The Moose Is Loose!
After our recent move to Alaska, my husband and I have been doing everything we can to explore this beautiful state. Sometimes it's tough given the negative temperatures in the Alaskan tundra but we've managed to do quite a bit!
We are currently on Ft. Wainwright and there is surprisingly much to do, here. One of the most fun things has been watching our one-year-old Husky, Niko, see snow for the first time. He's hooked!
Since the hubby is off to work everyday and I'm still waiting to start my new job, Niko and I have lots of time to explore and one of our favorite things is to go walking through the post's recreational park area, Glass Park. Now, if you ask anyone who lives on this post or works there they'll tell you that there are moose but that they're scarce and you'll rarely see them. I'm not sure where these people have been doing their hiking because I've had quite a few encounters just in the last few weeks!
Niko's First Moose Sighting!
It was a beautiful, insanely cold day in early February and Niko and I were taking one of our long walks through our new favorite park. It's totally calm and peaceful and, with everything covered in beautiful, pristine snow, it feels like we're literally walking in a Winter wonderland. The only sound I can hear is the, "crunch, crunch, crunch" of the snow beneath my feet - Niko and I are completely alone in the woods.
Without watching where I'm walking I bump into Niko and look down to find him standing perfectly still, looking straight ahead and intensely focused on something directly in front of us. My first thought is that this is very odd since, in true Husky fashion, Niko is usually dragging me along. So I look up to see what all of the fuss is about. And there they are, two moose staring directly at us.
Niko lays down and starts whining like he always does when he wants to play with another dog. The only problem is, these weren't dogs, they were 700 lbs of nervous energy pointed in our direction.
As we stand there, I start to recall everything I've heard about moose. They're generally shy, solitary animals and usually they're no trouble unless you get between a mama and her baby. Since people in the neighborhood mentioned that there was a mom and her baby living in this park I figured Niko and I were pretty much good to go. I saw two moose in front of us and nobody was between mama moose and her baby. Then I started to really look at these two enormous animals. If one was a mom and the other a baby....why were they the same size??? And then I heard trees rustling behind us.
I whipped around just as a moose TWICE the size of these babies came walking out of the woods and she was behind us. Damn it. We were the meat in a moose sandwich. So, what did I do? Well, I did the only thing a responsible person should do - I ran like hell! Niko was so excited that we were moving at a faster pace that he ran right with me (thank god!) and we were able to run around mama moose just before she charged us. Damn, that was close!
Two Baby Moose And An Excited Niko
Niko The Moose Whisperer (Not Quite)
After the first moose encounter I decided that Niko and I should take our walks later in the afternoon when the sun was at its highest point. This would help us avoid any more run-ins with the moose posse on post since that is apparently their nap time. We had probably been to the park seven times and hadn't seen a single moose. The coast seemed to be clear. Since I felt more comfortable, I let Niko run off-leash through the park so that he could get his energy out. I'd done this quite a few times and he did very well so this particular day seemed to be no different.
I was walking down a small, secluded path and Niko was frolicking in the snow - it was the perfect afternoon. Then Niko took off and before I could stop him, I saw why.
Mama moose had crossed our path just ahead and, with his new-found freedom, Niko decided that it was playtime. I was absolutely terrified. What if he got trampled? What if he got kicked? What if he followed the moose so far back into the woods that I wouldn't find him again?
All of these thoughts were racing through my head as I chased after Niko who was chasing after the moose. That's right folks, I chased after the moose. Not one of my finer decisions....
As I rounded the bend I saw an opening about 25 yards in front of me. There was no sign of Niko or the moose so I stopped and listened. I heard rustling, lots of rustling, and then the familiar bark. It was Niko's, "Hey, there! Let's be best friends and play," bark.
I carefully made my way closer to the clearing where, to my horror, they we're engaged in a very dangerous (well dangerous for Niko) game of chicken. They'd run at each other then Niko would retreat and bark and jump around. This went on for about ten minutes. All the while I'm frozen (figuratively and literally because it was freaking cold!) in place wondering how in the heck I'm supposed to get my dog away from this moose.
I walked in a very wide circle around the two of them and was standing on a large path in the middle of the clearing. I stood there, dumbfounded, and tried to think. Before I had a chance to come up with a solution, one of my worst fears came true.
The mama moose mustered up her energy and decided to really chase Niko. As this enormous animal is running after him, he gets scared and runs directly towards me for safety. So here is the moose, chasing my dog who is running towards me.... I turned around and ran like my life depended on it. And when it comes to an animal that size, your life DOES depend on it. I ran as fast as my little snow boots would carry me until I made it to the relative safety of a picnic table in the park. Only then did I muster up the courage to turn around.
Again Niko and the moose we're engaged in their game of chicken and I was a safe distance from them both. It finally dawned on me that one of my biggest frustrations with this dog could be the key to getting him back. You see, Niko has a serious attention deficit disorder. I mean, he's a puppy and a Husky and is pretty much game for anything exciting.
So I start to exclaim about something interesting in the snow next to me. In a very dramatic voice I start to yell, "Oh my god, Niko! What is that? What's in there?" I repeat this a few times and when I look up I see that I finally have his attention. He's about a hundred yards away from me so I step up my game. I start rustling the snow about and getting even more excited. Niko sprints towards me to find out what he's missing and before he can go for another round of chicken with the moose I have him back on his leash. WHEW. Mission accomplished! That was way too close for comfort.
The last few mooshaps (hehe see what I did there?) have taught me quite a bit. I have learned that moose hate dogs, dogs LOVE moose and that I seriously need to start jogging again if I'm going to go exploring in Alaska!
In all seriousness the situation did scare me into being much more careful on these outings. Niko stays on his leash and I'm more careful about where and when we go walking. Looking back, the incident was pretty funny....well it is NOW. But it was also pretty dangerous. I know I was lucky that Niko and I didn't get hurt and am definitely taking it more seriously. I mean, after all, I have to survive so that I can experience the glorious Alaskan summer!