Open letter to Joe Public:

Posted: Sunday, April 22, 2007

Dear Joe, I wanted to apologize for suggesting we use stray dogs as bait to attract Romeo the wolf.

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No matter how plump, how juicy, how perfectly bite-sized they may be, dogs deserve better. Besides, they're an unnecessary part of the experience.

I found Romeo last week, and all I needed was my own silence and a downwind vantage. I spotted the legendary black wolf at Mendenhall Glacier, and I didn't need any kind of bait or lure. I saw him, and he saw me.

We watched each other from about 80 yards as the sun baked the snow around the headwaters of the Mendenhall River. I had roamed upstream along the icy, melting banks, following a trail that started near the little bridge on Mendenhall Loop Road. With a rare blue sky above and the occasional glimpse of the glacier, it was a nice walk.

As I reached the lake, the waters became more expansive, with a carpet of snow obscuring the lines between river, lake and land.

And there he was.

Romeo was gazing toward the mountains when I saw him. In the same instant that I became aware of him, he turned to look at me and froze. He scrutinized me, and I scrutinized him. He kept still, and so did I. After a few minutes, he crouched in the glaring, white snow, looking in his blackness like a shadow without a wolf.

Cold wind whipped over the glacier and across the lake, over the wolf and over me. He looked so noble and smart. He seemed so peaceful and predatory, as he crouched there, strategizing.

After a moment, he stood up and strolled into a veil of Sitka Spruce. And that was that. He was gone.

As I walked downstream, back to my car, I stopped every now and then. I couldn't see him, and I couldn't hear any noises. But I could imagine him stalking me from the forest, tracking my movements with the cunning and superiority of wildness.

I felt like I had been initiated into some kind of brotherhood. And all my old off-hand cracks and attempts at humor didn't just seem dumb. They seemed like the stuff of someone who was uninitiated.

So, I promise not to adopt any strays and feed them to Romeo, and I'll try not to joke about it. I will let him stay wild and ghostlike. I will leave him to his instincts and his meditations.

All apologies,

Ken

• Ken Lewis can be reached at ken.lewis@juneauempire.com.



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