We start every walk with the pooping ceremony. Aki circles one way and then the other to prepare the snow and loosen her bowels. If a squirrel doesn’t dash through her peripheral vision or a raven doesn’t chant, she does her job. Before the drop, I usually turn away and prepare the plastic bag for capture of her product. This morning, distracted by hundreds of Canada geese fleeing from something on the wetlands, I miss the ceremony. I will also miss the geese. Even though we will hear their cackling complaints during the entire walk on the Fish Creek delta, we won’t see the big fat birds. After the geese flyby, I search the snow for Aki’s scat and end up bagging several piles of poo with the hope that the little dog produced at least one of them.
Fog clogs the air above Gastineau Channel but hasn’t reached delta wetlands. That changes when we reach the creek’s mouth. I spot what looks like a shack walking upstream—a bird hunter packing out his decoys. Did he chase off the geese? Downstream, fog block our view of the glacier. The tide flooding onto the wetlands has driven the gray blanket over Smuggler’s Cove and onto the mountainsides, shrinking our world.
When I stop to photograph a lead in the pond ice Aki slips onto the ice, now only 2 inches thick. I spot her nosing a recently disturbed patch of open water in the lead. The little dog scrambles on shore when I call her. Fifty feet away a river otter eye hops and then slides out of the water by extending its long neck over the ice. When half of his elongated body is on the ice the other half pops out of the water. The wild animal makes a chitterling call and Aki returns to the ice. I call her back but when she starts to respond, the otter chits. I call, the otter chits again and again until the little poodle mix finally slinks up to me, perhaps shocked at the language I used to demand her return. The otter, tail in the water, four paws on the ice, watches her playmate/tasty meal walk away.