By WAYNE D. KING, The View From Rattlesnake Ridge
Here in the foothills of the White Mountains much of the nation has been riveted to the impeachment hearings but a distant second, it seems, has been the news about an 18,000-year-old pup found in the permafrost of Siberia who is being called Dogor, meaning “friend” in the Yakut language.
Scientists are fascinated with the near-pristine body of this pup and completely unsure if he is a wolf pup or a dog, leading many to speculate that Dogor may represent the point at which the two species diverged . . . mostly anyway.
I say “mostly” because anyone who has a Siberian Husky, like my dog “Boof” will tell you they are still unsure.
It was fifteen years ago on Thanksgiving that Alice and I took our son Zachary to Karriad Kennels in Plymouth to pick out a Siberian Husky pup from a litter that had been born in early-October. I knew nothing about the breed but Zach was determined that he wanted a sled dog to pull him on his snowboard in a modified Ski-joring fashion and Alice and I were eager to help him get over the loss of our beloved Bernese Mountain Dog “Buckminster.”
I remember holding that little ball of fur and nuzzling my nose into his neck and breathing in that unmistakable aroma of puppy and it was love at first whiff.
What I didn’t know at the time was that a Siberian Husky is one very short step from a wolf and – with all due respect to the cat lovers out there – not too far from a cat either . . . or a Bobcat.
It became clearer one fine day when Boof escaped from the house and promptly killed all the chickens in my neighbor Linda’s coop – a chaotic scene that lasted no more than five minutes.
Five years later, Linda proved that she was a candidate for Sainthood when he did the same with the rabbits with which she had replaced the chickens. Though she was sweet and understanding about it, you couldn’t blame Linda when her third choice was bees.
“That’ll show him.” I imagined her saying as she finished installing the five hives.
Yet, between the two of them, Linda and Boof, I learned a lot about forgiveness and empathy. Linda always reminded me it was Boof’s nature and she forgave us.
Willful is probably the best adjective to describe a Siberian Husky. A friend once warned me: “They understand everything you tell them and they will take it under advisement.”
So when Boof would jump out of my car and run off on me one day in Maine last summer, I just knew that he would be holed up on some kindly neighbors porch; or, having brazenly walked right into their home, he’d patiently wait for me to come and find him, with a little help from the friendly police of York and Ogunquit. It wasn’t the first time he had played this game with me.
Despite it all, he was a member of our pack. . . or we, his. On many an occasion, we would all break into a chorus of howls and Boof would joyously join in, rocking the house and entertaining an endless stream of visitors. Often in those days he would instigate the chorus and invite us to join in, which we did happily.
I could not pull out my guitar and play by myself because he was determined that it called for a duet, especially if the song involved yodeling. I didn’t know whether to be honored or insulted, but it did make me laugh.
He stopped singing after Alice died. Even when Zach and Lauren returned six months later and we tried to prod him into it, he was half-hearted at best . . . I guess we all were.
For fifteen years a lot of my life has been measured by the antics of this wolf-dog. So when he began losing weight recently I took him to the Vet. It was not good news. . . cancer, a fairly aggressive kind. They said a month or two was the prognosis.
He still wakes me up in the morning with a bedside yip and a poke, ready to go for his morning walk and I still marvel at the way he comes to attention with his nose high, sniffing the air, every time we pass over a new set of footprints in the snow. But the pace has slowed and the shaking in his hind legs tells me that time grows short.
So tomorrow we embark on one final road trip; camping out, sleeping under the stars and hiking as long as he is able on our way out to Aspen to see Zach for one last time.
I’ll keep him comfortable and sleep with him, side by side, in a tent when the weather doesn’t permit us to stargaze and commune with the universe, and try to make it a happy month for him. I’ll bring my guitar and play him songs celebrating New Hampshire, The Rockies, Jersey.
Somewhere in the west, we will sit on a bluff and I will tell him about his grandfather Blackwater’s SonTu of Larake, who finished the Iditarod in lead position with UNH graduate Devon Currier driving.
Though we will be far from my Grandfather’s Iroquois and Abenaki roots, I will tell him of my native heroes. In Arizona I will sing the praises of Geronimo and Cochise. In Montana I will praise the memory of Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull and the great Chief Joseph who surrendered himself to give the young and strong among the Nez Perce time to escape to Canada after a 1500 mile flight to freedom that ended for him just shy of the border.
I’m sure I will listen to more impeachment talk on the radio as we drive, but mostly I think I will wonder why it is that we human-types are so terrible about listening to one another and to the voices inside us that unite us. How is it that we can act like a single species separated by a common language, when beside me sleeps another species entirely who just seems to get me?
Note: You can follow Wayne and Boof on Wayne’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/WayneDKingNH
About Wayne D. King: Wayne King is an author, artist, activist and recovering politician. A three-term State Senator, 1994 Democratic nominee for Governor, now a registered Independent; he is also the former publisher of Heart of New Hampshire Magazine and CEO of MOP Environmental Solutions Inc., and now host of two Podcasts – The Radical Centrist (www.theradicalcentrist.us) and NH Secrets, Legends and Lore (www.nhsecrets.blogspot.com). His art is exhibited nationally in galleries and he has published three books of his images and a novel “Sacred Trust” a vicarious, high voltage adventure to stop a private powerline all available on Amazon.com. He lives in Thornton, New Hampshire at the base of Welch Mountain where he proudly flies both the American and Iroquois Flags. His website is: http://bit.ly/WayneDKing . You can help spread the word by following and supporting him at www.Patreon.com/TheRadicalCentrist .