Deep in the young, impatient woods an old woman lived in a small cabin, alone except for her dog. She had lived there for a long time. Once the cabin stood in a field. Then she had a husband and children there. But now the husband was buried, the children were far away, and the fields where wheat had grown bore bramble and pine. The last time someone had walked up the path, it was to bring her a puppy. Now the puppy was a dog, and the path only appeared when rain filled it and washed the pine needles away. But the old woman had her high fence, and her rich garden within it, and lived well though her eyes were failing her.
Into the pathless woods, wolves had come. They stalked beyond the fences, but the dog barked his deep bark and kept the posts carefully marked and the wolves left them alone – all the wolves but one. He watched through the fence and saw the woman feed the dog, pet it, sit beside it. He thought that the dog had an easy life. He wanted an easy life like that.
One day a tree fell and made a hole in the fence. The wolf saw his chance. He dragged his matted fur against the brambles until it was straight and smooth and swam in the river until his smell was gone. Then he leapt over the fence while the woman was petting the dog and, as he had seen the dog do, he put his face under his paws and whined. The dog attacked but the old woman – who still had strength – called him off and dragged him inside and shut him in a closet while she befriended the new dog.
Whenever the dog tried to warn her about the wolf she punished him. After a time he gave up warning, and set himself to watching, following the wolf everywhere. The wolf didn’t mind. He was fed and petted and careless. He even took punishment when he had to – he could always leave.
One day the old woman did not come out. The dog cried and the wolf howled at her locked door but she did not answer. After a few days the wolf jumped back through the hole in the fence. The dog stayed while the garden ran to weeds, while he wore thinner and thinner in waiting. He stayed until the brambles wrapped the fences. Then he too jumped through the hole in the fence, out into the woods.
The woods were thick and sharp and he knew nothing of hunting. He nearly starved before he caught something, and nearly starved again, and again, until his instincts were all awakened and he found he could hunt at last. His muscles grew strong and lean, his fur grew thick and matted. He smelled of pine needles and old blood.
Once he looked up from his catch and saw a wolf, then two wolves, then three. They were all around him. He backed off from the kill and the wolves leapt on it – all but one, who sniffed him, then turned, drove the other wolves back, and let the dog eat. When the eating was done the dog left with the wolves, a dog walking as a wolf beside a wolf who had lived as a dog.
Moral: Nature forms strange Eddies at the Shore.