Recap: A blizzard started up while Akiva and Betzalel were in Mount McKinley National Park with Joe and the dog sled. Things are really going wrong. Akiva trips and hurts his ankle. Akiva is worried that his parents won’t be able to fly in from Seattle for his bar mitzvah because of the snow. He also hopes their Zeidy isn’t worried about them. Joe goes out to gather firewood because there’s a pack of wolves outside.

Joe tried to reassure me. “The wolves are outside and we’re inside. And the fire will keep them away. They’ll eventually leave.”

The howling sounded so close.

I hoped he was right. Right now, they were still pacing and howling near our cabin.

That night, I tried to sleep but the thought of the wolves and the pain in my foot kept me from closing my eyes.

Teddy hovered nearer. He signed to me, and I thought he was asking how I was. I tried signing “Thank you” and he smiled.

Star rubbed against me. I patted the dog’s head. His presence was somehow reassuring.

Betzalel asked if I wanted more aspirin.

“It doesn’t do anything,” I groaned.

“Can I get you more ice?”

“Please,” I winced again in pain.

Joe was dozing on the hard wooden chair. The dogs were pacing back and forth. The blizzard still raged outside.

Betzalel strode towards the door and opened it to go get some ice for me. I could see the white world outside. The whiteness lit the night in this frozen tundra like moonbeams from another world.

Star headed towards the door.

“No!” I called. I couldn’t rise to stop him and he darted out the door squeezing between the open door and Betzalel.

Joe jumped up. “No! Stop him. Wolves!”

My heart pounded. Star – the wolves were going to devour Star.

Before Joe made it to the door, Teddy had already zoomed ahead.

I pushed myself up to a sitting position. Oh, why had we let Star get away? If only I wasn’t injured, I would have grabbed him.

My ankle throbbed. Joe stood in the doorway.

“OWWWWW!!” The wolves’ howls rang through the air and sent ice cubes of fear down my spine.

“Star!” Joe screamed into the snowy night.

Betzalel trudged back inside.

“Teddy’s crazy. It’s too dangerous. There’s a whole pack of hungry wolves.”

Joe rushed outside. He had to rescue Teddy.

The howls grew louder and more frantic.

I closed my eyes and held my ears. I didn’t want to think what could happen to Teddy or to Star. I davened with my heart. “Please, Hashem, save Teddy. Please save Star, too. I wasn’t sure if it was okay to daven for the dog, but Star had stood next to me and tried to make me feel better.

Betzalel was reciting T’hilim.

“Will Joe be able to rescue Teddy?” I asked.

Betzalel nodded. “He’s a ranger. He knows about wolves.”

Another loud howl rang through the air.

He knows wolves are dangerous, I mused.

Just then there was this loud bellow. I’d never heard a sound quite like it. It sounded like the horn of a boat or a subway train – that was all I could think of. The bellow went on and on.

Betzalel rushed to the window. “It’s a moose!” he called.

The bellow was punctuated by howls that seemed to be moving farther away.

There was another shrieking bellow followed by more howls and then sudden silence.

My stomach dropped like when you’re on a roller-coaster. Was Teddy okay? Was Star still alive?

The silence stretched on and on like the white Alaskan landscape. Suddenly, the door burst open, and Teddy flew inside pulling Star by his halter. Joe followed. They were all caked in snow.

Joe grabbed a towel from his knapsack and threw it to Teddy. He grabbed another one and the two of them vigorously dried themselves and stood by the fire. Star shook off the snow and strode over to me. I reached out and patted his ears.

Thank you, Hashem. I said a silent prayer. Thanks for saving Teddy and Joe – and Star, too.

“That was a close call. Too close.” Joe was breathing heavily. “Those wolves are really hungry. Throw more wood in,” he said to Betzalel.

After he’d caught his breath, Joe told us what happened. “They were going to eat Star. There was no way I could reach him from their hungry jaws, but it was a miracle that a moose appeared right then and the whole pack turned towards the moose. You heard it bellow?”

“Yes.” That moose was sent by Hashem, I thought. I knew it was Hashem helping us, listening to our t’filos.

“What a loud noise,” Betzalel said.

“The moose and caribou don’t hibernate. They can’t run as fast because their food supply is diminished in the winter so they’re prime targets for the wolves.”

I thought of that last bellow. The poor moose. Of course it had done a huge thing. It had saved Teddy’s life, and Joe and Star, too.

“That was a close call for Star.” Joe rubbed the dog behind the ears. He signed to Teddy and translated to us. “Teddy was great. He saved Star.”

“I feel so bad for the moose,” I said.

“It’s nature,” Joe said. “The moose is part of the wolves’ food chain.”

I thought about that. Hashem set up a beautiful world with a natural order and a food chain for all the creatures.

I thanked Hashem for keeping us warm and safe and prayed we would be able to leave the park tomorrow.

The rest of the night was a blur of pain and waiting for the morning. I gave up trying to sleep and tried saying T’hilim by heart. I practiced my bar mitzvah parshah in my head.

When the first light streamed in the window, Joe went to the door. “It stopped,” he called.

Teddy and Betzalel rushed over with the dogs at their heels.

“Can we leave now?” I asked.

“Yeah, we’ll pack up and get going.” Joe gave everyone specific jobs. I just lay there, feeling useless. My left ankle was twice the size of my right ankle, and it was burning with pain. I’m not a complainer so I didn’t say anything, but the pain was almost unbearable

Soon, the dogs were hitched up and Betzalel and Teddy helped me hobble to the sled. I dreaded any bumps, but the ride went smoothly.

The dogs moved gracefully in unison and soon we were back at the trailhead. Joe went into the little cabin at the trailhead to use the phone.

“Your grandfather will be here soon,” he said. He helped me limp into the little cabin while Betzalel and Teddy helped Joe unharness the dogs and give them water.

I hoped my parents were on a plane now. They had to come. It was Wednesday night. If they didn’t fly tonight, they’d miss the Pesach Seder and my bar mitzvah.

 To be continued…

Susie Garber is the author of an historical fiction novel, Flight of the Doves (Menucha Publishing, 2023), Please Be Polite (Menucha Publishers, 2022), A Bridge in Time (Menucha Publishing, 2021), Secrets in Disguise (Menucha Publishers, 2020), Denver Dreams (a novel, Jerusalem Publications, 2009), Memorable Characters…Magnificent Stories (Scholastic, 2002), Befriend (Menucha Publishers, 2013), The Road Less Traveled (Feldheim, 2015), fiction serials and features in Binah Magazine and Binyan Magazine, “Moon Song” in Binyan (2021-2022), and Alaskan Gold ( 2023-2024).