A Chance Meeting
About ten years ago now, a chance encounter occurred near the picturesque remains of Dirleton Castle that would change our lives in the most wonderful way.
It was a lovely summer’s day, so Tim and I were in East Lothian with some friends on a fun day trip. After exploring the romantic castle ruins, we headed to a nearby pub for some refreshment. As we sat down at a table in the beer garden, two of the most beautiful and impressive dogs I had ever seen wandered over to sniff us and say hello. The dogs were HUGE, their thick silver and white fur almost glinting in the sunlight, and their fluffy tails arced over their backs and softly wagging in the warm breeze. They had sweet, smiling faces and soft, kind brown eyes. I was mesmerized.
Call of the Wild
When I was a little girl, I loved to read. My favourite stories were always about animals. I read Jack London’s ‘White Fang’ and ‘The Call of the Wild’ over and over, countless times. My childish dreams revolved around exciting adventures deep in the snowy landscape of Alaska, finding happiness with a sweet, strong wolf-dog at my side.
As a child, Alaska was, to me, like a make-believe fairytale land. I had no idea where Alaska was, or even that it was real. I had no true understanding of winter, what snow felt like or even what it meant to experience cold, really. You see, other than occasional trips to Europe to visit relatives, all I had ever known in my early life was the sticky and oppressive heat of equatorial Borneo.
What was normal for me was life in Malaysia: heat, lush tropical rainforests, twelve hour days with sunset and sunrise occurring at the exact same time each day, and unchanging seasons (there’s ‘rainy season’, and ‘slightly less wet rainy season’). In my vocabulary, ‘cold’ was how your drinking glass felt in that brief instant before the ice cubes near-instantaneously melted out of existence, or when the air-conditioning was cranked up a little higher than normal.
Crocodiles lived in the river behind our house, frogs beneath the towering bamboo by the side of our house kept us awake at night with their deafening songs, and mosquitoes were a persistent and constant nuisance. My little adventures took place at the beach, exploring mangroves and jungle.
Grizzly bears, wolves and sled dogs were mythical creatures that only existed in the stories I read. White frozen landscapes of snow, ice, frozen rivers, and trees without leaves, were completely alien to me. And I found it all fascinating.
As I grew up, those childhood dreams of arctic adventures gradually faded away, until eventually, they were entirely forgotten.
The moment my eyes met the curious gaze of one of those enormous dogs in the beer garden, memories of those long lost dreams flashed through my mind with shocking vividness. The dog nudged me with his cool, slightly damp nose and I tentatively reached out and stroked his fluffy head, sinking my fingers into his thick, soft fur.
I did not say a word. I was lost in thought. But Tim laughed as he petted the second dog, and remarked, “That’s the sort of dog we should get!”
I could not get those magnificent dogs out of my head. Never before had I seen such dogs in real life. It all felt so surreal. I had no idea what kind of dogs they were but that chance meeting had re-awakened a longing that had lain dormant for decades. I had only vaguely heard the dogs’ owners tell one of our friends the name of the breed; but I hadn’t been paying attention, being too wrapped up at the time in my own personal imagination maelstrom of arctic beasts and snowy adventures. All I had heard was something that sounded a little like “Alaskan maramoo”.
This was the beginning of my love affair with the Alaskan Malamute.