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Traveling Will & Robin

Current travels: Three months in the wilderness of Siberia, Mongolia, and the South Pacific

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Tue
26
Jun '12

The adventures of Oktai and Paulina across the fifth dimension

Our most surprising teammates deserve a special mention — Oktai and his mischievous sidekick Paulina.

Oktai

Oktai, the very proud bear dog.

Oktai was a Siberian husky with a mission. He had identified his nemesis, the brown bear, and he was going to get them. Oh yeah, he would annihilate any bear he could get his paws on. That much was clear the first time a brown bear wandered near our camp, because Oktai didn’t just bark or growl.  He took off on a ballistic rampage running at the bear and barking with all his might, which was not insignificant. Oktai didn’t like bears, and no bear was going to hang out in his camp. Since the brown bears of Kamchatka are known for their huge size, and I wasn’t interested in being a midnight snack, Oktai was a camp mate I was thrilled to have along. When Oktai wasn’t barking ferociously at a bear, a kayak, or a particularly threatening pile of grass, he was a cuddly, friendly pooch who liked to hang out with the big kids around the campfire.

Oktai

Oktai, bravely protecting us from the helicopter monster.

Oktai performed tirelessly and bravely for our entire expedition.  He stayed awake at night on bear-watch. During the day, he slept on our supply raft. And there were a few close calls.  Once, a rock nearly made it into our campsite, but thanks to Oktai’s quick reactions, no harm was done.

Everyone in Kamchatka keeps dogs to alert them to the presence of bears, and when we pulled up to a remote fishing cabin one night, the ruckus of barking that greeted us was deafening. Our guide Olaf told us that we should not approach the new dog;, they could be aggressive if they felt threatened or cornered. After all, they were prepped to fight a bear. So Will and I pulled up to shore and made no motion toward the dog  that approached us, waiting quietly instead. Little did I know that our kayak made a great escape boat, because in a moment a giant white Siberian husky had jumped into our boat, pushing us off from shore and pinning my paddle under it’s body so there was nothing I could do about it.

Paulina

Paulina, practicing her skills at making new friends.

We later learned that this beautiful dog’s name was Paulina. In her first moment on our kayak she developed a codependency complex that would lead her to chase us down the river for several desperate miles the next day, and in a suicidal bid for our love, jump into the river and swim up to our supply raft. We couldn’t convince Paulina to go home. We took her to shore. We shooed her away. We told her we didn’t want to get in trouble for dog-napping. It didn’t make a difference; our only option was to take her with us, and figure out a way to get her back to her owner after the fact.

So on we went with Oktai and Paulina, paddling the rest of the way to the Bering Sea. On our first night at Ocean Camp, some workers from the fish processing plant on the opposite shore dropped in. Their first words?  “Oh, this dog again.  This is at least the third time she’s done this. We’ll take her and bring her home… again.” For a husky in Kamchatka, apparently, a fish processing plant is a dream worth pursuing.

And thus ended the amazing adventures of Oktai and Paulina, the bear dog and his sidekick. The end.

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Oktai and Paulina on the supply raft. Paulina is wet after her suicidal swim. Oktai wonders how that got here.

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