I faced my first real foe when I was only a few months old. It is somewhat embarrassing to admit, but this was during the phase of life when I still sometimes needed to relieve myself in the middle of the night, and could not wait until morning, when my people awoke and started their day.
I woke in my kennel and whined and howled the signal to Woman so that she would know I needed to go out. By this time, Woman and I understood each other very well. Man was away. He, I now knew, had a job on a ship that had to leave for days at a time, though it made Woman and me sad.
Woman woke and came out of the bedroom, pulling on a sweatshirt as she came. She had the look in her eyes of a dazed puppy who has drunk too much milk and has not yet slept it off. “It’s 3am,” she told me. Then she said, “Oh, Humphrey.” She helped me to assemble myself for the outdoors, clipping on my leash and slipping on her shoes.
Woman and Man were renting the house we stayed in, not hailing from Alaska themselves, but instead from the distant land where I now live. There was no light over the front door, and Woman and Man had not put one there. Thus, as we ventured out into the winter night, Woman was as good as blind.
We walked toward my usual spot, and I felt the urgent need to go, but then I smelled it–the scent I’d encountered a hundred times before in the yard and on our walks, but this time fresh, immediate, dangerous. I stopped. Woman stopped. She started to say my name, but she was interrupted by the moose, who roared at us and began to charge. Woman and I ran for the door and just made it inside, Woman yanking the door shut behind us. Woman knelt down and petted me and held me close and told me “good dog! good dog!” and I felt proud. This was the first day I was a hero. I tasted the glory we had only dreamed of when I slept with my littermates. I licked woman and wagged my tail. After some time had passed, woman took me out the back door with a flashlight, and I completed my unfinished business, still proud of what I had accomplished. That night, I went back into my kennel feeling like a grown dog already.
Later, when I would see moose from our second floor porch, I would bark at them to warn them away. They never tried to enter the house, which I think I can safely say was a result of my talents.