Walking along the street one day, a small dog looked about, his eyes and nose searching. He tried to find something to eat, but he knew he needed more than that; he needed a place to call home, with someone who would take him off the streets, for the winter months were approaching. He stopped, smelling something that made him even hungrier. He recognized that smell instantly as the scent of freshly baked bread. He ambled towards the source of the aroma, only to be met with a tall, lean woman holding a walking stick. Her face was slightly pale, as she had been struggling with a sickness that limited her mobility ever since her childhood.
"Stay back! Go away, filthy beast!" she yelled, protecting the product of her precious labor. The poor animal scrambled away, avoiding the swing from the baker's staff. "No dog or rat is going to steal my bread." she huffed, returning to her duties.
The poor mutt renewed his search for food, but the villagers were all closing their doors and their windows, giving the dog two painful realizations. With no businesses open, there would be no one passing by to feed him, and the approaching cold winds of the night could possibly bring the first snowfall of the year. Knowing that he would never survive the weather in his condition, the dog loosed a sad howl into the evening air. As he lay in the street, awaiting either the cold or his hunger to claim him, he heard a familiar shriek coming from the village baker's house. The dog ran to the front door to find the baker woman, still holding her stick, running out of her house as well as she could before starting to stumble.
"Stop that thief!" she hollered as a shrouded figure raced past the dog. In his hand was a large sack of gold coins. The dog knew he had to do something. He chased the thief, quickly catching up to him, and barked loudly. The thief continued to run, leaving the dog with few options. The dog leaped and bit down on the right arm of the crook, who shook off the dog, dropping the sack of gold in his panic. He turned to retrieve the stolen money, but the dog placed himself between the thief and his treasure, forcing him to abandon the goods. Once the criminal was gone, the dog grabbed the bag and carried it back to the baker.
The baker chased him away, but she was not a terrible person. She took the money from the dog, and in return, she allowed him to stay in the house, for the night started to grow colder. She gave the dog a small loaf of bread and agitated the logs in the fireplace, gibing life to the dwindling fire. The dog watched as she finally found a place to sit, taking note of the sad expression on her face.
"I know you probably won't understand me, dog, but I'm sorry for scaring you earlier." she said to the dog, who had just finished his meal. He looked up, but kept his distance, fearing the stick would be used against him. The baker noticed the dog's concern and placed her stick far away from herself. "There. I don't have it anymore." The dog cautiously approached her as she continued watching him. The dog was of a mixed breed, and she could not clearly tell what manner of dog he was. He was smaller than dogs the nobility used for defending their homes, but his pointy ears were a trait that he shared with them. He was also much leaner than those dogs, but that may have been because of his malnourishment. The dog ventured close enough for the baker to strike him, but instead, the baker started to pet him and scratch behind his ear. "Good dog." she whispered before falling asleep on the chair. The dog turned towards the door and lay down, keeping watch for the thief or any other intruder.
The next morning, the baker was awoken be a sharp rapping on the door. She reached for her stick and walked to the door to answer it. The man on the other side of the door was her landlord, a tall, particularly well-fed man dressed in a long cloak. "Do you know how cold it is?" he barked. "Where's the money?"
"It's right here." the baker answered, reaching for her coin purse. The landlord swiped it out of her hand and grimaced. "Is there a problem?"
"I told you the rent has doubled since last month! This isn't even the normal rent!"
"I'm sorry!" the baker pleaded. "I've tried to sell all my bread, but I can't make enough to compensate for the increase!" She once was able to freely give of some of her bread to the less fortunate, but ever since her landlord began charging her more and more, she was forced to stop giving, and became far more stingy with her wares. She spent countless nights working, but she just couldn't meet the new goal imposed on her. "Please! Don't kick me out. Where will I go?"
"That's not my problem." sneered the landlord. The dog walked up behind the baker and looked at him. Then he smelled him. His scent was to familiar to the dog, who started pulling on his cloak. The baker ordered him to stop, but the dog did not listen until her tore the right arm of the cloak clean off. "Back, you mutt!" the landlord roared, kicking the dog away. But the damage had been done.
Concealed under his cloak was a bandaged arm, near the same place where the dog bit the thief. "What's under that bandage?" she asked the landlord. He started to hide the truth, but with each lie he told, the dog growled more fiercely, until he admitted the truth. The sheriff, who saw the thief in the night but could do nothing to stop him, arrived at the baker's call. "Why did you do it?"
"Because I won't get anywhere from a cripple like you!" he snapped. "You only pay a fraction of what I could charge some able-bodied peasant!" The sheriff dragged him away as he continued hurling insults at the baker.
The baker was unsure of what to do. Her landlord was going to be imprisoned, which left her wondering who would own the land. Her fears were lessened by the dog, who just barked happily at the landlord, who was out of sight.
Years later, the baker was still hard at work in her home, once again free to feed those less fortunate than herself. And the dog? He was taken in by the baker after that day. He never worried about food or shelter again.