A metal deer stand out in the ugly clearcut, cammo cloth hanging loose and flapping in the wind. Two year old popple whips growing thick right up to the jack pines on the far side. Daylight fading from a gray sky. Wicked wind blowing out of the east. I can’t hear anything.
I’ve always needed time in the woods with my dogs. Since Lisa died it’s one of the few things that makes sense to me. I can get by OK without much food or sleep but wouldn’t last long without this.
We started in the spruce trees, the dogs ran for a long time in the same area. I saw wolf tracks in the snow when I drove in here, but they’re everywhere now. You can’t get away from them.
The dogs brought their rabbit close, then turned west. I heard a strange voice in with the dogs. What the heck was that? They trailed west, out of hearing. I checked their tracks, dog tracks over rabbit tracks.
They should have come back. I called, blew the truck horn. Taylor came in. Then Honey. Good dogs. May was barking lost over south of us. Looking for me. Lovey never left, she was still running where she started. Speedy and River were missing, picking up River’s collar over west on the far side of the clear cut.
After listening from the deer stand I walked back in the spruces and caught Lovey. We drove over to the other side of the clear cut and back in on a trail. A snowshoe hare just off the trail when I got out of the truck, ran back in the brush. Couldn’t hear any dogs running.
I started walking a four wheeler trail and May found me. I tried to get her to run the hare but she wasn’t leaving my side. I tied her to a tree and let her bark, hoping to bring in River and Speedy.
My trail was heading north but the tracker said the dogs were west. There’s a big, nasty tamarack swamp on the other side of these jack pines, I’m still thinking River and Speedy just don’t want to quit. Walked back in until the brush got too thick, went back out to the road and checked just south of the tamaracks, River’s collar said she was still back in the jack pines.
It’s pretty dark and I don’t have any light with. I followed the tracker back into the thick brush, past where I stopped last time. Pushed my way through. And found River, dead. Her blood soaking into the snow. I spent some time there screaming curses at wolves. All wolves and the people that protect them. Then I picked up Irene’s dog and carried her back to the truck.
I drove about 80 back to the house to get and light and fix my old MN 10 receiver so I could tune in Speedy’s collar. A movie of those dirty slimey wolves eating my dog running through my head the whole time. Alligators with a fur coat and long legs. Killing machines.
It was black dark when I got back and I couldn’t pick up Speedy’s collar. Walked back in to where I found River and looked around. Tracks and broken brush leading away, I followed. I got down and shined the light ahead. Eyes. I thought I found Speedy but all I found when I got there was more blood on the snow. Somebody died here. The eyes I saw were gone.
Fuckin wolves always leave a trail of death and destruction behind, a fact I have used before to find my dead dogs. I picked the freshest set of wolf tracks and followed them. I followed them a long ways. Big ones. They were FRESH. Going away from me. I never found Speedy.
Back at the house I called Kila to tell Irene about her dog, but she was at Gramma Gramma’s. Talking to Kila I caught myself calling her Leese. It’s what I always called Lisa. Woke up in the middle of the night from a dream filled with beagles, and Lisa.
Honey slept in the house that night. Her and River have lived together since the day they were born. Honey is usually happy and busy. That night she laid there and wouldn’t lift her head. She was there. She saw what happened, I’m sure of it.
The next morning I went to see the girls and tell Irene about her dog. She turned away with tears in her eyes. That hurt more than anything.
I went back that day and walked all over that woods. There were a lot more wolf tracks than when I left the night before. I never found my dog.