AN: These characters are Ms. Meyers. The world is my oyster.

Also (shameless begging) this is the longest piece of pseudo-fiction I have ever written. I would greatly appreciate some feedback (i.e. 'good,' 'great,' 'boring,' 'how can your computer let you write this?'), because it's one thing for me to write this, and another for you folks to sit down and read it. Thanks muchly.

Mornings seemed to come earlier in the mountains. There was something about the air, a sudden, waking stillness that seemed to announce the coming dawn before the sky had noticeably lightened. It was almost as if there was a sudden electric current that pulsed through the scrags, under the rushing falls, and down into the deepest darkest places bringing all the beasts that slumbered back to life, filling the still air with silent expectation.

It was so much different than what she was used to, although, after everything else, she supposed there was nothing she should really be accustomed to anymore, anyway.

Get up, Bella, she told herself.

Even in the darkness of the pre-dawn she could not afford to spare a moment of luxury, as it were, lying in the downy embrace of her all weather sleeping bag spread over the insufficient comfort of a thin foam cushion and the lumpy and indifferent forest floor. She had almost twenty miles to go today, some of it with significant elevation gain, before she would meet with Dr. Reyerson at Base Camp to report her latest findings. The following day they would hike the remaining fifteen miles out together and submit their data to the lab at the university. Then they would both be off to the environmental conference in Anchorage.

Which basically meant that after six weeks in the woods darting wolves, weighing them, drawing their blood, and in some cases feeling their balls, Bella would be dressing up to show off her more feminine charms while sporting her most genuine lost puppy face at the gala reception. In short, she would essentially be used as bait to allow her program director to beg for more funding from the crustier and more lecherous benefactors of the university.

That was probably the main reason Dr. Reyerson admitted her into the study, Bella reasoned grimly. She had tits and a vagina – a rarity in the scientific research world – and would probably be the only member of her species under fifty sporting these two accessories that would be attending these gatherings – a novelty to the university's investors. Who would say no, then, to giving additional funding and endowment money when it meant that one could spend a few nights a year trying live up the long lost glory days by attempting to booze up a young coed and look down her cleavage? Clearly the "P" in Reyerson's doctorate stood for "pimp."

Bella cursed her breasts.

Groaning softly, she undid the double zip of her sleeping bag, letting the cool, dry mountain air bathe over her sleep-laden form. The grogginess receded, and was quickly replaced by the urgent protesting of her bladder. Shoving Jake out of the way, she crawled out of her bag and lurched to her feet. He grumbled, sniffed, and then curled his hairy bulk into an impossibly small lump for a canine of his size and returned immediately to sleep. At least he had the courtesy to relinquish her boots.

The simple life of a dog, Bella mused as she reached for her headlamp.

It would be much easier to just pee wherever and whenever she felt like it, instead of risking life and limb in the Montana backcountry looking for a suitable bush to relieve her self behind. The light just meant she wouldn't be peeing on anything that actually belonged to her. It hadn't happened yet, but, knowing her luck, it would if she weren't careful.

Once the call of nature was answered Bella returned to camp and pulled out the tiny white fuel burner from her pack to begin one of her newer rituals. She was no stranger to caffeine, now. Where once she would have been up for days after half a can of soda, coffee was now practically her entire chemical makeup. Perhaps it was the by product of several long years of double loaded classes and raging insomnia, or perhaps it was something simpler, a necessary habit and a departure from the clean blooded young innocent she had once been. Whatever the reason, it was hot and bitter and burned her throat with an angry, wakeful fire, and settled with an iron resolve in the pit of her empty belly.

Sipping from a steaming metal cup, she let her unlaced boots clomp noisily on the bare earth as she shuffled back to her sleeping bag. By now Jake had managed to get almost all of his massive bulk wedged into the bottom of the bag – no mean feat for a dog that weighed easily on the upper side of two hundred pounds. She poked him with her booted toe.

"Gotta break camp, Jake."

Muffled dog groan.

"Get your butt out of my bag Jake."

Another poke. A louder groan.

"C'mon you smelly bugger." Bella yanked on the bag. One massive paw shot out, snagging the zipper, making the metal teeth rattle in protest. Muttering about "second neuterings" in a less than sub-audible tone, Bella reached down and gave one final good heave and decanted the furry contents of her sleeping bag on the hard packed forest floor. The newly birthed spawn of down and nylon looked up at her with eyes full of deep betrayal before shaking himself thoroughly and opening his mouth to pant at her with a self-satisfied canine smirk.

Stupid, super smart, free dog, thought Bella to herself.

She had gotten Jake the year she had moved out of the dorms. Working a part-time job and independent grants and scholarships had allowed her the ability to pay for a small one-bedroom apartment over one of the cafes on the main college drag. It was a nice place, but lonely in all the ways she never wanted.

The first night she slept there she had awoken screaming in the silence, her own ragged voice the only proof that she was still alive, that the dream hadn't finally killed her, after all. She spent the remainder of the night in the college library, curled up behind the reference stacks, rocking herself and listening to death metal on her ipod, desperately trying to keep her circling memories at bay. It didn't work. It never worked.

After that, she did not sleep at home nor did she sleep much at all. Her apartment became the place where she went to wash and change, a front for the human side of herself that she had abandoned. Acquiring Jake was a spur of the moment thing that happened as she was walking out of the mom and pop grocery store on the edge of town.

She had stopped to by toilet paper and somehow ended up taking home one of the puppies that a young girl had been giving away outside the door. There was something about the urgent, hairy, squirming mass of limbs the child held up to her that she just couldn't say "no" to; that, and the girl's earnest assurances that he wouldn't get too big, or eat all that much.

Looking at him now, he had all of the appearance of being a byproduct of a terrible backwoods experiment gone wrong. He was some sort of mix of Irish wolfhound and English mastiff (Bella had tracked down the owners of her rapidly mutating puppy once she noticed that his paws were bigger than her own hands) that had most likely spent a romantic evening with a timber wolf – which would explain the offspring in her possession's startling yellow eyes, distinctly un-doglike ruff, and overall hairiness. The howling that came later sealed the deal. He never barked.

Bella had named the puppy Jake in a sarcastic homage to the friend she no longer had – the one who inadvertently threw her on this latest path. Dogs were constants, she had reasoned, and although she had never asked for her erstwhile human friend's constancy – at least not in the way he had offered it to her – she knew it was that unspoken bond that had reshaped her into a being that could at least walk on her own two feet; and that she could at least give her heart to a dog even when she could never again give it to a man.

Thoughts? Questions? Reviews are welcome and appreciated.