It had been six months now since the virus wiped out ninety five percent of the population. We lived in a secluded part of the woods in an old abandoned cabin we came across a few months back. We tried to avoid other humans at all costs. The country had broken out into chaos, humans killing each other for food or supplies. 

A group of bandits killed my parents, they were older and refused to give up what they had. It was early on so no one knew the chaos that would soon unfold. I was away trying to get us food, and when I returned I found our house ransacked, their bodies mutilated and our dog Winter whimpering next to them. At least they had her when they passed. All I could feel was rage after that. Until I met Griffin.

I had my parents rifle with me always after they died. I became a nomad and traveled at night and slept during the day in the woods. Winter was always with me, I would cuddle her for warmth, and fall asleep with my head on her chest and my fingers intertwined in her long fur. Having her with me made everything bearable. 

I was searching for food for Winter and I in a small market. The glass doors had been shattered for some time now. My boots crunched the old broken glass. 

“Stay.” I told Winter as I held up my hand, she lightly whimpered at me and sat down reluctantly, her tail whipping back and forth as she watched me tip toe in. I heard a noise like a can clattering to the floor. I immediately cocked my gun and lifted the site to my eye. I sucked in a breath and scanned each aisle slowly, my pointer finger on the trigger. 

“W-wait!” A male voice spoke to my right. I swerved towards the sound and helped my gun towards the figure. I desperately wanted to whistle for Winter and have her by my side, but I didn’t want her to cut her paws on the glass or get hurt by this stranger. 

“I have a gun!” I spoke firmly and loudly to assert my dominance. 

“I’m coming out, I don’t want to hurt anyone I swear!” The voice responded. 

When he came into view I was shocked, he looked about my age, nineteen, and I hadn’t seen anyone close to my age in a long time. His arms were full of canned dog food. 

I raised an eyebrow and asked him “What’s the dog food for?”

“I was here to gather some food and I heard a dog whimper, so I thought I would bring it some food…” he trailed off and  his lips tugged up slightly into a half smile. 

That’s the moment I knew we would be in this journey together. Since then we did everything as a trio, we even found the cabin together. Griffin won Winter over as soon as he brought her food. She slept between us both, sometimes I felt like she was acting like my mother keeping us separated like that, but we would hold hands across her belly and fall asleep as a little family. 

One morning Winter ran out the door for her usual morning pee as I looked through what we had for breakfast and Griffin slept soundly. I was so used to waking up with Winter, but he wasn’t yet. I threw us together a bowl of canned peaches and pineapples when suddenly I heard Winter barking frantically. I dropped everything and ran to the door. 

“WINTER! COME!” I yelled. I was hoping she just saw a rabbit and would run back, when she didn’t I whistled loudly and yelled her name again. In response I heard growling and barking. Panicking I ran back into the cabin to wake Griffin, but when I got inside he was already up and grabbing the gun. 

“I think Winter is warning us, let’s go.” He grabbed my hand and we ran towards the noise, before we could find Winter we saw two large men, one with an axe and the other with a pistol. 

“Shhhh.” Griffin said as he pulled me behind a tree. “They haven’t spotted us yet, maybe we can pick them off before they do.” 

I nodded at him and whispered “But we need to find Wint-“ before I could finish the man with axe and a long beard spoke. 

“Can you shut that fucking dog up before someone hears us!” He said angrily practically spitting and pointing his axe the opposite direction we were. Winter barked again, and I finally saw her. Her teeth were showing as she growled angrily and the fur on her back stood up. They were going to hurt my dog. 

“Griffin hurry! They’re going to kill Winter!” I exclaimed in a rough whisper. I was shaking, every second felt like an hour. I could feel tears well up in my eyes as Griffin was calmly aiming the gun at the men, at least I thought he was calm but his hands were shaking. 

“Fine, fine. If you want me to shoot a fucking dog I will, just relax.” The other man responded to the bearded man. He lifted his pistol towards Winter and I couldn’t contain it anymore. 

“WINTER! COME NOW!” I screamed at the top of my lungs.

The men whirled to look at me and the one with the pistol aimed it at me. Winter lunged forward and sprinted at them, launching into the air gracefully and sinking her teeth into the arm of the man with the gun. 

“FUCK!!! WHAT THE FUCK! GET THIS THING OFF ME!” The man with the beard swung his axe quickly in response and hit Winter in the right hind leg. Blood squirted from her wound as she fell to the ground crying and whimpering. 

“NO!” I screamed and without thinking I ran towards Winter. Before I took even two steps a gunshot went off and left my ears ringing. I saw the two men fall to the ground, one had blood spewing from his neck and the other from just chest. Within moments they stopped moving and were dead. In a daze a looked back at Griffin and he nodded at me. I made it to Winter and dropped to my knees next to her. I pulled her head into my lap and pet her as she whimpered in pain. The tears in my eyes blurred my vision, I could barely see a thing. I just held Winter close and tried my hardest to show her I loved her with all my heart. 

Winter was learning to hobble on her three legs, she looked up at me with her tongue out and tail wagging. I scratched her behind the ear just the way she liked. Griffin was able to amputate her leg and cauterize the wound, somehow Winter pulled through. Her struggle made my heart ache, but at least she was still here with us. She was willing to protect me with her life that day, so I had to do the same for her.

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