When I was a kid, my parents got divorced. I’m not unique here, this happens to many. It happened when I was between 12 and 13 years old. And my dog became my best friend more so than ever.
This isn’t to say I didn’t have friends but when the weather was bad or homework was their priority (I wasn’t the best student) my dog was my constant companion.
Tundra was his name and he was a Siberian Husky. We had many adventures. I used to put on my roller-blades, attach two leashes to his collar (for balance) and hang on. I got pretty good at this, crouching down low when we took sharp corners or steep hills. A couple times I had to bail when he went after some critter and one time I lost control and slammed into the back of a truck. When my dad saw my bloody countenance, his first question was, “Is the truck okay?” Then he asked if the dog was okay and finally if I was okay.
When I would run with him, he would pull me to no end. I would hang onto the leash and leap from foot to foot, sailing through the air. The trick was to try and maximize the time I spent in the air and not to slow him down. This was my favorite. It was the closest I could achieve to actually running with him. This memory is one I cherish and use to describe the sensation a character in my novel feels when running with a pack of wolves.
Then there was the forest. I can’t remember how much acreage there was. I could spend hours exploring it and it took me years to learn all my different routes. I was an intrepid explorer. I fell down many gullies, landed in flooded streams and stinging nettles. A friend and I were swarmed by wasps that had made their nest underground, which we haplessly trod upon during the fall when it was concealed by leaf litter. I followed deer and coyotes. I learned my way and would use the forest to get to other neighborhoods and even to the main part of the nearest town, where a shopping center was located.
Tundra always went with me as did the family dog, Lucy, a Shetland Sheepdog. As we slipped past the tree-line, I would let the dogs offleash. While the loyal sheltie stayed with me, Tundra was off and we went our separate ways. He always came when I called and generally stayed somewhat close. As I said before, we had many adventures.
When my broken family moved from Oregon to Montana, everything changed. The dogs had to live in a kennel because the yard either wasn’t fenced or Tundra escaped. He became an escape artist. I would always go after him but there was no catching him. Huskies are born to run. He got into all kinds of trouble. He became a chicken killer, steak thief and livestock worrier. On one occasion I had to stand between my dog and a furious shotgun wielding owner of dead chickens. It was a very frightening and tense standoff. My dog lived but I was warned that if he was ever seen around that property again, he would be shot on the spot. Every time Tundra ran off, I wondered if I would see him again.
In the winters I could let him run. He would pull me, alongside other huskies, on a sledge. I would also put on my snowboard and let him pull me through town, though it was tricky to maintain my balance. I often caught my edge and even broke my tailbone once when we hit ice.
The days of roller-blading were over, chipsealed roads were not friendly to roller-blades. We would go hiking though but there was no letting him offleash, at least, not as often as he was accustomed to. The wilderness was vast, a massive expanse of wild stretching between Montana and Idaho. It was far more dangerous and not a place to let a husky roam.
As time progressed I began working and partaking in extracurricular activities. I still tried to let him out to run and take him for walks as often as I could but it was a far cry from our adventures together in the forest of my childhood.
After I graduated high school, I left Montana and I left Tundra behind. I got a job and my own place then got a Doberman puppy named Joe. My biggest regret is that I didn’t take Tundra with me or go back and get him. It would have been hard because my place and yard were small but I would have figured something out if I would have known what was to come.
My dad called me one morning and told me that he gave the huskies away (there was another named Shira, I’ll tell her story later). I asked where they went and he told me to a place up in Northern Montana. Where they got to run and pull sleds. It sounded perfect. Too perfect, like the proverbial farm. I would ask my dad, nearly every time we spoke, if he knew how the huskies were doing. They were always doing wonderful. Even after a number of years had passed, making the huskies an impossible age, they were still doing well.
So I wonder, what really happened to my friend? Where did he go? Did he live to a ripe old age pulling sleds and live out his days as a husky should? My dad’s story never changes. I only hope it is the truth. It haunts me to this day though and I suspect I will always carry this regret with me.
The stunning escape artist himself.
(not a great picture but this was our forest in Oregon, you can see him peaking through the foliage)
(another not so great picture but this was one of my favorite places. Tundra’s not in this pic)
(find the husky)
(he was impossible to brush)
(Lucy, the sheltie. Also an awesome dog. Much loyal, to the end.)