Have you ever had a book seem to jump out at you from the shelf as if you were truly meant to read it? I have experienced this with a few select books during my lifetime. Most recently, my girlfriend and I were at a local book sale when she quickly plucked a book from a lower shelf and handed it to me, saying “This one has You written all over it.” The book was small and clearly weathered. The cover had a scene of winter wilderness, along with a man walking next to a wolf-like dog. In large white letters with red trim, the title subtly stated The North Runner, by R. D. Lawrence. I had never heard of this writer before, but after a quick read of the back of the book, I learned that R. D. Lawrence was a Canadian naturalist who had written quite a bit during his life. I couldn’t help but wonder how much his writing would be like Henry Thoreau, the author, and naturalist that was one of my initial inspirations that kindled my writing obsession and fascination with the natural world.
Come to find out, I was in luck. I dove into the book the following week and soon learned that it was about Mr. Lawrence’s years living in the Yukon Territory (in the late 1950s, I believe, but it may have been earlier). But the book had an extra surprise that was perfect for someone like me or any dog lover. It was about Mr. Lawrence’s relationship with Yukon, a massive wolf-dog that he acquired, trained, and learned to love like a brother. Since I am in the planning stages of getting a dog, this was perfect timing.
The story tells of when he first met Yukon, who was, at the time, a ferocious and broken creature. Yukon was used to violence instead of leadership, and it took time to break him of the lessons learned in his previous life. When Yukon was told to do something by his previous owner, a club was used instead of trust. Mr. Lawrence convinced Yukon to trust him by spending countless nights with him, feeding him back to a healthy weight, and removing hundreds of ticks from his matted coat. Within months, Yukon had become a beautiful creature that was ready to join any sled dog team.
Through countless adventures, including bear attacks, getting lost in blizzards, camping, and moose hunting, Mr. Lawrence and Yukon forge a bond that any dog owner can relate to. Their story reflects how many people live today in the more rural and undeveloped parts of the world. Those two elements combined make for a tale of courage, grit, and adventure that proved to be contagious for me. It reminds me about some of the most fundamental reasons that we have pets in our lives: companionship, adventure, fun, and trust.