In season, this trail along the lower reaches of the Mendenhall River draws waterfowl, eagles, and ravens. Aki and I have watched seals hunting ducks on the river waters, seen large choreographies of eagles fly over the mud bars, been intimidated by ravens holding a convention in the shoreline trees. Today only an immature bald eagle greets us with a fly over. Gaps in its wing feathers make me wonder how it manages to fly.
Rounding a rocky point we see a flat triangle of beach, empty except for something splashing in a nearby section of the river. I fasten a lead to Aki’s collar and move close enough to watch a gang of three river otters pulling onto the beach. Each chomps on a sculpin—the bony bottom fish known locally as a double ugly.” Nearsighted, Aki only detects their motion. The otters know we are here. One looks right at me each time he finishes a fish.
After ten minutes I lead Aki down the beach. When the otter gang moves into the river I take Aki off lead. The little poodle mix trots over to check out the otters’ lunch spot. They swim close, making a friendly sounding noise with their noses. This draws Aki into the water. I think Kushtaka. the sea otter like creatures of the indigenous Tlingit’s World. They lure people into the water for capture. But Kushtakas don’t like dogs so these guys are probably otters, still able to drown my little dog if it pleased them. Aki answers my summons before we find out if they are friend or foe.