It’s 13 degrees. The cold is messing up my camera. I am skiing alone, asking other cross-country skiers if they have seen a toy poodle in a knit sweater. Where has that little dog gone? We were together just minutes ago at the base of a small hill. She was inclined to take our usual trail, the one that loops around the hill. But, I have grown used to winning such battles so I started up the slope, figuring that she would pout a minute and trot after me. At the top I was alone.
We had already been skiing for more than an hour. Most of that time was spent on a back- country-style trail. Aki stopped often to roll or dig into the fine-grained snow. I worked out a way to take pictures without removing my mittens. Unlike yesterday, where the tracks of snowshoe hares, squirrels, and a fox crisscrossed our trail, we don’t spot any evidence that dog or wild animal had passed this way.
At the end of the back-country portion of our ski we crossed Glacier Highway and slipped onto a groomed, tracked trail that winds through a dormant campground. Aki stopped often to roll in the snow, check scent or chase about with another dog. Then, while I was on the hill, she disappeared.
A bit dehydrated. I can barely manage the whistle I use to call her home. She must have heard, because she sprints toward me from the opposite side of the hill, looking putout. At the same time we silently ask the same question: “Where have you been?”