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Editor's Choice and First Place, Nonfiction, Grade 7-9 : A Wolf in the Woods

Michaela Hack

The day was a cold one and snow was covering everything in sight. In the snow were paw prints and scuffle marks made by my dogs, Cinder, Niko, and Coby. My family was living at our fishing lodge in Southeast Alaska, Yes Bay Lodge. We had lived there from the time I was seven until I turned 14. Being the first part of January, we were in the middle of winter. The air was crisp, and stung your nose and throat when you inhaled.

My mom and I were shoveling snow off the board walks that surround the lodge grounds and lead to the dock below the lodge. The lodge only operates during the summer months and,since it was winter, the only people out there were my family and a man, Dewey, who helps care take during the off season months. My dad had recently just broken his ankle by slipping on a sheet of ice on the board walk so my mom and I were helping Dewey with chores and maintenance. I stopped shoveling for a moment and looked around me. Drifting down quietly,the snow hushed the thick forest around us.

Our Karelian Bear Dogs were lazily lying in the deep snow loving the cold weather, for their coats were thick and full. Niko, the only male dog, was chewing a stick as Coby raced around Cinder, annoying her. Suddenly, Niko dropped the stick, jumped up and ran towards the smaller generator shack which is on the outskirts of the lodge. The two other dogs ran after him barking as they went. Curious to see what they were chasing after, I dropped my shovel and followed them. They were running so fast that I lost sight of them quickly but I followed by listening to their barking.

The last couple weeks we had been having trouble keeping the dogs from attacking a porcupine that lived near the lodge. I was hoping that it was the same porcupine so that we could get rid of it for good. Pulling porcupine quills from frenzied dogs is not a pleasant experience.The excitement of the dogs was contagious and my heart quickened as I stumbled, snow gear and all, toward the direction of their barks. Through the tall hemlocks and cedars that towered toward the sky, their boughs full of snow, I continued on as fast as I could. Every once in a while a pile of snow would fall to the ground from a limb overhead making a muffled thud. I had been running alongside the shore line but the dogs’ barks seemed to be coming more from within the woods so I turned and ran up a hill through the trees towards the sounds.

Finding the trail that leads up to a bench that overlooks the back bay, I followed it until I saw all three dogs up ahead surrounding something and barking at it viciously. They were dodging in and out snarling and snapping their jaws at something that was behind a small cliff. I was curious to see what they were chasing after. My heart was pounding against my chest and my mind raced, trying to picture what it could be the dogs were barking at with such eager hostility. I walked closer, and then all of a sudden a great rusty brown head sprang up over the cliff edge. Its eyes were crazy looking, rolled back in its head, with only the whites showing.Throwing its giant paws up over the embankment, its long black claws rooted themselves in the dirt. Its legs were sinewy but I could see the outline of its bones poking through its scraggly hide.This was definitely not a porcupine; this was a wolf, wild with fear and unpredictable and I was not seven feet away from it.

I was so startled, terrified and unprepared for what I saw that I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t scream. Couldn’t scream. The wolf fell back down and ran towards the lodge but the dogs got in front of it and made the wolf double back toward the woods. I didn’t stay to watch but started running as fast as I could, considering I had at least three layers of clothing on. My mind was playing tricks on me. I thought I heard a twig snap, a bush rustle, and a sinister snarl. Panicking,I ran faster not caring that the low brush was hitting me in the face. I came out into a clearing right next to the board walk and yelled to my mom, “There’s a wolf in the woods behind the generator shack and the dogs are chasing it! I’m going to get Dewey!”

Heading straight for Dewey’s house, I burst through the door. “Dewey! There’s a wolf in the woods and the dogs are going after it! Get your gun!” Without a word, Dewey jumped up from coaxing a fire in the stove, grabbed his rifle and ran with me back up the trail to where Ihad last seen the wolf. When we were about half way up the trail, Cinder and Coby trotted back to us, panting and loping easily as if they had just been chasing a squirrel up a tree. But we could still hear Niko barking far back in the woods. Cinder and Coby, being females, would do their job of driving off a wild animal and then come home, but Niko always had to take it a step further.-

Yelling his name, we continued to walk up the trail until it ended at a bench overlooking the back bay. The water in the back bay glittered coldly against the winter sun. The frozen twigs and underbrush snapped crisply under our Xtra Tuffs as we ventured off the trail a bit, hoping to see a glimpse of Niko’s black and white coat. We stopped to listen. Niko was so far away still chasing the wolf that we could only hear the faint echoes his barks made against the dense forest.I worried about Niko. I knew the wolf could be leading him to its pack. He was too far away.We had no choice but to turn back to the lodge.-

When we got back my mom told me that my dad wanted to see me, I knew he was going to scold me so I went home to get it over with. Dad told me that going off into the forest alone running after the dogs was not smart of me….no one knew where I was, and no one knew what I was doing. Plus the wolf could have done anything… It might have hurt me. I knew it probably would have if the dogs hadn’t been there. Later that afternoon Niko came back home. Panting hard but unhurt. He was safe and looked extremely proud of himself.

I have obviously learned not to go off into the woods alone or at least without telling anyone where I’m going. So far, this has been one of the scariest moments in my life. But I am greatly thankful for my wonderful dogs, always there watching and protecting me and my family.


By Michaela Hack