The she-wolf smelled the human female before she saw her. The scent of fresh birth blood was still on the human female. The she-wolf knew that smell, knew it well. She had left it back in her den, along with the bodies of her dead pups – twins, born dead, the mother cord tight around both necks. She had tried to nuzzle them awake, tried to make them suckle but by darkness had given up.
With an ancient instinct the she-wolf knew that she had to get the dead pups out of her den or it would be fouled. She worked through most of the night to move the small bodies up the narrow tunnel and out onto open ground where they could be taken by a hawk or owl. She was still exhausted from that work and the long, painful labor but needed to eat. It was the hunger than had driven her deeper into the woods that night, closer to the area of the humans.
She watched the human female lay the bundle down next to the river. And then the she-wolf heard the sound, a slight mewling and with that sound there had come a quickening in her teats and the first seep of milk. She whined slightly at the feeling and saw the human female stop moving to stare in her direction. She dropped her head to hide among the underbrush. Humans were not to be trusted. Humans had killed her pups’ father, scattering the pack, leaving her alone in the den.
She saw the human female bend down to the bundle and touch it and she saw the bundle move, once again making the small mewling noise. The female stood, again looking in the she-wolf’s direction. And then the human female did something the wolf had never seen before; she backed away from her bundle. When she got deeper into the woods, still staring at the brush where the she-wolf waited, she turned and ran into the night.
The she-wolf waited and watched. The noise from the bundle continued and with each sound she felt the drawing of her milk. She moved cautiously towards the river’s edge and the small bundle. This could still be a human trick. The human smell was there but different.
The darkness was beginning to give way to the light, a softness overtaking the sky, as the she-wolf finally stood over what the human female had left. She dropped her head down and moved the covers back with her nose. As she did that a tiny human hand reached up to touch the wolf. The wolf nuzzled the little one and another tiny hand reached out, the small human began to make slight gurgles as the misshapen face moved in a semblance of a smile.
There was no pack. There were no pups. She was alone, like this little one. For the she-wolf, there was nothing else to do.
Gently, she took the covers in her teeth and began dragging the gurgling bundle slowly across the ground to her den.