C is for Canines !!
“ Silently you passed me by, without so much as a glance at me.
Indifference, it seems, become your kind; were you lost in thought
Of roaming through endless miles of forest, ice and snow?
Are you Man’s best friend or the fearsome predator of yore
That howls in some inexplicable language of your own .. ”
(Notes for the Wolf, whom I met on 29 Oct 2014)
What happens when a girl encounters a canine one morning? A canine devastating in beauty, handsome like a grey wolf in winter: cloaked in its plush grey, impenetrable coat. Its eyes were gold as champagne, and they spoke!
I couldn’t have known then, that vision of the wolf would cause me to change, in time — how I saw his kind, and even how I saw myself.
“ The wolf is art of the highest form and you cannot be in its presence without this lifting your spirits … it is difficult to be around such beauty without wanting to be more like it.”
— Mark Rowlands, The Philosopher and the Wolf
So began my conversion (from cat person) to a ‘woof’ person, three years ago ..
Just two months then, into a new job at a human resource school, I didn’t want to be late. My preferred route to the train station was the weathered footpath along the monsoon canal: a path skirting the backyards of many houses, and some front porches. I loved peeking into those backyards, just to see what life existed behind those fences, whether pets or plants!
It occurred just lately to me how my curious and highly-sensitive nature had prepared me to be a writer. Susan Sontag, the ‘dark lady’ of American intellectual life said,” A writer is someone who pays attention to the world — a writer is a professional observer “. I often catch myself trying to hear what diners at the next table are saying; I was fond of patrolling my neighbourhood on a bicycle. I once cycled around it at midnight on New Year’s Eve, just to see how my neighbours were celebrating .. hush!
I didn’t spy the backyards that morning in my rush.
A massive, grey canine with a broad, intelligent face (and his minder) however arrested my attention. It trod past me, completely oblivious: absorbed in its wolfish thoughts!
I couldn’t but think about him for the rest of that day. He was like, or at least looked, a higher being — to me. I penned a few poems, just to capture the thoughts I felt on this encounter, and of course, to never forget how he looked.
The first of these, ‘Notes for the Wolf’, was published on Facebook 3 years ago. The second, ‘Reminiscing the Wolf’, was written a month after the encounter when I sadly realised that I might never see him again; and indeed have not. Anyway, I don’t live there anymore.
The third poem, and last, was ‘The Grey Wanderer’ (the very first post on this blog). It was inspired by the many wolf documentaries I watched on Youtube since, but especially ‘The Rise of Black Wolf’. I also love the ‘Living With Wolves’ documentary by Jim and Jamie Dutcher, the amazing couple who lived with the Sawtooth Pack (of 8 wolves) for six years to study wolf social behaviour up-close.
If you’re a wolf lover, like me, you’d also know the story of the indomitable She-Wolf, who was the leader of Yellowstone’s legendary Lamar Canyon pack. Before she was tragically shot in December 2012 by a hunter, she was a fierce mother who would fend off grizzlies and even take down an elk by herself, for her pups.
“ For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”
— Rudyard Kipling, the Jungle Book
I’ll never know if he was dog or wolf. But it’s Singapore. He was most likely a malamute — the much bigger cousin of huskies. Or he might have been a wolf, masquerading as a malamute: Maybe. (That will always be a mystery.)
Heart-melting Canine Moments … 🐕
Though I never got to see ‘Wolf’ again, there were a few other beautiful malamutes (among golden retrievers, labradors, huskies and more) in that vicinity. I befriended one called ‘Xoxo’, a large tawny wolfish female; and another, whom I called Brenin (after Mark Rowland’s pet wolf): a white and brown male, absolutely massive — like a nebula of dandelions from a distance. (Yes, you saw a blurry mass of white!)
Brenin had the most adorable face in the world. And when he first saw me, his expression said,” Oh look, I’ve got a new friend here!!” 😍😘 He had a much smaller companion (whom I called Bruno, also adorable) that was way more wary of me, and barked. On my following trips though, past this house, Bruno stopped barking and simply looked at me. So I ventured to put my hand on the fence for them to sniff it, afraid to be bitten if I patted them too hastily. Mind you — I was a cat person who didn’t know canines well. I had literally grown up with cats, and I adored every facet of them. Even the vicious, vindictive and snobbish side.
Dear Brenin sniffed my hand, then did something so sweet: he gave me an affectionate lick with his warm wet tongue — oh! (and it didn’t smell.) And I saw what a pink nose he had, and what clear, light yellow eyes (like Chardonnay?): I was in love!
So it was through more encounters and interactions with canines, that I gradually converted from a feline fan to a canine one. For there were far many more dogs than cats in my previous neighbourhood. By the by, the cats that I met daily then, were not that friendly. Sylvester snubbed me outright while Molly, the ‘mini-cow’, was capricious at best.
I wish I was more canine than feline.
When I was much younger, and coming from a cat-crazy family, I valued the elegance, coquetry and dignity of the cat more than the stalwart faithfulness and loyalty of the dog. Now that I’m older and know well life’s hard knocks (and more about dogs), I begin to appreciate canine qualities more. For beauty fades but the essential lasts: qualities like grit and selflessness.
After reading much canine literature (obviously!), I began to wish that I was more selfless, gritty, forgiving and faithful like a dog. But I’m a selfish human being … perhaps God might help?
“ This faithfulness was a quality of the clay that composed him. It was the quality that was peculiarly the possession of his kind … the quality that had enabled the wolf and the wild dog to come in from the open and be the companions of man.”
— Jack London, White Fang
Fables and Myths: There is No Big Bad Wolf (or Werewolf)!
It’s well-known that dogs descended from wolves, but dogs are prospering while wolves are disappearing. Shouldn’t we thank wolves for Man’s best friend?
Wolves are portrayed as villains in fairy tales. You know which ones, those with the devious ‘Big, Bad Wolf’, lying in wait, and hungry for innocent human beings, pigs and sheep?
There is NO big, bad wolf — just as there is no werewolf or vampire.
If you’d like to support wolves and care for conservation, join me and learn about the causes at the Center for Biological Diversity, Earthjustice and California Wolf Center for a start, see how you can help!
Meanwhile, I dream of kissing a handsome wolf one day.
Perhaps at the California Wolf Center, or at the Polar Park in Norway? We’ll see ..
Your golden eyes, intelligent face and mottled grey coat still linger in my mind
Oh that you knew you charmed me!
This post is dedicated to the ‘Wolf’ and all of his kind, and also to all you canine lovers out there!
I hope you enjoyed this ‘woofy’ post, till next! Please share your thoughts with me ..
Originally published at annectarsroom.net on October 16, 2017.