I read a lot when I was younger. It was my favorite way to the pass the time, and to spend that time alone. Reading transported me to places I had never been, and melded me into fantasy worlds that were infinitely more interesting than mine. I owned the entire Little House on the Prarie book series, was immersed in the world of Redwall, and owned several books on animals. As I grew older, I didn’t hold on to every book that I clung so firmly to as a child; while I kept the Redwall and Dragonriders of Pern series, I gave away the books that seemed lower level, or childish. My bookshelf was expanding outward in new directions, after all.
Kavik the Wolf Dog, by Walt Morey, is one book from my childhood that I refused to let go of. The story revolves around Kavik, a wolf dog raised by a man named “Charlie One Eye” to lead his sled team in the North American Sled Dog Derby. At two years old, Kavik accomplished this, raising his monetary value so much that a wealthy businessman named Hunter buys him off of Charlie. Kavik is stranded when the plane meant to fly him out of Alaska crashes in a blizzard. 15-year-old Andy is the one who finds and rescues the malamute-wolf mix, and the one who gets him patched up.
Despite Hunter discovering Kavik’s survival and taking the wolf dog with him to Seattle, it is Andy who earned Kavik’s love and trust. The wolf dog traverses the wilderness from Colorado to Alaska just to get back to Andy, and survives the journey. That sort of loyalty and strength was a marvel to young me; this beautiful, unique malamute-wolf hybrid was so dedicated to Andy that he fought fatigue, weather, starvation and other wolves just to get back to him. I had read a lot about wolves, and the idea of a wolf dog excited me. That, and the only pets we were allowed to have in our apartment were fish, birds, and hamsters. It was fun to imagine having a wolf dog like Andy did.
But, I think there was more to it deep down, in the places that children don’t think about. It always seemed like I was losing the few friends I had. Families moved out of the apartment complex whose daughters I never saw again. Stephanie, who asked to borrow my Harry Potter book, moved to the city suddenly. And Rebecca, my best friend from elementary school, had to move to Kansas with her family. I lost contact with all of them, and it was disheartening. The friendship between Andy and Kavik was enviable in comparison.
The tagline on the cover of the book (my edition, anyway) reads, “2,000 miles is a long way from home.” It refers to the amount of miles between Colorado and Alaska. It was also the distance – give or take a couple hundred – from where I lived to where my mom moved to. Being as young as I was, I think I clung to the wish that I could have the friendship that existed between Kavik and Andy. That, or have an awesome wolf-like dog.