Author's Note:

This is the unwritten scene in one of my favorite dog movies, Homeward Bound. [Never mind that I used the remake even though I try to root for originals wherever possible. It was a good remake and had this touching scene in it.] I can't imagine I'm the only one that ever asked the burning question, "HOW DID SHADOW MAKE IT OUT OF THE HOLE?" So, on a note of inspiration and since I've had some time over spring break, I wrote it myself.

I've been through this scene and the end of the movie a few dozen times now, trying to be as true to the canon details and dialogue as possible.

One detail I ignored was the mystery of where all the mud went. These dogs have been across country, through mud, dirt, rain and rivers, and all three of them are sparkling clean in the last scene. Hhm? If you have a good way to fix this, I'd be much obliged.

I'm of the opinion that this scene [one like it] was written, but they cut it so they could have that heart stopping moment at the end where we all wonder whether Shadow [awesome dog name, though odd for such a benevolent character] lived. However, I haven't done my research on that point.

So, here is my interpretation of how Shadow made it out of the hole.

Leave reviews! My fragile ego loves them!


"SHADOW!"

The cry came to him as though from far away, insistent, drawing him back from black unconsciousness.

"Shadow?"

"Oh, Shadow…"

Chance. Sassy. His mind was slow, murky. Pain. Everything was pain.

"Poor old guy…"

The old retriever forced one eye open. "What…," he muttered in confusion. When he tried to move, his every joint screamed in protest. Shafts of light poured down from between the boards above, illuminating the mud and filth in which he found himself.

As Shadow tried again to move, new agony shot up his left forepaw, and into his whole body, like a lance driven through him in place of his spine, boring mercilessly into the base of his skull. A single pained grunt escaped him. Lights danced behind his eyes and his already blurry and confused vision tunneled at the pain. He stopped trying to move and focused on the voices calling to him.

"Shadow?"

"Are you ok?"

Moving more carefully this time, Shadow picked his head out of the mud to look around. Debris from the broken planks surrounded him, sticking out of the mud and leaning against the sides of the pit. "Yeah… my leg—hurts—pretty bad," he gasped, struggling to get up without using his hurt paw. Deep mud gave way beneath him as he tried to find a purchase.

"Is it broken?"

"I don't know… it's hard- to move it," he replied, still gasping as he finally made it to his feet. Up top, Chance was moving around to a different part of the hole.

"Hey, hey look at this. It's not as steep over here, Shadow! Maybe you can climb out here!"

"I'll—try." Shadow limped forward, still light headed, still hurting all over as he struggled unsteadily through the mud that sucked at his paws and soaked through his fur as he sank into it with every step.

"Come on, come on, you can do it! You got us this far!"

Shadow set his good front paw against the slope and started to work his way upward. The other two kept calling encouragement from above.

"Yeah that's it, that's it! Great, keep coming!"

Another gasp of pain escaped him as he tried to use his injured paw to steady himself. The sudden pain made everything spin around him. His bad leg buckled and he slid all the way back down the muddy incline.

"Come on! If you can jump in a river to save me, this should be easy!" Sassy perched anxiously at the top of the pit, watching with growing fear.

Chance kept up his steady reel of encouragement. "Yeah, that's right and after out running a mountain lion? Come on!"

Shadow approached the hill a second time, studying it carefully. This time as he climbed, he made an effort to dig his claws through the top layer of mud into the firmer earth beneath.

"Come on Shadow!"

"That's good, that's good, now take it slow, now take it slow, one step at a time, one step at a time Shadow! Come on!"

No, slow won't cut it, not here! He was doing better, gaining ground, but not enough. Shadow was already slipping, losing several feet of hard won ground as the mud shifted underneath him.

"Oh, oh hang on!"

"Come on, come right back, come right back!"

He grit his teeth in determination and fired his legs out behind him, driving himself upward in bounding lunges that jarred his hurt paw and aching body alike. Through blinding pain and tunneling vision, he focused on Chance and Sassy and the light at the top of the pit forcing his body upward with aging muscles that burned and threatened to give way from exhaustion after days and weeks of traveling across country, but he only fought harder.

"Come on, you're so close!"

He was so close. He made it almost halfway before his back left paw skipped off a large smooth rock embedded in the slope.

"Shadow? Shadow!"

He lost his footing and collapsed on his belly. Before he could recover, he was tumbling back down into the ooze at the bottom of the pit, back into the mud, further coating his long fur in mud and pungent slime that soaked through to his skin and leeched the heat from his bones.

"Oh, Shadow!"

