Rescue Agent for Penny by Jenna Brandt

1

The bright mid-winter Alaskan sun blazed high over Rescue Agent Corbin Granger’s head. He lifted his goggle-protected steely blue eyes and surveyed the snowy terrain in front of him and his Siberian husky K9 partner, Tikaani. In the distance, he could see the bank of clouds rolling toward them from the east. “I think we have enough time to check on the Dall sheep forage area before we head back,” he said to his partner, trudging forward through the freshly fallen two feet of snow at a quicker pace than before. Growing up in Alaska, Corbin was aware of how quickly a storm front could come in and cause a beautiful day to turn into an utter nightmare.

As they moved further up the mountain, the crisp winter air brushed against Corbin’s cheeks, the only part of his body that was exposed to the winter elements. The rest of his tall, muscular frame was bundled up in his snowsuit and boots with his head of dark brown hair tucked into his fur-trimmed hood. Most people would find the outfit stifling, but from his years as a professional snowboarder, Corbin was used to it. In fact, donning the ensemble was a welcome return. Over the past five years, all of his Wild Animal Protection Agency assignments had been in dry, hot climates. Corbin had missed the arctic climate and was glad to be back where he belonged.

Tikaani’s intense barking alerted Corbin that his K9 partner had found something. He glanced down at the gray and white husky, glad to see his partner’s vest and snow booties were still protecting him, as the canine charged through the powdery substance to a nearby set of boulders. Corbin rushed behind him, curious to see what his partner had discovered. It didn’t take long before the faint “baas” of a wounded animal could be heard echoing through the mountain range. As they came closer, the cries became louder and more desperate. Corbin leaned across two of the smaller rocks to get a better look. Trapped between two larger boulders further back was a baby Dall sheep with his legs askew and a visible gash on one leg. Its frightened yellow eyes looked out from under its curly tuft of white fur.

“It’s all right, little fella, we’re going to get you out of here,” Corbin promised the terrified lamb.

He glanced around the area, wondering where the mother could have gone off to. Dall sheep mothers were fiercely devoted to their offspring, and they never left their younglings unprotected. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Tikaani sniffing in an area around the corner. Corbin scurried down from his spot on the rocks and came over. There was a patch of red that stood out against the white snow all around it. A few feet away, there was a little bit more, and the trail continued into the nearby trees. Corbin bent down and reached out to touch the largest amount of the substance. He rubbed the semi-dried liquid between his fingers, lifting them to his nose. The distinct coppery scent of blood filled his nostrils. Instantly, he had a bad feeling something terrible happened to the trapped lamb’s mother. If he didn’t help the little fella, the baby would be dead before nightfall.

Corbin pulled his backpack off his shoulders and unzipped it. He pulled out a tranquilizer gun and checked the dosage before putting it in the pocket of his jacket. Next, he pulled out a bundle of rope before standing back up and moving over to the boulders. He anchored the rope to Tikaani’s vest, then slung the other end of the rope over his shoulders as he started to climb over the first set of rocks. He was careful to balance himself as he shimmied down to the side nearest to the lamb. As he came closer, the wild animal twisted and turned in fright, most likely from never encountering a human in such a remote part of the Alaskan frontier.

Corbin pulled out his gun and reached out until the edge of the barrel touched the side of the lamb. He squeezed the trigger, injecting the little guy with the medicine. He waited for it to do its job, then set to work freeing the animal from between the two boulders. He wrapped the animal’s wounded leg with gauze, making sure to apply enough pressure to make it stop bleeding. It would need to be stitched later, but time was of the essence. The storm was quickly approaching. Once Corbin was sure the animal was safe to move, he pulled the rope off his shoulder and secured it around the animal’s midsection. “Pull, Tikaani,” he called out as he guided the lamb out of the crevice and made sure it safely made it over the other set of smaller rocks.

He shifted his position so he could lean over the rocks and lower the animal the rest of the way to the ground. Corbin started to carefully climb back over the rocks to join them when he heard menacing growls in the distance. He froze in place, glancing around in an effort to locate the possible threat. Not far off on a windblown ridge, he saw a pack of five wolves glaring at them. The dark gray one in the front growled, baring his teeth as he lunged toward them, urging the rest of his pack to follow him.

Tikaani moved next to the baby sheep, taking a guarding position. Corbin scampered down the other side of the boulders, barely keeping his balance in the process. Even though he knew they didn’t have a moment to spare, he opened his backpack and put away his tranquilizer gun, switching it for the revolver he kept for emergencies. If the wolves got any closer, he was going to have to use it to scare them away from their intended prey. He disconnected the rope from his K9 partner’s vest, then put it away as he scooped up the still-sedated lamb. He placed the small animal in his backpack. They were going to have to move at a fast pace to keep ahead of the wolves and make it back to his WAPA truck before the storm arrived.

The further they went; however, the weather became increasingly ferocious. The wind was whipping around them, causing every step to be more difficult than the last. On top of that, the howling was right on top of them. When he dared to look behind him, he could see that the pack of wolves was only a few yards behind them. Silently, he sent up a prayer asking God to give him the strength to get to the vehicle safely.

Relief flooded Corbin as he reached the truck and pressed the button to unlock the door. They barely climbed inside before the wolves reached them. The vicious animals jumped at the truck trying to aggressively gain access. Corbin didn’t wait to give them a chance; he turned the key in the ignition and pressed his foot to the gas pedal, causing the 4-wheel vehicle to zoom off. He was thankful he had snow chains on the tires.

As the storm continued to grow in magnitude, Corbin knew they wouldn’t be able to get back to the WAPA facility. Knowing his cabin was closer, he decided to head there instead to ride out the storm.

“I guess we’re headed home, boy,” Corbin said as he reached over, patting his K9 partner on the head. “You did good out there, Tikaani, really good. I owe you a big treat once we get settled in.”

His partner barked, then nudged his nose against the backpack that was sitting between them, reminding Corbin that the sheep was inside it. He momentarily took one of his hands from the steering wheel to unzip the backpack. The lamb was awake now, though still too groggy to do anything other than blink and look around a bit. “It’s okay, little fella, you’re okay. I’m going to take good care of you until I can return you to your band.”

Corbin let out a sigh of relief as he pulled to a stop beside his cabin. He hopped out of his truck with the lamb in his arms and Tikaani by his side. He rushed inside to get out of the crushing elements of the storm. He made quick work of putting some logs on the fire to heat up the small two-bedroom home, then turned on the generator to run the power to the place.

“I’m betting you’re hungry,” Corbin mumbled to the lamb as he placed some dog food in a bowl for Tikaani. He glanced in his refrigerator to see what he had to offer the lamb. He wasn’t even sure why he looked, considering he didn’t keep a lot of perishable items on hand. He went over to the pantry, hoping he might have better luck there. He glanced through his options and was grateful to see he had some condensed milk. “This will have to do.” Next, he looked through his medical supplies, knowing that he could use a syringe to drop feed the lamb.

Once he had everything he needed, he settled in on the floor in front of the fire. He placed the lamb on his lap and then filled the syringe with the milk. He gingerly offered it to the animal, who was hesitant at first, but after licking it a couple of times, began to suck it down with eagerness. “That’s it, fella, you got it,” Corbin coaxed in a soothing tone. “You’re doing really good.”

It wasn’t long before Corbin was dozing off in front of the fire, and he realized that he was going to fall asleep if he didn’t force himself to take care of the lamb first. He gave the animal a bit more tranquilizer to keep him settled for the night, then made a makeshift bed out of blankets next to the fire placing the lamb on it. “That should do,” he whispered as he turned to get ready for bed.