I awoke in the middle of the night to eleven sled dogs sounding the alarm. They have a very distinct bark when something big is moving around nearby, and that was the bark they were using now. I heard Zombie, Misfit and Cookie all launch from their beds on either side of me, as I fumbled around in my sleeping bag for my headlamp. By the time I found it, and was able to sit up and peer out the tiny hole in my bag, two of them were already back at my side. I wondered which of the girls was still out there, just as Cookie’s bark echoed out from the middle of the bay.
“Cookie!” I shouted, and within seconds she was licking my face excitedly, telling me all about how brave she had been. I laughed as I turned on my headlamp and shined it on the far shore. I half expected to see eyes reflecting back at me, but there was nothing there. The dogs had all settled down again, so I figured whatever had set them off was long gone. I turned off my headlamp, laid back down, and drifted off to sleep.
As I made breakfast in the yurt the next morning, someone asked what the dogs had been barking at in the middle of the night. I told them that my guess was that a deer or wolf had wandered into the bay. I figured we would see the tracks when we launched, and the mystery would be solved. Boy, was it ever!
As we left the bay, crossed the portage, and dropped onto the main part of the lake, there was a set of fresh wolf tracks just to our left. “Aha!” I thought, “Mystery solved!”. Before I could point them out to the two mushers behind me, I noticed ravens up ahead in the middle of the lake. Distracted now, I forgot to point out the tracks. The ravens took off as we got closer, but there were still small dark shapes on the lake. A few seconds later and the mystery was solved without a doubt. There, just off the trail, was one of the biggest wolf kill sites that I had ever seen. Tracks came in from all directions, and the area that was packed down completely was huge in comparison to anything else I had ever come across. I stopped and waited for the teams behind me to catch up. I pointed at the kill and explained what it was. They seemed a little concerned that I was so excited about the fact that a large number of wolves had been so close to the yurt last night, but I couldn’t help it. This type of thing is part of the reason that I love my job!
As we started moving again, I smiled to myself. For many years, the belief among the guides was that, if the situation ever arose and you needed a dog to fight off a polar bear, Misfit was the dog for the job. Now I knew the truth, though. Last night, it wasn’t Misfit that kept the curious wolf out of our bay. I decided right then that if I ever find myself in polar bear country, the one dog that I want by my side is Cookie.