Pulling Me Forward: My Huskies

mvnhuskiesI owned a couple of huskies once. Chance was sharp-featured with a well-defined, black-and-white coat and steely-eyed blues with mischief in them. Though she was small and compact, a Mini-Cooper of a dog, she managed to destroy a couch, a linoleum floor, and a door—all in one day if I recall. She never came when called; so on trails, I let her run until she got tired and decided to come home. If I ever got lost or turned around in the backcountry, she navigated us out—she was the best GPS system I ever owned. Bear was a husky-malamute mix with a ginger-red thick coat, one green eye, one gold. He topped the scales at one hundred and four pounds of

muscle and used it to dig out a den on my acreage that was so round and deep I feared he'd create an avalanche from the unstable earth. He was gentle and sweet with humans, but the wolf-like ancestry in him meant that he could take one sniff in the air, disappear, and return hours later with a deer leg or elk bone in his jaws, held out like a present you didn't really want.

I gave both dogs half an acre at the first house I rented. They jumped the fence. I put in stakes and an electric fence, which worked for a while until they found a break in the wire and they'd be off again. After that, I moved to the mountains and let them roam freely, until a mountain lion started stalking dogs in the area, taking down an Akita and a German shepherd. To avoid my dogs ending with the same fate, I kept them in at night and with me in the day. At the next place in the mountains, I had ten acres and gave five to them and five to my horse. I trenched a radio-controlled, invisible fence into the land and fitted my dogs with collars that beeped out a warning and eventually zapped them if they tested the boundary. I built a completely encased dog run off the house so they could go in an out at night safely. Still, they knew when the batteries on their collars were weak, and Bear found high spots on the land where he could jump over the radio signal with a good running start.

My dogs never pulled a sled, but they surely pulled me. Through Bear and Chance I learned about connecting to something wild and untamable that I soon came to recognize and accept within myself. Every move I made, I sought out places deeper in the wilderness, with rugged land and remote acreage, until I was more at ease seeing a bear's paw print, than hearing a human voice. And even though I'm domesticated now, with elementary school parent-teacher conferences and hi-end appliances instead of a wood stove, I know the thrill of watching a pair of dogs—descended from wolves—run full out after something I can't see. And a part of me still goes with them.

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