June 1, 2018 | Posted in WooFPAK Heroes

For the first time in Chase’s life, he isn’t excited about going on a run.

In fact, the closer it gets to their time of departure, the more nervous he becomes. The poor dog can’t understand why his companions don’t feel the same way. Can’t they tell there’s something wrong with the Youghiogheny River Lake? Can’t they tell they shouldn’t be here?

No, no, no, it doesn’t seem like they can tell that.

It makes Chase feel small, and scared, and alone.

All those things are just even worse when he gets hooked up to the lead. WooFDriver pauses, running a hand through Chase’s thick fur. “Hey, buddy. You feeling okay?”

Chris frowns. “He’s been acting a little off this afternoon.”

“Maybe it’s from being cooped up for so long,” offers Rhett.

WooFDriver frowns. “Maybe. He just…looks tired, I think.”

Chase starts to whine, but Jag shoots him a nasty look, so he doesn’t. Instead, he leans into WooFDriver’s touch and tries to take a bit of comfort from the human. There might be something wrong with the Youghiogheny River Lake, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the forest.

Right?

Right?

And even if there is, WooFDriver – he’s smart enough to avoid it.

At least, that’s what Chase hopes.

They leave just before dawn, because the forest is four miles down from where the Jumbo Jet is parked. The plan, according to WooFDriver, is to first go to the Outflow Recreation Area, cut through the forest, and end up at Tub Run by morning, where the Jumbo Jet and the Pit Crew will meet them.

And he sounds so excited about it that Chase actually feels guilty for not feeling the same way. Even the waves and smiles of the people that they pass on the way out of the campgrounds don’t make up for the sinking feeling at the base of Chase’s spine.

He doesn’t like Youghiogheny River Lake.

He doesn’t like it at all.

It doesn’t take long before they’re off the main lake and heading towards the Outflow Recreation Area. This part of the night run is quick and easy – they stick to winding dirt paths rather than the cement road, so the gravel doesn’t bite into the WooFPAK’s paws.

Chase can hear the Youghiogheny River Lake Overflow Recreation Area long before he sees it. The sound of water crashing against water is unmistakeable. By now, the sun has almost completely set. A twilight sky spreads out above them, casting the overflow portion of the lake into a world of ethereal beauty.

Where the water crashes down against itself, the resulting foam is turned to lilac and silver; even through his unease, Chase can’t help but stare at it.

“Pretty,” says Princess. And then, “see, Chase? There’s nothing wrong with this place. It’s just going to be a run like any other.”

Chase doesn’t believe that, but he doesn’t argue, either. It’s clear, by now, that they don’t understand. Chase just doesn’t know why. This fear is something that comes from deep within, as instinct surges up and tries to come back into the present day – as feelings from the long past push their way into reality, offering warnings that can’t be fully understood.

But it’s obvious, here, in this moment, that Chase is the only one feeling them.

WooFDriver pauses, just long enough to get a few pictures of the lake with his hand held camera. Then he turns back to the WooFPAK, directs them towards the thick copse of conifer pine trees, and says, “yip yip, let’s go!”

Just like that, they’re off.

The husky dogs move in a tandem that has come from many, many months of practicing with each other. Steps in sync, and bodies moving as one, they leave the Youghiogheny River Lake Overflow Recreation Area behind them and head for the forest.

It’s not made of oak, which means that the rapidly fading twilight sky isn’t blocked from them. But it’s made from conifer pine trees, which means that there’s a thick layer of dried pine needles under their paws. It’s a familiar feeling, and Chase is surrounded by all the familiar sights and scents of a night run through a forest like this.

And yet – there’s something different about this time.

Chase just isn’t sure what.

 

Katelynn E Koontz – Author