I am walking along the shore of Mendenhall Lake. It just stopped hailing. Now a gentle rain dimples the open sections of water between pans of rotting ice. Aki has disappeared into the woods. For the first time in awhile, I am worried about the little dog. Last week on a nearby trail, another dog walker watched his pup take a one-way trip into the woods. The wolf that killed his dog emerged carrying part of a freshly dead deer. Fish and game investigators reported that the wolf was only protecting its food and would not otherwise have harmed the dog.
When the little poodle-mix fails to answer my whistle call, I start wishing that I had kept her on a lead. Turning my back on the glacier, I head into the woods and find her casually walking toward me.
While spending most of my adult life in semi-wild areas of Alaska, I’ve had to weigh the ups and downs of living in place where bears and wolves might walk past your house in the dark. A recent trip to the Low Countries, where we cycled past swans and a great blue heron flew over the train taking up to the Brussels Airport, reminded me of how well wild animals are able to find their niche in human communities. I hope this is always the case, even it means increasing the risk of a walk in the local woods.