As the sun broke over the prairie, Jakko arose and stretched. He gave himself a good shake and trotted merrily through the grass.
Jakko was a good-natured dog. He had the characteristic stocky body and thick fur one would expect a husky to have, complete with a bushy tail kept curled just so over his hindquarters. While thick fur made life a bit uncomfortable during the summer on the plains, it was quite welcome during the cold, snowy winters.
The dog's master made routine trips across the prairie each year, taking a herd of cattle out to feed during the warmer months and bringing them back to the city to be sold for meat or exchanged for fresh brood cattle during the colder months. The cattle were a cross of bison and ox, although no horns adorned their heads.
Jakko's job was rarely to herd the cattle, as they were quite docile. His main purpose was to chase off predators and generally keep his master company. He had been in few fights. There were no wolves this far from the forest and the vicious rivercats that lived in the water were easily chased off with a few piercing barks. There were the little coyotes, but they were content to yip at him and scamper off. His master always lavished attention on him and Jakko had an easy life.
One day as he was out roaming and the cattle grazed lazily in a shallow valley, he caught sight of a jackrabbit. As he prepared to give chase for a bit of midmorning fun, a girl dove from the sky and struck the rabbit dead. Now, she was not a person like his master, Dai. She was a Kurach, one of the shapeshifters of the plains. Although, she wasn't colored like the Kurach Jakko was familiar with. Her furry ears and tail were grey and white, and she had black on her wings instead of the spots and bars of a hawk.
The girl was hungry and had been stalking the very same jackrabbit as Jakko. He was not aware of how hungry she was and wanted to play. He lunged forward and grabbed her rabbit. She pulled back, trying to reclaim her supper. Oh, but what fun Jakko was having! He tugged back, wagging his tail and growling playfully. With a skilled yank, he broke the jackrabbit free from her grasp and began to run away. The girl ran after him, yelling threats and curses as he pranced away. His master heard the shouting and soon found her. He calmed her down and promised to take her hunting to replace her supper. Thus, a new member was added to their little band that travelled the plains.
The following week, Jakko went out into the plains once more. Long, quick strides carried him with purpose. He had indebted himself to the girl by stealing and later eating her jackrabbit and he intended to have that debt repaid. Jakko did not expect to have trouble doing this. Jackrabbits were as plentiful as the pheasants and silly little prairie dogs. All he had to do was wait for a fresh scent.
The sun made its slow climb into the sky. Jakko had roamed over a few knolls before finally sighting his target. A nice, plump jackrabbit was nibbling on the grass, if it ever could be said that a jackrabbit was plump. Jakko readied himself and with a yip he launched himself after the jackrabbit.
Immediately frightened, the jackrabbit fled, zigging and zagging in the fashion all rabbits are taught by their parents to lose predators. Jakko sprang happily behind the rabbit, gaining ground. He had chased jackrabbits many times and it was much harder for them to shake him than when he first came to the prairie.
Faster and faster the gap closed. He was mere inches away from his prize. Jakko opened his mouth wide, preparing to catch the jackrabbit. Suddenly the rabbit was pinned to the ground by an arrow and Jakko tripped and tumbled over the poor thing. Dazed and confused, he sorted himself out and gave himself a good shake.
A cheer rang out from the ridge. Jakko looked to see the girl jumping up and down with glee at having shot her first rabbit, and with his master quite taken aback. He had been teaching her how to use a bow and scolded her roundly for taking such a risky shot that could have hit the dog instead. She quickly apologized and came up to claim her game.
Jakko snorted and sat sullenly to himself. So much for that rabbit! He had to start fresh on his debt.
The girl gave him a rub on his ears. "We're even now, Jakko."
Jakko raised his head and barked. Wagging his tail, he followed his master and the girl back to their camp on the ridge.