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My body prickles with new sensation. Carefully, I move my paws, startled by the light touch and soft tread. I flex my toes, admiring the way my muscles move under my gray fur. I have become wolf. My head whirls with the thought.

I bow-stretch and rise slowly, bringing my hind legs smoothly under me. The idea of walking on all fours is new to me, and I wobble a bit before I catch on. Once I do, though, I lope rapidly over the snow, the joy of freedom flooding my soul. I bark happily, trying out my new voice. I am surprised by the grace that is in my steps. Light, easy, I float over the crusted snow, breaking through only rarely. The pines around me send forth a spicy balsam scent that tickles my nose and makes me leap with joy. Never before have I experienced the earth so fully. My senses are acute; every smell, every sound, each touch of the cold breeze upon my fur is known and savored. Elation unlike anything Iíve felt before surges through me. I throw back my head and howl into the crisp air, the lightly falling snow caressing my face. The winter sun warms my back, prickling my fur, and I feel so alive.

A sound comes from behind me, and, startled, I leap around to face it. Every muscle is tense, each hair standing on end. At the edge of the trees stands another. He is a lighter color than I, nearly white, his shoulders girdled with a collar of dark fur, streaks of light sable feathering his head, back and sides. He watches me, still for a moment, then he slowly approaches. Fear rises in me, a product of my human soul. Frozen, I await his arrival with extreme anxiety. He is close now. I can hear him breathe. Instinctively, I bow my head in submission. He chuffs at me, a sound not quite a bark. I shrink back into myself, my ears flat against my head, tail between my legs. He reaches out and touches his nose to mine. I jump, startled. He chuffs again.

Welcome, sister. He steps closer and licks my muzzle and ears gently. Slowly, I raise my head. His brown eyes meet mine. Welcome to the pack. He leans his head into mine, a gentle nudge. Donít be afraid. Come, walk with me. He starts off.

I hang back. This is all so much, too much. I cannot take it all in, and I am uneasy. When I do not follow, he turns back and walks to my side.

Donít be afraid. Nothing will harm you. I have much to show you, much to teach. He looks deep into my eyes, into my soul it seems. I will protect you. There is no need for fear. He leans his body into mine comfortingly. Come walk with me to my home, and I will help you become comfortable before we meet the others. We will not push, weíll go at your pace. He nudges me with his head and begins to walk again. This time I follow him.

He leads me through the snow and around the trees, deep into the forest that he claims as his own. He brings me to a small, natural cave, and steps aside, allowing me to enter. The light is dim, but my vision is good. I step carefully into the passageway, with him following closely. I hesitate a bit, looking back at him for reassurance. He touches my side lightly and chuffs. Itís all right. Go ahead. The passage opens out ahead of me into a nice-sized room. The air is warm inside. He nudges me over to a pile of dry grass and leaves. Lie down. I look at him. Itís all right. Trust me. Slowly, I settle onto the soft bed. The leaves crinkle underneath my body. He stands next to me, and for the first time I realize how large he is. He towers over me. He lowers his head and looks straight into my eyes, a look full of kindness and love. I stare back at him, uncertain. I want to trust him...

He leans into me and begins to groom my back and shoulders, his warm tongue smoothing my fur and relaxing my tense muscles. He reassures me as he works. I know this is new to you. I understand that you are confused and afraid. That is fine. Just let it go for now. Relax. Be secure in the knowledge that I would never harm you. After several minutes, the warmth of the room and soothing caresses of his tongue lull my senses into a lazy, floating doze. I lay my head on my paws, submitting fully to his ministrations. I find that I cannot keep my eyes open. Youíre fine. Let go. Let it all go. Iím here. In seconds I slip gently into a peaceful slumber. The last thing that I am aware of is him curling next to me, snuggling close. He plants a gentle kiss on my muzzle. Sleep now. Youíre safe here with me. I love you. I curl close to him and let beautiful sleep wash over me like a cottony cloud.