There are many ways to travel the vast wilderness and lonely roads within Alaska----- float or bush-piloted plane, canoe, sea kayak, and one of the most popular… hitching. We tend to be cautious about providing a lift to anyone, but Tamar was an exception. At first, we were put off by her aggressive manner toward others and her aloof attitude; however, she turned out to be the most interesting and intelligent guests we have hosted along the road.
We met her at the visitor center for the Wrangell St. Elias National Park, the largest US National Park with 9 of the 16 tallest peaks in North America. We had spent several days in the park and were stopping at the visitor center for just a few minutes when we saw her for the first time. She dominated the picnic shelter as she barked and growled with fear at those who had spent two days trying to help her. We gave her a wide berth as we entered and left the parking area. A few hours later, after the center had closed for the night, we returned to use their bathrooms and Tamar was lying under a table, quick to bark hostilely at us until she discovered the meat stick Jess had brought for her. Piece by piece she hungrily gulped it down as well as the two hot dog buns that followed. Still suspicious, she stayed away, but as we talked softly she got a bit closer. She laid down to the delight of the waiting mosquitoes, as despair led to depression and we watched hope fade from her listless eyes. She ignored us, occasionally whimpering in frustration at the mosquitoes, but for the most part just allowing them to feast on her.
We walked away from her and once out of sight, heard a despondent, gut-wrenching howl of desolation only a husky can deliver into an evening sky. We turned back to try once more. Finally, as Sally patted her leg and said to both Jess and the young, female husky “Let’s go”, Tamar (as we were to learn was her name) rose and led us the few hundred yards to our van. We looked uncertainly at each other as we opened the door and she jumped in as if she had a thousand times before. We got in as well, silently looking across the narrow, now claustrophobically-small space, at the dog that had growled and barked away all others. We all needed the same thing but did not know it at the moment…….trust.
Tamar was done with the aggression as she panted with fear over her audacity of jumping into our van. We eased around her and got into bed watching her carefully. Finally, she came to us and when we both reached to pet her, she put down her ears and vocalized some of her hopes and fears. If you have ever heard a husky speak to someone, you can imagine the moment and sound. As we watched, she curled up, spent of her anxiety and fear, and slept as close to us as she could. We laid restlessly in bed, staring at the ceiling, wondering what we had just done and what the morning would bring. We needed faith.
The next morning, after her much needed breakfast, Tamar showed who she was searching for as we took her to different places up and down the highway. From her reaction at one site, we were pretty sure that she was looking for a man who wore fishing clothes (that describes about 80% of Alaskan males in July). We knew he had taken excellent care of her and that she was well trained. We were beginning to deduce that she was not dumped, as the Park personnel had assumed, but lost. After looking at bulletin boards in grocery stores, visitor centers and outposts along the highway and getting a tip from a BLM ranger on where she thought she had seen a posting, we found the yellow paper with the description of our guest and a phone number. A few calls, an emailed photo, and an excited owner motivated us to get on the road heading toward Tamar’s home 150 miles away. She had been lost almost a week earlier while her owner was fishing in the area almost 30 miles from where we first encountered her. The family had prayed for her return and if prayer is the root of trust and faith, it helped her find her way back to those that love her.
Joy. One of our favorite moments of the past 7 weeks’ journey was the reunification of Tamar and her family of three from Delta Junction. Alaska. We left them and turned back toward the west again, but with them we left a piece of ourselves. Once you have been given and you have gifted another with trust such as the three of us did, there is a part of you that forever travels with each other. The next morning, we both found ourselves glancing back toward where Tamar had slept, knowing that we had been given something special in our time with her.
Posted from Trapper Creek, Alaska