“Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.”
Things took a turn for the worse for me on my last day on the Last Frontier. My beloved black lab, Lucky, was hit by a car and killed instantly just hours before we were supposed to head home, and as you can probably imagine, it hit me pretty hard.
There isn’t much anyone can say to make this feel any less awful, but in an uncharacteristic attempt on my part to be positive, I’ve given it a shot. Bear with me here.
I can’t really describe how I’m feeling about the loss of my best friend except that there’s just this inescapable sadness. Most of my stuff has at least a little dog hair on it, and everywhere I look, I see another painful reminder that I have lost everything I came to Alaska with. Sometimes my mind drifts off for a few minutes and I almost expect him to come trotting around the corner, ready for action. Hours after it happened, I even opened the back hatch of my car and told him to hop in, and then felt totally crazy, in a Norman Bates sort of way, and was glad no one was around to see it.
I survived my first Alaskan winter thanks in no small part to Lucky, who insisted we get outside even on the days cold enough to chill your bones, who sat with his head in my lap for countless hours of homework, who swallowed a dozen chicken wing bones and ate a whole box of brownie mix and lived to tell about it, who just days ago had his entire head in an empty jar of peanut butter, ensuring not a morsel would be thrown away. He was very committed to preventing waste like that. I can see him stretched out across the entire bed, sprawled on his back, a habit I often regretted allowing but will now miss in a way I can’t describe. I can hear him rustling in the bushes ahead of me on a hike, a mighty hunter of small woodland creatures. I expect to be awakened at precisely 6:30 tomorrow morning, which is the time Lucky felt very strongly his morning ration of brown pebbles should be served. It’s going to be a long time before all those things fade.
We buried Lucky in a small clearing in the woods behind the Kellogg House on Spring Creek Farm. The pet cemetery there is the final resting place of other people’s beloved pets, too, so he’ll have some company. I think if I got to pick what happens to me next, I’d like to be reincarnated as a dog on a farm. Life is good for dogs on farms. It was hard to say goodbye to him as I left Alaska for the summer. As I packed up the apartment and he paced around in that nervous way dogs do when they think you’re leaving, I explained that there was no need to worry; I wouldn’t leave him. “You’re coming with me!” I told him excitedly, in the voice you use with dogs, the one where you can say, “We’re going to the vet to get some shots!” and you sound so happy they wag their tails and think that sounds just fine. He seemed satisfied with that explanation, and then, completely unexpectedly, I did have to leave him. It felt awful. I can’t quite picture how my life will look without him, but it will continue, and I am so lucky to have known him.
Despite this loss, though, I have gained something. There’s a reason I’m in Alaska, and although I can’t for the life of me understand why things like this happen, I have fallen in with a truly remarkable group of people. The night before I left, my friends—supervised by Lucky the Labradork—all came over to move me out of my apartment, and as we sat around shooting the shit over beers that night, I felt so grateful to have found them. We’ve become a little family in this land of strange and occasionally tragic occurrences, and I’m not sure what I’d do without them. It’s not every day you make friends who will spend their Saturday night moving you out, and the following day helping you cope with a tragic loss. I can’t possibly thank them well enough, or explain how much it all means to me, but I think they know, and I think Lucky knew, too.