His head spun from pain and exertion, but none of that hurt as badly as the numbing realization that he couldn't do it. That no amount of perseverance or determination would ever get him out of this hole. For the first time in his life, Shadow felt true defeat. It weighed down on his shoulders and compounded all his exhaustion and pain until Shadow sank to the ground in despair.

"No, No no! Don't lie down! Don't lie down!"

"Sorry… " he muttered through the his shock. "I… can't make it…"

"Why not, of course you can make it!"

"Try shadow…please try…"

Shadow sighed as he let his head sink to the ground, his muzzle resting in the mud like the rest of his body. "I just can't…" He felt so… tired.

Up at the top of the pit, Chance paced around the edge of the pit looking for a way down. Carefully, he lowered himself over the edge and slid down, skidding precariously on all four paws and letting out a startled yelp as he dropped faster than expected and splashed down into the mud, covering his own fur in the and filth of the pit. Chance faced Shadow with more fire than the old retriever had ever seen in the kid.

"Look! You pushed me this far now I'm pushing you the rest of the way! You know back there in the woods even when things looked really bad I always believed we'd make it 'cause I thought you were too stubborn to quit!" His voice dropped to an angry whisper as he walked right up to Shadow until they were almost nose to nose. "Well you're not gonna quit, not now not when we're this close! Now TRY AGAIN!"

Shadow lifted his head up so he could look the youngin in the eye and said, voice hard, "Do You think it's easy for me to admit that I can't do it?" He faltered. "I'm too old." On the last word, Shadow's voice cracked in despair.

"That's not true! There's nothing you can't do!"

"I have nothing more to give Chance," Shadow said, speaking steadily now. "And it's time for you to be on your own."

Chance's face fell. He stared at his friend helplessly. "But I want you with me… I love you Shadow."

"You've learned everything you need Chance. Now all you have to learn, is how to say good-bye." Shadow let his head sink back down. Outside, the light began to fade as the sun set.

"I won't let you give up," Chance said, now almost in tears.

"There's nothing more you can do here, Chance. Jamie needs you. It's your job to look after him. They're all yours to look after now."

Chance took a shaky step back. "Shadow…"

Shadow sighed again as his mind drifted back to old memories with Peter. Long games of fetch when he was younger, with Peter throwing sticks or tennis balls as far as he could or into streams or clumps of trees to see if he could stump the eager young retriever. His own pride as he almost always succeeded in bringing the prize back. Walks in the park, and time spent lounging in the house as Chance and Jamie rushed past. Memories from his puppy days before he'd been so well behaved. Mother had been furious the day young Shadow had knocked over a vase of flowers while trying to smell them. Peter had fervently protested as Shadow was banished to the dog house that night. Peter even managed to sneak Shadow a strip of bacon from dinner.

Shadow had been quite the escape artist as a pup. He had a few tricks even Chance couldn't top. Shadow had figured out how to escape from his kennel early on, but since he almost never caused any trouble, excepting the incident with the vase… and maybe a few others, the family had stopped trying to keep him there at night. He'd learned how to get out of collars and leads too, with the same result. The first time he escaped his lead, before he mastered simply backing out of his collar, Shadow had dug up the stake holding his chain in place and gone exploring through the woods, chain and stake trailing behind him. Peter had been the first one to come looking after they discovered Shadow missing. Hearing Peter calling, Shadow had come running and they'd gone on a grand and happy romp through the forest together. These incidents had worried Mother greatly, but it became less of an issue as Shadow matured, becoming more obedient and rarely leaving Peter's side while the boy was home.

The corner of Shadow's mouth twitched in a smile as he recalled digging up the stake. The stake had been buried much deeper than was apparent from the surface, a detail that had frustrated the pup for almost an hour that day. Lying in the mud, the now aging retriever reached over and absently dragged his good front paw through the mud lining the slope, exposing the packed and firmer dirt beneath. As the mud started to ooze back over the mark, Shadow scraped it again, deepening the gouge in the earth.

The first spark of an idea flitted across his mind. He picked his head up and dug a pawfull of earth out of the middle of the scrape, then another, creating a neat little depression large enough to set his paw in.

Chance stood, still staring helplessly, refusing to leave his friend.

Well you're not gonna quit! Not now, not when we're this close! Now TRY AGAIN!

Shadow studied the little pit he'd made in the hillside. It could work… yes, it could work!

No, Shadow thought, gritting his teeth. I will not say goodbye! If I can beat a kennel, and a chain, and a gate, then I can beat a pile of dirt! Shadow put his good paws under him and forced his shaking body to stand. Chance was right. He couldn't quit here, after all they'd been through. Too old my tail! I will not die in this hole, not this close to home!

