BLACK WOLF


BLACK WOLF

Shengliver’s Note: This entry is adapted from a Chinese story, which was printed in the Xinhua Daily Telegraph on May 18, 2009. The original version is co-authored by Li Keyong and Chu Guoqiang.

 

Mr Yuan Yusong never expected an animal would have such an impact on him.

 

After the 5/12 earthquake, which struck western Sichuan Province, Mr Yuan and his seven co-workers were trapped in the mountains for 17 days. During the time 5 kilos of rice was what they had to survive on.

 

Never will he forget those hellish days, his comrades or a dog called Black Wolf. The first time Mr Yuan sighted the dog, he and his comrades were searching through the scarred terrains for a way out.

 

It was Day One after the quake, May 13th, 2008. Mr Yuan and his fellows, injured, hungry and fatigued, were trying to pick their way out of a labyrinth of mountains.

 

Around 10 am, they came across a gang of miners, who were stuck in the mountains, too. The dog was trailing the miners. None of them had any idea when and where the beast had started to follow them at their heels.

 

After a chat, the two parties decided to team up. Indifferent to the creature, they did not welcome it; nor did they drive it off. The dog was a potential danger, they thought, although it did not look malicious at the moment. So the creature continued to linger behind the humans, keeping some distance though.

 

Somewhere on the way suddenly the dog stopped and barked furiously. The people got startled. They were pondering what was going wrong when an aftershock came on. All of them stopped where they were and squatted down. When it was over, the humans got friendlier to the dog. They realised that the creature could alarm them should another tremor strike.

 

Sometime in the afternoon, the dog barked again, this time vehemently, front paws stretched ahead and body taut. His human companions froze and waited where they were. It was less than a minute before a stronger tremor struck. The mountains around were trembling, ground shaking and rocks tumbling down. The footpath in front of them was engulfed instantly by a landslide.

 

Mr Yuan and his fellow survivors were grateful to the creature for the timely warning. The dog was black and large, so they called him Black Wolf.

 

Black Wolf was smart. It did not take him long to learn that Black Wolf was his name. He would come over at a call. When his human companions were eating, he was given some cooked rice. He would lick all the grains off the bowl before he went away and lay down quietly in a corner.

 

There were less edibles for Black Wolf than for the people. He could not eat rice raw; nor could he swallow the herbs that his human friends picked and cooked. As a result, he was fading fast.

 

On the night of May 13th, it started to rain. It was chilly. The wretched beings, nowhere to take shelter, got soaked through. The humans nestled against each other. In the beginning Black Wolf was lying away from the humans. Later on, gradually, he inched up and curled next to the legs of his human pals.

 

On this miserable night, Mr Yuan could not help remembering his family in his hometown. Were they still alive? What if he did not luck out? Fear and grief and helplessness gripped him. Right at this moment, he felt Black Wolf lying next to him, and warmth from the dog warmed him up. He began to take Black Wolf, the dog, as a pal in the same boat.

 

On the 14th, Black Wolf started to lag, and the humans had to stop from time to time for him to catch up. Someone suggested having the dog slaughtered for food. His idea met strong opposition from the others. Mr Yuan turned to the guy, looked him in the eye and growled, “Black Wolf is a life!”

 

That night, they lit a campfire and clustered around. They had Black Wolf lie close to the flames. The dog was so feeble that once he lay down he did not stir. Mr Yuan noticed that Black Wolf’s eyes were not as clear as before, with some yellowish liquids in them.

 

Day 4 after the quake, they came to a brook around midday. In front of them rose a precipice, about 20 metres high. The stronger ones clambered up to the top, and tried to haul up the weaker ones one by one, using ropes. Black Wolf was bundled and pulled up too. It seemed that the dog knew what the humans were doing to him. He did not protest at all.

 

Unfortunately, those who had reached the top found the path ahead blocked somewhere. Therefore, all of them had to retrace their ways down the rock face. Black Wolf had to be lowered back to the bottom. When the party resumed their trek, the dog barely had any strength left. He managed to stumble a few steps but it was hard for him to keep his balance. Mr Yuan felt the dog probably would not last long. Suddenly someone cried alarmingly, “It has collapsed!” Mr Yuan went over to the dog and cried, “Black Wolf! Black Wolf!” The dog opened his eyes a crack but closed them for good. He probably attempted to lick Mr Yuan but the effort was in vain.

 

Mr Yuan and his comrades could not help weeping for the loss of their canine companion where he was lying motionless.

 

A simple funeral was done for Black Wolf. His body was placed in a hole, covered with earth and leaves, and then piled on with rocks. It was a valley with few trees. Then and there it was misty and the wind cold. The humans, trapped in the mountains, temporarily forgot their own plight and stood around the dog tomb, silent and sombre.

 

The same day, a decision was made that the stronger continue the search for a way out and that Mr Yuan and several others stay behind with the injured and the elderly until help arrived.

 

Altogether eight people were left behind. They encouraged each other to hold on. They persuaded themselves to swallow plants, knowing that Black Wolf had died of starvation. They bunched up when despair was coming over them. They pledged that they would stick together till the last moment if there was no way out. Luckily, 13 days later, the Chinese army’s rescue helicopter spotted them before they could have perished.

 

A year has passed since then. Now that he is back at work in his construction company located in the town of Hanwang, normalcy is returning to Mr Yuan. Settled comfortably in a temporary shelter, he cannot hold back his tears anytime thinking of the dog. He says, “Amidst doom and gloom, I came to realise that each life has its dignity however fragile it might be. Black Wolf behaved as a buddy. He deserves my respect.”

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