Karen Clyde was in Alaska looking for an easy, on-the go family adventure. She hadn't expected to return to the family home in Whitehorse, Canada, her eyes full of tears, her young boys detecting her pain while trying to console her. Two dogs piled into the Clyde's Toyota Tundra truck, but they were making the return trip to the Yukon Territory one family member short.
Missing from their human-canine pack was Mazzy Star, a 15-year-old husky she'd named after a California band and a loyal companion who predated any of the other important relationships in Clyde's life. Before her husband, there was Mazzy. Before her 13-year-old and 7-year old boys were born, there was Mazzy. But on this long drive home, after days and days spent searching and hoping that Mazzy would show up, Clyde's caravan was incomplete.
"Mom, we'll find her. We'll find her," 13-year-old Matthias, her eldest son, kept telling Clyde, words from an optimistic boy still young enough not to be jaded by harsh truths the world sometimes delivers. Where Matthias offered words of comfort, 7-year-old Daniel offered hugs.
The truth here was that Mazzy was old and deaf, with only three legs. She had wandered off at a campground along Alaska's Russian River, an abundant and immensely popular salmon and trout corridor in prime bear country on the Kenai Peninsula, a three-hour drive south of Alaska's largest city. And she'd been gone without a trace for nearly a week.
Black bears were trashing tents in the campground. Grizzly sows and their cubs were wandering the banks. And Clyde feared Mazzy was out there somewhere, ambling and hopping her way through a silent world thick with apex predators. After days of waiting, the family could wait no more. There were jobs to get back to. School for the kids. Karen had a newborn to care for. It was time to move on.
"Leaving a dog who you think had a horrible ending, who was expecting you to save her somehow, was just terrible," Clyde said, in an interview from Whitehorse, still heavy with the gut wrench and guilt she had carried home. "I just had to say bye to her and realize that I wasn't going to see her. Chances are she'd been eaten. I had this horrible feeling in my stomach the whole way."