Apr 30, 2013

Wild Voice of the North

by Sally Carrighar

This book seems at first to be all about one woman's search for lemmings in Alaska, but it ends up being mostly about a dog. Sally Carrighar spent many years living in the North studying the wildlife in order to write books about them. Here she describes how she tried to find elusive lemmings during a year when their population was very low, and how during her work observing them she came into contact with a remarkable husky dog named Bobo. The dog was charismatic leader of a local pack until overthrown by another dog during a terrible fight when they all turned against him. He barely survived, and by a twist of fate Carrighar ended up nursing him back to health in her home even though she feared he would end her lemming experiment by eating all the study animals.

She was surprised to find that the dog seemed (after his initial uncontrollable excitement) to understand that he was to leave the little rodents alone, and slowly came to build a rapport with the dog. He was never very demonstrative or playful, but had his dignity and many characteristics she attributed to wolf blood in his heritage. For most of the book she talks about her relationship with Bobo, how she gained his trust and learned to communicate with him, and his eventual forays out into the community to try and win back his place as pack leader. As she describes it the dog had a very vivid intelligence and strong personality, and the book reminded me of Moobli.

I did wish for a bit more about the lemmings. I cringed a bit inside to read her affirmation of strange behaviors everyone mistakenly attributed to these little animals- that they perform mass suicide by running into the sea and drowning (or running off cliffs), and that they fall from the sky or can fly- she even was shown tracks in the middle of an airfield that seemed to start in the middle of nowhere. Carrighar came up with a theory about the supposed mass drownings (now proven to be a hoax) but had no explanation for the mysterious tracks.

I enjoyed her descriptions of life in Nome, some of the people she knew, and various dogs. She also muses about what it means to be a writer, and what the work of researching wildlife is like- particularly difficult when most people didn't take her studies of "mice" or "rats" as they were often mistakenly called- seriously at all.

A good read!

Rating: 3/5 ........ 191 pages, 1953

1 comment:

Jenny @ Jenny's Books said...

Huh. I didn't know they had lemmings in Alaska. I'd always pictured them as a deserty sort of creature for some reason.