It happened back when I was in elementary school. I was around eight years old. My family lived in the same house my mother had lived in her entire life. My grandfather had sold the house to my parents when they had gotten married. We lived on 10 acres of land, and there were plenty of wild animals around, from deer to skunks to partridges to coyotes.
Our own home had enough animals of its own. There was Smokey the brown pony and Sandy the fat, yellow horse. A rabbit, which I don’t think was ever given a name, lived in a cage in the barn with Smokey and Sandy. There was Tickles the cat, and we always had a “Mother Kitty” around, who never had any other name.
And then there was Tiny the little, pig-tailed dog, and the leader of our pack – Shep – our white and brown collie sheepdog. Shep ruled over all the other animals, and never left my father’s side. Actually, he never left his heels, as he had the habit of nipping at my father’s pant cuffs; usually when Dad was going back and forth between the house and the barn.
Shep was always around to chase away any wild animals that came near. He was a fearless dog. And the cats were always there to take care of the mice. The dogs and cats got along well. In fact, all the animals got along well; although Sandy the horse was a bit of a bitch. My sister rode her, but I never did after she threw me off and I landed on my head. I much preferred the pony.
Winters were beautiful were we lived. The snow would cover the ground and the trees. The pony and horse and rabbit stayed in the barn all winter. Tickles the cat and Tiny the dog lived in the house with the family. “Mother Kitty” spent her time between the house and the hay loft in the barn (where she would often have her kittens.) Shep, meanwhile, lived in the old back shed. It was breezy, but warm enough for Shep. And there was a hole in the floor where the cats could go in and out from.
This one winter was rather average. Plenty of snow on the ground, but not too much. Flurries were often enough to keep everything looking crisp and clean and white. It was nearing Christmas when we had a moderate snowstorm one evening. It was bad enough, however, that we let Shep stay in the house with us while it was going on.
Then the wolf appeared. We’d never seen wolves anywhere close to the front property, much less right outside the house. In fact, my sister and I had never even seen a wolf before, save for those in the zoo and on television. We were quite scared, while my parents were quite confused. What was a lone wolf doing out in the middle of a snowstorm, especially this close to civilization?
We watched the wolf closely through the windows. It circled the house and occasionally would seem to look in at us. I was scared and made sure all the doors were shut tight. This would prove fruitless, however, based on what happened next.
The wolf suddenly changed forms, still retaining the shape of a wolf but becoming mist-like. Now this freaked everyone out, but my father kept a stoic face. Shep, however, began scratching frantically at the door, wanting to get outside. Of course, we weren’t going to let him out with a phantom wolf out there.
The wolf didn’t retain his wolfen shape very long, however, and the mist broke up and floated in the air. Now and then we’d see a floating wolf’s head in the cloud. The cloud of mist neared the windows. Suddenly, mist starting seeping through the crack at the base of one of the house’s old windows. As more mist came through it began to coalesce back into a wolf’s form. We rammed the window sill down as hard as we could, cutting off the mist, which dissipated, while the wolf outside returned to solid form.
The wolf, however, would quickly take mist form again, and try other windows. We jammed those windows shut as tight as we could as well. This action repeated itself numerous times as the phantom wolf tried each and every window in the house. But we could never get all the windows shut firmly enough. Eventually, the mist began to seep in slowly through numerous windows around the house.
This whole time, Shep had been going crazy trying to get out of the house. He had scratched furiously at the wooden doors, causing quite a bit of damage with his claws. By the time the mist had began coming into the house through many different windows, Shep had begun to howl and yelp. Outside, the mist solidified a bit into wolf form as it heard this.
For some reason, we knew that Shep was our only hope, and although scared for him and our own lives, we let Shep outside, where he immediately confronted the phantom wolf. Upon this confrontation, the wolf took solid form and any mist that had entered the house by this time disappeared into the ether.
Shep was now facing off against another real canine. The wolf bared its fangs and snarled viciously. Shep returned the greeting. They circled each other, drawing nearer and nearer to each other. Suddenly the wolf lunged at Shep, but Shep dodged away. They circled each other again. The wolf lunged again, and this time they collided into a flurry of teeth and claws.
They fought viciously, and blood quickly spilled onto the pure white snow. They growled, snarled and yelped as they each got scratched and bitten. But Shep never backed down, and with one sudden twist, grabbed the wolf by the neck between his jaws. Shep shook with all his might and the wolf howled and yelped in agony.
Blood began to fly everywhere, and soon the snow was more red than white. But Shep never let go of the wolf’s neck. Eventually the wolf went limp, but Shep still shook the animal relentlessly. The wolf flopped around like a rag-doll. Looking out from inside the house, we couldn’t keep our eyes off the carnage, despite the horror of it all.
Finally, Shep dropped the wolf to the ground. Shep sniffed and pawed at the corpse, then turned to the house and walked slowly to the backdoor of the shed. My father quickly went out to the shed and let Shep in, then quickly let Shep into the main house, closing and locking the door firmly behind him. My father didn’t look quite as stoic as he did before.
We went into the dining room and looked out the windows. There was the wolf, seemingly lying dead on the blood-soaked snow. Suddenly, however, to our horror, the body began to turn into a mist. We held our breath, all thinking that the terror would begin anew. Shep, however, lay quietly on the floor licking his wounds, seemingly content.
And with good reason. This new mist simple rose into the air and dissipated into nothing. Eventually, where once was the bloody, broken body of a wolf, was the gleaming white skeleton of a wolf. We were suddenly overcome with great relief and all got down on the floor and hugged brave Shep.
We tended to Shep’s wounds, which weren’t as severe as we had expected. Simply letting him lick his wounds clean would end up doing the job well enough, and Shep seemed full of energy. He was his good old self.
Overnight, the whole family slept well, and Shep, on this occasion was allowed to sleep in the kitchen instead of the back shed. When we awoke in the morning, we looked out the dining room windows, and the wolf’s bones were gone! We thought they may have sunk into the snow, but come spring, nothing was ever found.
And that, my dear reader, was the story of the phantom wolf and our brave Shep, who would live a long and fruitful life until one day he suffered a brain aneurysm and lost the use of his lower extremities. Needless to say, we had to have poor Shep put down, and it was the first time I had ever seen my father cry.