Chance perked his ears up. His tail wagged with whatever hope he had left. "Shadow?"

Shadow sized up the hill one last time. He stepped forward, feeling all the fatigue of the journey in every muscle and bone. Nothing left to give? Well, he'd just have to find some. Just enough to make it out of this hole. As he set his front paws against the hill again, Shadow's back knees almost buckled. He was so tired. Last chance old boy…

"Come on, come on Shadow, you can do this, you can do this," Chance said under his breath, as he dared to hope, one last time, that Shadow could make it.

Shadow didn't start to climb right away. He set his elbow against the slope to keep weight off his bad paw, then started to dig out a small hole in the muddy slope deep enough to serve as a paw hold.

Chance caught on to the idea and grinned. Now his tail wagged full speed and he skipped forward excitedly. "Yeah Shadow! Come on, come on Shadow!"

Now Shadow had two small paw holds in the slope. He set his back right paw in the first, and lifted his body up a step, bracing his other back paw and front elbow against the slope unaided. Then, using his good front paw, Shadow started to dig the next paw hold.

"Slow and steady, Shadow, slow and steady! One step at a time!"

Sassy rose to her paws and peered down intently. "Oh, careful Shadow!"

One step and one paw hold at a time, Shadow worked his way up the hill. Every few feet, he stopped to rest with his belly against the slope. The pounds of mud trapped I his fur made his pelt hang from him like a wet blanket as gravity tried to pull him back down. The added weight took its toll on Shadow's endurance. He needed every bit of willpower to keep climbing. I will not die in this hole!

"Come on, come on, Shadow! You can do it, you can do it!"

When Shadow made it to halfway up the slope, Sassy started pacing back and forth across the lip of the pit. "Oh, keep climbing Shadow! You can do it!"

Chance took a flying leap onto the mud covered hill and scrambled awkwardly up past Shadow and all the way out of the pit with youthful strength and vigor, unhampered by injury. He crouched at the top and continued calling down support. "Keep coming, keep coming, you can do it, you can do it!"

When Shadow was barely a yard from the top of pit, the paw hold under his hind paw gave way. The patch of earth crumbled away, leaving Shadow scrambling to get a grip, holding on desperately by his good front paw and clawing for purchase with both hind paws. Shadow knew if he fell, he would never have the strength to make the climb again, even like this.

"Shadow!"

"Hang on!"

As he strained to find his footing, just a few feet from freedom, Shadow felt the same determination that had fueled him since they first set out on this journey. I will not die in this hole!

Shadow dug his hind claws into the mud as hard as he could and lunged upward with the last of his strength, scrambling with all four paws, fighting the pain in his paw and the burning in his muscles as it all became unimportant compared with the goal before him.

"Come on Shadow you're so close!"

So close!

Just when Shadow finally sipped, Chance reached down and grasped his friend by the scruff, hauling him the rest of the way out of the hole that had almost claimed his life.

Shadow collapsed on solid ground and lay panting as Chance let loose with a wild, joyful chorus of barking.

Sassy sat and daintily licked one paw. "Hm. And you two said I was the dramatic one."

"You—were right- Chance," Shadow gasped, still breathing hard. "Never…quit."

"Ha-ha! I told you you could do it!" Chance cried with another round of barking. "Come on old timer!, We're almost home! Look, we're already out of the tracks! There's the woods!" he cried with one last joyful chorus.

From over the trees, a child's voice called "Chaaaa-aaaance!" The voice was clear, and young. Far away, but pure.

Chance froze. "Jamie?"

Sassay and Shadow perked up as well. "Are we that close?" Sassy said in disbelief.

Chance threw back his head and barked back with every bit of volume his lungs could muster.

"Here Chance! Here boy!"

"JAMIE!" Chance took off, tearing around the far side of the pit and into the nearby tree line barking all the way.

"Oh, wait for me!" Sassy cried as she went sprinting after him.

"Hold up, you two!" Shadow called hoarsely, climbing to his feet, still covered nose to tail in mud. Holding his paw carefully off the ground, Shadow took a hobbling step forward. He still hurt. He was still tired. But now the pain was more like a victory chorus, because he had made it. They had made it! Home was so close he could smell it, could hear the children and the family calling as Chance and Sassy reached them.

But he wasn't there yet. Gritting his teeth once more, Shadow took another step toward home. Toward Peter. Another step, Homeward Bound.