Backstory: The Dog

I didn’t want him. I wasn’t ready for him, either.

I was a 25-year-old dirtbag living in a camper. It was early in the winter and, already, I was seeing the folly of my camper-living dream. I was trying to make it work with a girl, but living on the road and ski touring every day was creating tension.

“I want a dog,” she had said one day. “We are not responsible enough for one,” I had replied. “Besides, we can’t bring him to the cabins, and no one in their right mind would give one to two hippies in a camper.” Already, I knew I was losing this battle.

She wouldn’t give up the idea, and so she began scouring the Internet for every possible option. Most had pretty strict requirements—like a permanent address or payment. The free ones were the rejects. And they couldn’t be ski dogs.

Then, all of the sudden, we had one. He was a husky; fat and out of shape from years trapped in a kennel. He had an unpredictable wildness in his eyes, he didn’t listen to anyone, and he would snap at random people—particularly one-piece wearing Europeans. He would disappear whenever he could. In the end, we muzzled him and spent many ski days yelling his name and looking for him instead of skiing what I wanted to ski.

As the season progressed, he thinned out, started to listen and began to realize that humans were not so bad. Skiing became his freedom after four years in a cage. He would yodel with joy, tail wagging, eager to get into the mountains.

following-the-dog

Time passed and snow melted. His wildness was still there, but his social issues and nervousness were gone. So was the girl who first wanted him, and it was just the two of us now.

That October, we were back in the mountains when a fierce storm rolled through the alpine. He was in hot pursuit of a mountain goat herd. Eight hours later, when I was convinced he was dead, he showed himself. I had no voice left to yell, and I realized he was mine.

A year after we first met, we were back on a skintrack that he first visited with me. Instead of snapping, he greeted everyone with a wag. He now listens and knows his place in our pack of two. At the peak, he moved ahead, guiding me along the exposed ridge to our line. I dropped in, and he yodeled behind me. We skied the long couloir, and in the bowl we met, both of us admiring the line we skied.

I didn’t want him. I wasn’t ready for him, either. But that fat, feral creature is now my best friend and ski buddy with a mountain sense that astounds me. Funny how things work out….

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