I believe it was the summer of 2009 when I first saw the black dog. She was laying at the bottom of the deadman’s curve between Black Bear Creek and Duke Creek on the highway to Klawock. leaning against the guardrail, head and eyes alert, searching. The black dog was a mix of border collie and chow, a plain almost ugly gal with her purplish tongue as she panted. her thing longish coat dusty and black coat. I do not recall any distinguishing white markings to break the stark blackness of her coat and dark eyes set in a border collie face.
Upon seeing the black dog, I slowed down; she stood up and silently followed alongside our jeep. Thinking she may be looking for a ride, I pulled over at the mouth of the dirt road that branched off the highway. The black dog trotted over, a hopeful look to her eyes. I exited the jeep to encourage her approach as she trotted close to us
The black dog looked at me and then peered into the darkness of the jeep to scan the faces of the the passengers inside the car. Her face sagged in disappointment and the black dog silently resumed her position alongside the road. No amount or type of inducement then or in the future could convince her to come within arm’s reach.
Each time thereafter, as I drove the Klawock Highway to and from Klawock, the black dog was there= sitting or laying on the shoulder of the road or in the shade under a bush or stunted tree. Each time I stopped, the black dog cautiously approached and silently peered into the jeep only to again turn in disappointment to resume her patient vigil along the highway.
During the summer, I learned that I was not alone in stopping to coax the black dog to another life. It was surprising that the most unexpected Islanders even paused in their journey for the black dog. Each attempt would end in failure as she skittered beyond arm’s reach to resume her solitary sojourn. It was said that even the Alaska State Troopers were defeated in their attempts to rope and live animal trap her.
The summer moved on, but the black dog stayed. Animal lovers left opened bags of dog-food, tupper-ware containers with water or wet dog food, or sliced deli meat and treats and toys in tribute to her unrewarded loyalty and determination.
Soon the temperatures started dropping, the wind blowing colder, and the grasses browning signaling the arrival an autumn that gave promise of a cold winter. A Letter to the Editor appeared in the Island News asking how would the black dog survive the upcoming winter freezes and snows? and decried the cruelty of the owner who so cravenly abandoned the black dog.
Two weeks later, when we drove to the dead-man’s curve, the black dog was not to be seen. I slowed down and pulled to the entrance of the gravel side road and hopped out of the jeep.
A brisk wind was blowing the dried kibble out of the bags of dog food, and toying with the tupperware containers. I took my pups and we walked about looking and calling for the black dog, looking on both sides of the highway fearing that she may be ill or injured, and hiding. Nothing. We climbed back into the jeep and continued our journey.
We drove by another two weeks later. There was no evidence the black dog was ever there except for a couple of forlorn shredded bags emptied of dry kibble caught on the guardrail. I asked around, everyone had a theory from the most dire to the most hopeful, but no one knows.