It was love at first sight on July 2 at the Fox Run campground when I saw him slowly walking up the hill from the lake. He had a tired swagger that lent itself unto the heat of the day.
We were currently camping for six nights in Palmer Alaska.
Here, we were hunkered down for the American July 4 holiday in an effort to avoid the heavy traffic and packed scenic sites. We considered ourselves lucky to have found a vacancy where everywhere else had been thoroughly booked for months in advance.
Normal temperatures here reach the low 70’s, and we were in the throes of a 90 degree heatwave.
I’m told that because of the year round cool weather houses do not come with air conditioning as it never gets hot. The sad news of the day around the camp was that all of the local Walmart’s fans had been sold out.
I had been sitting outside our camper practising my watercolour painting under the shade of our awning when I saw him out of the corner of my truck ye.
The more I watched him, the more enamoured I became. There was something different about him. Maybe it was the goggles. You just didn’t see dogs wearing bright yellow goggles every day.
“Nice dog,” I called out to the dog’s owner walking beside him.
Getting up from the table we began to approach each other.
When I patted the dog’s neck I found his fur soft and well cared for. The moment I began to scratch behind his ear he laid himself down on the cool grass.
“This is Maruk, the owner told me, “and he loves the ladies.”
(Pronounced Ma-Rook as in “spook”)
After introducing myself, the owner told me that his name was Al and that both he and Maruk were from Colorado. He considered himself a full time traveller, and I had no doubt that both he and Maruk were wise in the ways of making themselves at home anywhere they chose.
Maruk, Al told me, was born somewhere in the mountains of their home state where the high altitude and thin air led to Maruk’s genetic disorder. Exposure to sunlight caused irreparable damage to the eyes.
Maruk was a feral young pup when Al found him. Al told me that he knew this because no young domesticated pup would be able to hunt and scavenge for food the way Maruk could.
Al went on to explain that they had become friends ten years ago when he first found him running wild in the Colorado mountains. That was when Al decided to take him under his permanent care. A series of veterinarian visits led to the diagnosis of Maruk’s eye condition, a type of autoimmune disorder. Maruk has been wearing his googles every time they go outside since.
“Maruk loves everybody,” Al said with a smile, “and that includes other dogs.”
“If a dog snaps at Maruk, he’ll just lie down where he is and patiently wait until the other dog gives up.”
That was exactly what happened when we brought our own Bobby-Dog, a shitzu, over to meet him. The moment Bobby got his fur up, Maruk layed himself down in the grass again with what seemed to be a heavy sigh.
Unfortunately, not long afterward, Maruk and I had to part ways when Al explained that Maruk would not be able to withstand the heat for much longer, again basically because his constitution was more designed for much cooler temperatures at a higher and less pressurized atmosphere.
I watched Al and Maruk recede into the forest behind us as they returned to their campsite. A feeling of sadness came over me knowing that I probably would never see them again.
On the morning that we left the campground we drove past Al and Maruk’s trailer.
It was easy for me to imagine Maruk laying comfortably within the cool darkness of their rig.
This parting thought left me happy for Maruk.
Silently, I wished them both a long and happy life.