The rickety old Golden Saloon serves as the only bar in McCarthy, Alaska. It comprises one of about four buildings on the town’s dirt road main street. This is where people congregate. Outside of the saloon is where all the local dogs scamper around while their owners are inside drinking dark tap beer and playing pool with crooked pool cues. Sometimes this impromptu dog pack is as large as a dozen. As a group, these dogs form the welcoming committee of town, flocking around anyone passing by.
In their role as ambassadors and greeters they do a fine job. There has never been a bunch of friendlier or well-healed creatures. These are the liberated kind of dogs that sleep under the stars and dream of chasing snowshoe hare. These are the dogs that have never known the constraints of a collar or leash, or what it’s like to walk on pavement. They have names like Tazzy, Razo, Loma, and Duke. They will never bear their teeth or growl, but will lick your hand and beckon you to play. One or two of these dogs seem to have no owner at all, and will accompany strangers on long day hikes, even walking onto the glacier.
Having observed these dogs for a few weeks now, a pack order is starting to emerge. They all have their place in this hierarchy. Of course, some of the more mellow dogs laze around all day unconcerned with such things, like the black lab with dark sleepy eyes who favors a nice spot in the sun by the payphone. There is also the border collie whose sole enjoyment, ambition, and purpose in life is to play Frisbee, fetch, or goalie.
Yet, there are other dogs that occupy themselves with the pack order, and claiming dominance over the dusty main drag. As the canine world goes, there has to be and Alpha dog. The alpha dog in this small town is apparent, and makes himself known. Be fearful and behold TANK, the toughest dog in Alaska:
Although TANK (all caps, all the time) may look like a huggable little terrier, he’s a pure pedigree Beast. If there’s a prized and sought after stick in the road, it belongs to TANK. If there’s an unspoiled post to claim territory on, TANK is first to the scene. If something so much as blinks in the bushes, TANK bolts over in a comic display of concern and seriousness. He’s constantly on patrol and never falters in his unlimited energy. The other dogs take notice to this and stay out of TANK’s way. For some reason, the runt terrier, through wild energy or intent, intimidates all of the other wolfish huskies, labs, and malamutes which are hundreds of pounds heavier, and twice, three times his size. To watch the “welcoming committee” fight over a stick for ten minutes outside the saloon is truly the most entertaining show in town because the comically macho terrier always wins.
So here’s a salute to the angry and hyper little dog who’s probably outside right now, poised stoically in the center of the road barking at passing four by fours. Go TANK!