Sirius.
“Then let us give this creature to man to be his animal friend. He can lead man out of the valley of darkness. Man will look at him and be able to see, by reflection, the wonderful qualities of love and resultant strength and courage he has inside himself.”
The next dawn Sirius traveled once again to earth. He went directly into the green forest seeking the creature who shared man’s given trait of love.
But when he reached the grove where he had first encountered the creature, the earth appeared still and fresh as if it had never been visited by any living thing. He listened to hollow silence. But then, as he turned to leave to search elsewhere, a small sound brought him full about. Sirius knelt down. He caught his breath. Lying under a fallen tree limb on a bed of leaves and needles, he saw several balls of fluffed fur. Petting them soothingly, excitedly, Sirius gathered the small and tender bodies unto his arm. As he did so, he felt a nudge against his elbow. Without turning, he knew the soft, wet nose belonged to the creature he had come to find. Sirius set her young down tenderly, turned and outstretched his hands. The tawny creature met them and moved against him until enclosed in the circle of his gentle embrace.
If there were young, thought Sirius, there must be another large one. Turning slowly, he espied two burning eyes watching him from the edge of the clearing. Again, Sirius stretched out his arms. A deep growl echoed his action. Sirius remained motionless – his whole being intent and eager and beckoning. The eyes came forward. A touch and this one was also ready for man’s company.
Then together, in mute yet eloquent trust, Sirius and the two large creatures hurried through the forest and traveled across the wilderness, Sirius carrying the sleeping young while the two parents trotted along, one taking the lead, the other trailing.
When they reached the valley of darkness, the three stole soundlessly down the track to the entrance of the cave. There, on the stubbed ground, Sirius placed the little bodies still curled in slumber. The two large ones retreated as Sirius retreated. The three crouched in the shadows. Sirius rose from the earth to where he could watch and send down a slender shining ray of protective light until the young were found.
After darkness welled up from the ground and covered the whole of the valley with its night blanket, man came out of the cave. Sirius’ ribbon of silver pointed at the tiny creatures. Man drew back afraid of the strange light. His sounds awakened hunger pangs in the tiny creatures and they opened their eyes and began crying. Man stopped to see what lay on the ground. Uttering soft cries, he picked up the creatures. Other forms came out of the cave and blended with the first. Soon, they began cradling the little animal bodies, giving them new life. Sirius smiled. Man looked up at the widening wash of silver light in wonder. Then he turned his attention back to the tiny creatures. As he did, the two large parents approached from where they had lain nearby and made it known that they were friends.
Sirius stood guard in his place patiently. Spreading timelessly over the valley came the recurring pattern of day and night, inexorably repeating, until at last as Sirius was blinking from the brightness of another new day, the man and creatures came out of the cave.
Only now, the small creatures were no longer leg unsteady and helpless, but romped happily in the clearing. They jumped, they ran, they sniffed the earth, alternately lifting black noses into the wind that tumbled down from the wilderness and swept past them deep into the valley. In the midst of playing, their parents disappeared.
Suddenly, the young halted. Lifting their noses high in the air, they at first stood stock still. Then, with a shrill whine, bodies quivering in excitement, they leapt and ran upward along the track Sirius had once trod down, cup and over the cliffs. Men followed, sprinting, at times unsure and hesitant in their newfound strides, yet loathe to slacken pace lest they should lose sight of the swift footed creature friends.
Near the top of the highest rise, standing over a large antlered animal were the two adults, demonstrating to man how they could hunt food for him. They showed man that they could be his eyes, ears, and scent at the times his ability was inadequate.
Sirius moved down to the horizon of the wilderness where he could observe at better range. After the men and the creatures had eaten, he saw them climb over the top of the highest cliff. There, spread before them was the sweet, wonderful wilderness and the endless beauty of the sunlit earth. He saw their faces illuminated not only with reflected sunlight but also with humility and awe as they looked at the absolute glory of the world.
Clouds passed by. When they had moved on, Sirius could see the men hurrying through the green meadows where the clear water rushed and the herbage was lush. The tawny creatures, in turn, ran joyously around their feet, then rushed ahead, making trails for the masters of the world.
Night came. Sirius moved high in the sky. His silver eyes searched the glistening moonlight. At last he saw what he was looking for. The group of men was contentedly sleeping on a bed of grasses under the open sky, the tawny creatures circling them on guard.
At that moment, Sirius knew the gift to man of the creature of sight, smell, sound and love was the gift that would encourage man to have little fear of the future. So Sirius, forever afterwards called the Dog Star, stood in the sky, his soul tenderly twinkling until the wind quickened and the great shafts of colored light gathered beyond the junction where earth and sky meet and heralded the approach of a bright new day.