Two years ago, a then strange man with a face furrier than mine would pick me up from the drafty shack in which I was born. The ground was as white as the fur on my belly and the air bitter cold. I spent my first night sleeping on his chest, both of us next to the permeating warmth of the wood stove. A different and welcomed change from the crowded cardboard-lined enclosure in which I had spent them previously. We would spend many of the next 730 nights there; others sharing a bed, a sleeping bag, and countless adventures.
Today was nothing out of the ordinary. We didn’t even go out to chase birds. Instead, we split wood for hours and he would occasionally throw one for me to chase and fetch. This was not enough to satiate my appetite so I would steal supplemental chunks of kindling from his pile when he wasn’t looking. I littered the entire yard with shards of black spruce and birch, ripping each piece methodically and vigorously down its grain.
Once our chores were over, we went for an evening walk on our usual trail, no headlamp, but under the light of an almost full moon. After, we would warm up with bowls of salmon chowder: one for him and one of generous size for me. During dinner, he passed on to me the advice his father passed on to him on a similar November day while bucking up firewood in the woods behind their house:
“It is always better to warm yourself twice. First by splitting your own firewood, next by keeping good company when you burn it.”
I met his dad once, seemed like a nice guy. Hairy like he is, but colored more like my belly fur. Good advice but, problem is, I can’t hold an ax so that part doesn’t really do me much good. Regardless, we would spend the night tending and stoking the fire, falling asleep to the meditative staccato accents of sap and water as they leave their hearth and home, and keeping perhaps the best company of all.