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“Easy girl …let me see,” Vic Walker murmurs, gently prying the jaws of his canine patient and leaning close to inspect teeth, then peering into the back of her throat. He examines paws, feels along flanks and belly. For Walker, it’s an everyday veterinary moment—except the formidable jaws he’s spreading and the powerful musculature he’s probing belong to an adult wolf. Sure, Walker knows Isis well—for all but the first four weeks of her five-year life. But no matter that she’s captive-born, remarkably bonded to Walker and seemingly tame at this moment; a wolf is definitely not a domestic dog. Wolves are far more independent and complex, hard-wired to a feral consciousness that doesn’t tend to accept human dominion. Yet there are plenty of family pooches that are far less willing patients than Isis. Walker’s being paid a compliment of the highest order—one that he’s earned and doesn’t take lightly.…

A sunny summer Sunday found Iditarod rookie Mary Helwig reading a book on her lawn near Willow when a neighbor’s text interrupted: A fast-moving forest fire was headed toward her kennel at Mile 72.5 of Parks Highway. Helwig packed food for her five dogs, some expensive sled-dog harnesses, her good parka, a few furs, a small suitcase of clothes and a few other random things—such as her bluebird-of-happiness figurine. Later, she’d kick herself for not grabbing more—especially her dog sled. Willow is best known as the home of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race restart, and nearly as many sled dogs as people—about 2,000—live in this unincorporated community, which dots the Parks Highway between Mile 60 and Mile 80. The wildfire started about 1:15 p.m., June 14, 2015, off Sockeye Avenue near Mile 77.5 of the Parks Highway. A few hours later, flames had spread south five miles and began…