I'm looking for the title and author of a short story I read in the early 1980's. It was in an anthology of sf short stories in a library in the UK but that does not mean it was by a British author (I remember the library had a lot of Heinlein, Asimov and Bradbury but I don't think it is by any of them). Most of the books in this small library dated from the 1970's but it could have been written earlier.

Plot summary is as follows.

Story is told from the point of view of a dog or cat like creature that is used by a lone human as a hunting tool, like the way hounds are sent to chase foxes. They land their spaceship on an icy planet and hunt a large tiger like creature that I vaguely recall had several green eyes. This creature repeatedly and telepathically asks the dog/cat creature "what have you done today that was free?"

The large tiger creature is caught killed and beheaded, but later back in the spaceship the human hunter seems to feel remorse or disgust for his actions and throws the severed head in the garbage.

Can anyone out there identify this for me please?

1 Answer 1


Pelt by Carol Emshwiller.

The story starts:

She was a white dog with a wide face and eager eyes, and this was the planet, Jaxa, in winter.
She trotted well ahead of the master, sometimes nose to ground, sometimes sniffing the air, and she didn’t care if they were being watched or not. She knew that strange things skulked behind iced trees, but strangeness was her job. She had been trained for it, and crisp, glittering Jaxa was, she felt, exactly what she had been trained for, born for.

We never learn the name of the animal being hunted, but the description is (this is as perceived by the dog):

It was silver and black, a tiger-striped thing, and the whitish parts glistened and caught the light as the ice of Jaxa did, and sparkled and dazzled in the same way. And there, in the center of the face, was a large and terrible orange eye, rimmed in black with black radiating lines crossing the forehead and rounding the head. That spot of orange dominated the whole figure, but it was a flat, blind eye, unreal, grown out of fur. At first she saw only that spot of color, but then she noticed under it two small, red glinting eyes and they were kind, not terrible.

The tiger communicates telepathically with the dog:

The thing spoke to her then, and its voice was a deep lullaby sound of buzzing cellos. It gestured with a thick, fur-backed hand. It promised, offered, and asked; and she listened, knowing and not knowing.

We have watched you, little slave. What have you done that is free today? Take the liberty. Here is the earth for your four shoed feet, the sky of stars, the ice to drink. Do something free today. Do, do.

At the end of the story the man almost dumps the headin the waste disposal but at the end chooses to keep it:

Afterward he opened the parchment bag. She knew what was in it. She knew he knew too, but she knew by the smell. He opened it and dumped out the head and the hands. His face was tight and his mouth stiff.

She saw him almost put the big head out the waste chute, but he didn’t. He took it in to the place where he kept good heads and some odd paws or hoofs, and he put it by the others there.

  • Excellent! Thats definitely it! Wow, people are really sharp on this site. Thank you!
    – skyjack
    Jul 25, 2017 at 22:08
  • I read this in SF THE BEST OF THE BEST, edited by Judith Merrill. This also contained Space-Time for Springers by Fritz Leiber.
    – sueelleker
    Jul 27, 2017 at 16:30

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