Nico pads around the green pond
obedient at his master’s side.
He’s a good dog, not a head-lunger
or one who chases scampering squirrels.
Once, he could have been an Alpha male
straining the harness, leading six dogs.
A Siberian husky on snows.
Nowadays, he sleeps on a soft rug
and dreams of long runs, his paws twitching.
Chaos barks a lot. “Knock it off now!”
On little leashed walks, he follows Zeke,
lifts his leg, squats. Business done, no run.
“I said, ‘Stop it now!’” His thick neck hurts.
Golden retriever. No real master.
Chaos snaps a Woof. Your door ajar.
He jumps on you, smelling salty sweat
and who knows what else. He cringes now.
His tense neck smarts. Zeke smiles at you.
Nineteen twenty-five. Fifty-three miles
three-year old Balto leads the last team.
They pull the sled. Destination, Nome.
Diphtheria Vaccine for children.
Eager to pull. Supremely Alpha,
he pleases his musher Gunnar Kaasen.
Always outside. Twenty below. Fur,
black and two-layered, insulates him.
The crunch of his musher’s step
wakens him. He nips at the six.
They’re harnessed. They pull. They run all day.
Balto crouches before his musher
eager to please. No whip is needed.
Winds kick up the sled high in the air
Gunnar yells out “Easy!”, wrenches the precious load.
Dogs paw the air. Balto keeps the course.
Exhaustion at five-thirty A. M.
Three hundred thousand units of serum
delivered, ready to be thawed out.
Reporters click away. Children saved.
Alaska grateful. The world a-buzz.
Balto and Gunnar fly to New York
Roth sculpts Balto. Immortalized.
In Central Park the bronzed husky’s ears
rubbed bright golden. Children ride his back.
His harness taut. As if on a run,
his tongue lolls out. His eyes looking far.