The snow was still falling hard, and Rance feared it might swallow up his tracks before Teddy had a chance to find them, to follow them to safety.
Even as they had burrowed into their camp the night before, Rance could feel the wet chill settling into the November air, and he knew that meant a storm was coming. He struggled through an uneasy sleep and finally woke up for good before the first rays of morning light broke over the forest to the east.
He knew they needed to find a safe passage across the lake before the snow got too deep or they risked falling through what might still be thin ice. He also knew they couldn’t stay in the valley with scant little firewood or they risked freezing to death.
Yet Teddy was near utter exhaustion and might not make it through another day without a solid night of sleep. So Rance had dragged his own blanket across his friend, gathered what sparse kindling he could find, and dropped it near their makeshift fire pit. Teddy could build a fire when he woke up.
Rance didn’t know how long it had taken him to pick his way around the perimeter of the lake, but he had sat on the other side near the woods for what seemed like ages.
Now, as thin wisps of smoke twisted into the sky from the direction of Teddy’s camp, relief washed over Rance.
“I’ve been waiting for you, friend,” he barked, breath spilling out into a hot cloud in front of him.
He barked again, wagged his tail, and circled round, then started the trek back through his own tracks. They were going to be OK, Teddy and Rance.
They were best friends, after all. Together, they could weather any storm.