As we enter the second to last chapter, Billy's life has settled into a routine of awesomeness. Just hunting and helping on the farm. What could possibly go wrong?
One night while hunting, the dogs find a trail. After treeing it a few times, Billy begins to suspect that it isn't a raccoon. He thinks maybe it's a bobcat, no biggie for his hounds to take care of, but also not worth much.
The fourth time they tree it, Billy senses something is wrong. Old Dan isn't barking anymore but growling.
He looks up in the tree and sees that it's a huge mountain lion.
Get ready, Shmoopers. Things are about to get serious. Oh, and gruesome—again.
The lion springs from the tree and pounces on Old Dan. Little Ann joins the fight and the three of them go at it, ripping each other apart.
Now it's Billy's turn. He rushes in with his ax, fighting desperately to save his dogs. This just kind of angers the lion, and he turns on Billy.
So, obviously, Old Dan and Little Ann jump between the lion and Billy, saving his life.
The fight goes on and on. Finally, Billy manages to land the ax deep in the lion's back. The two small hounds are able to finish him off, but not without suffering terrible injuries themselves.
Little Ann seems to be okay. She's cut up, but it looks like she'll make it.
Old Dan is another story. His sides are cut open to the bone, one eye is swollen shut, and he's slowly bleeding to death.
Billy stops up Old Dan's wounds with mud and hurries his dogs home.
Old Dan falls behind. When Billy goes back for him, he sees a horrific sight. Old Dan's entrails are tangled in a bush.
Yeah. We know. It's pretty awful.
Billy carries Dan the rest of the way home, obviously.
When he gets home, he wakes up his mom and dad. They go to work on both dogs, doing what they can to clean them up and bandage their wounds.
While they clean them up, Billy tells his parents how heroic the dogs had been in saving his life.
Billy is worried about Old Dan and rightly so. His breathing grows faster and faster, till he looks at Billy once and then closes his eyes forever (19.101).
Okay guys, quick break. We don't know about you, but we have to go find the tissues.
All right. Let's try to get this over with.
His parents try and coax Billy into bed, but he stays up staring at the fire.
In the middle of the night he hears a noise. Little Ann has snuck out of her doghouse to cuddle up with Old Dan.
This is too much for Billy to handle. (Us, too.) He takes off running and doesn't stop till he falls down in the woods. He just sits there and sobs.
At dawn, he walks back to the house and buries his dog. His dad offers to help but Billy wants to do it alone.
Things are pretty miserable for Billy, and they are about to get worse.
Two days later, Billy comes home from helping on the farm and his mom tells him Little Ann won't eat.
He starts feeding her by hand, but she doesn't respond to anything. She's not injured; she has simply given up the will to live.
The next day Little Ann goes missing, and Billy finds her up at Old Dan's grave. She is lying stretched out across his grave. Dead.
Billy's mom is there, too. She tries to explain about suffering, and why bad things happen to good people, but, you know, it's a little hard to explain.
He tells her he no longer believes in god. She starts crying, and they head back to the house, leaving Little Ann on the grave.
That night Billy's father has an announcement. Thanks to Billy's money, they now have enough to move to town, so the children can get a real education.
Billy is less than enthusiastic about this. Well, really, he just doesn't care one way or another. He just wants his dogs back.
Billy's dad explains that maybe they were taken away at this moment, so Billy could move to town. Billy couldn't do that if his dogs were still alive.
Unsurprisingly, Billy doesn't find this too comforting.
The next day, he makes another coffin and digs another grave next to Old Dan's.
Billy talks to his mom about heaven and wonders if his dogs are there. We sure hope they are.