But what if the yellow snow is located right by the waterhole, presumably leaching its contents into the ice and possibly the drinking water below?
I scowl at the mess, at the paw prints that give away the culprits: wolves. The hand-sized tracks come along shore, zeroing in on the axe and shovel. I check – no pee marks. Well, that’s a bonus. Instead, they sniffed around the hole and liberally doused the snow. Yeah, I love you guys, too.
Long live our water filter. Who knows what else is floating around down there besides molecules of wolf urine? Fish and beaver feces, maybe the odd little carcass. Still, seeing is believing. So even if some of the mess has already soaked through, and even though it all gets filtered anyway, I grab the shovel and start cleaning up the mess.
An interesting challenge, since they basically peed on an ice sculpture, which is immune to the feeble stabs I’m able to administer with the snow shovel. A bit of yellow crumbles off and lies forlorn on the plastic palm of the shovel. I stand with the urine crystals held aloft and think feverishly of where to put it. Because wherever I dump this, it will go viral – our three dogs will need to pee all over it, today, tomorrow, and for a good time to come. And if the wolves are inclined to stop by again, they’ll add to it again.
The dogs are already sitting in readiness, a row of urine dispensers, noses aquiver. They are not allowed anywhere near the waterhole for hygienic reasons, but this is sorely tempting. I stomp by them, grumbling about the things you have to deal with out here, and dump the urine sample at the base of an alder bush. It is instantly rushed by twitching nostrils, and I feel the dogs’ eyes burning a hole into my back as I go to attack the rest of frozen wolf pee. I’m messing with the message, they’re telling me.
Back at the biohazard site, I abandon the snow shovel in favour of the axe. Not a good idea, I realize in the instant pee crystals fling themselves at my face and the waterhole. True, I’ve dislodged some yellow ice but unfortunately turned it into shrapnel in the process. Little nuggets of it twinkle everywhere. I herd the errant crystals onto the snow shovel with my gloves and, dusting the thinly frozen surface of the waterhole carefully, manage to clean up most of them.
Another trip to the alder and the eager dogs. This is what mail carriers must feel like when delivering long-awaited news. On my way back to the waterhole, I decide to attack things from a different angle. I’ll hack a big piece off the ice chunk, well beyond the sprinkle border. That way, I not only avoid another urine explosion but also remove those subtle scent molecules that have surely travelled beyond the yellow radius. After all, I have to think of the temptation to my dogs.
This course of action brings a measurement of success. The ice block cracks and I manage to somehow fit it on the snow shovel. Problem is, it’s too heavy and awkward to carry it this way. I briefly consider chopping it in two and risking further contamination of everything, decide against it. There is only one way to do this. I grab the yellow ice block with my gloves (after all, they have already received their baptism as wolf-pee dusters) and stagger through the snow. The dogs are beside themselves with excitement by now, wagging their approval and nosing me when I dump my loot at the alder bush. I know, after all these years, I never cease to surprise them with unfathomable activities.
What remains to be done and renders all my previous careful urine removal a moot point is chipping away the yellow ice at the bottom. Gravity being what it is, plenty of wolf pee had soaked into the ice surrounding the waterhole. I grit my teeth, and chop and shave away at it with the axe until I declare the job done. It’s as clean as I can get it, which can’t be said for my now aromatic gloves.
I wonder if the wolves will come back and what they’ll make of the wandering ways of their pee.
Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.