Dog Walking in Denali
Our daughter Kristen scores a summer job at Denali National Park. Twice a week she volunteers to walk Akino, a young male on the national park dog team used by the rangers for winter travel. She invites her Dad, me, and our friend Susan to meet the hundred members of the team.
on labeled cages
sires, dams and pups
bark into glacial winds
Denali, the mountain itself, is buried behind rain and clouds, as it will be our entire visit. We hike down a dirt road toward the sounds of barking. The dogs look fit and healthy. Several perch on cage tops regally, baring teeth and daring us to come close. Because they are chained, we approach carefully, reading their biographies, discovering who is related to whom.
Akino, only eight months old, paces and whines. He’s eager for a jaunt in the woods. Kristen warns us of his amazing strength. Even though it’s against park regulations, she allows us each except for Susan who is mending from a bike accident, a turn at the leash.
But Susan begs, “Let me try, just for a sec. I’m strong. I lift weights.” A minute later dog and leash whirr past the devil’s club off the park trail. In a pack, we race after a very fast Akino. He veers into the woods. We skitter past briar bushes, hoping that we haven’t lost a breathing part of our national heritage or, worse, that we might cause this beautiful creature to be mauled by a grizzly or run over by a tourist bus.
No cars pass but we know that soon the park bus will drive by on its scheduled run from road’s end at Kantishna, where the park opens into total wilderness.
The four of us run quickly until finally the dog trots beside the road again. It’s easier to gain speed on the blacktop. Suddenly, he loops to the left, then whips back toward us. Without saying a word, we fan out and form a half-circle at the edge of the woods. My daughter dives for the leash that Akino has been dragging the whole time. Bingo!
a double rainbow arches
over the wide meadow