Category Archives: Wolves

The Wolf Who Chose me

Echo, the wolf who chose me

Echo, the wolf who chose me

I do wish I had a picture of her in her prime with me in my travels, or at least one I took, as she was gorgeous.  To be honest, I didn’t shoot a lot of pictures of her, as she kept me too busy for that.

Echo came into my life in early 2005 when she returned to Wolf Park.  Any wolf born at the Park who goes to another facility (centers share and trade puppies for a number of reasons, including avoiding inbreeding) has a right of return.  Echo had outlived all the other members of her pack where she was, and her keepers felt she should spend her final years near, if not with, other wolves.  So, she came home.

For me, I knew she was coming back but was bounding around innocent and carefree as I looked for a home to buy.  Having looked at a couple of places not too far from Wolf Park, I stopped by to ask the staff if they knew anything about them.  Echo had arrived that day, and was recovering from her journey in one of the enclosures, and in the company of the two people who had gone to get her.  Pat, who is over most of the animals at Wolf Park (except bison and staff), thought this would be an excellent opportunity to test Echo and myself.  Echo, to see if she was indeed as good with new people as it seemed, and me to see if I had learned some of the basics needed to be a volunteer.

This was early enough in my work up there that I was still wearing nice slacks, shoes, and starched dress shirts to work.  Having gone straight from work to look at the homes, I was still dressed that way.  My normal mode for greeting a wolf was to go down on one knee both for height and for balance.  Obviously, I didn’t want to do that in good slacks, so I squatted.

Echo came over and was glad to meet me.  She greeted, explored, and began to hoover starch out of my shirt.  As she made her way around to my back, I failed to see the gleam in her eye.

She saw her opportunity, in the fact that when you squat it opens a gap between your pants and your back.  Before I knew it, her head was down, her muzzle into the gap and past every waistband there.  In a flash, I learned the truth of Pat’s saying “Canis Rhinus Frigidus” as a cold nose went places I wasn’t prepared for.  It was cold, she got a good sniff, and goosed me with that nose.  I’m so glad Monty Sloan did not get a photograph of my face at that moment.

As for me, there are jaws that can shear through a thighbone with ease near things far more tender and very valuable to me.  I’m reaching around trying to get an arm under a strange wolf’s neck and pull her out of my pants, saying “mine, Mine, MINE” as I did so.  Wolves do not get the concept of no, per se, so we work with mine instead.  All this to the great amusement of the two staff members in with me.

Well, when I got her out of my pants, I swear she was laughing.  I told her she had a low and dirty sense of humor, and that I liked that.  The next day, I paid to be her sponsor.  For she was a bawdy, lusty ol broad with a very low sense of humor — which is why I loved her.  For all that, she demanded respect and got it, with me addressing her most often as “Milady.”

She was a picky eater, and finding out that she liked cheese made some of it a game, as I tried a variety of cheeses to see what she liked/would eat.  The only thing she turned down was limburger, and that one got me a nasty look.  As age caught up with her, several of us had fun bringing in foods for her to try, and even cooking for her.  In fact, she sparked the idea of doing omelletes, which I did for Kiri later.

There are many Echo stories I can share, but I will save those for later.  What I will tell you now is that like many older canids, she developed a vocal cord paralysis that kept her from howling (at least in a range we can hear).  As I was leaving for my second embed in Iraq, she gave me the gift of an audible howl when I said my goodbye to her.

I miss her much, but the memories of her bring a smile to my face almost no matter what is going on in life.  Echo was the wolf who chose me, and I am much the richer for her having done so.

Thanks to peaches for inspiring me to share this

Saying Farewell To Someone Special

Some of you know that I volunteer at, and am not an escapee from, Wolf Park.  Besides, no one escapes from Wolf Park! (*end Klink voice*)  Most don’t want to, or not for long at any rate, two-legged or four-legged.  Recently, we had some sad news, and I share some thoughts that were formed from those I shared with a friend there.

 

Photograph of 2013 Wolf Park calendar

Ol’ Blue Eyes

 Buy the calendar here

Missing.  Not a word I care to hear in this life in the world.

Missing, presumed dead.

These are words I expect to hear related to a different part of my life, not life in The World.  For me, The World is a place more of peace, of comfort (though not always appreciated), of joy, and of the stress relief that is Wolf Park at its best.  Wolves do have stress-absorbent fur, and I have taken shameless advantage of that over the years to cope with all that has gone on in my life.

My first visit to Wolf Park in late 2004 was memorable, and not just because I was signed up as a volunteer before the tour was over.  It was because in the main pack were a bunch of rambunctious and delightful pups, though they were near full-grown in size.  I can remember watching them, captivated, and able to pick out some of the personalities even then.  Reudi caught my eye from the start, both because of his eyes flashing blue and because even then you could tell he was special.

As time marched on, I came to know the pups, now adults, and Ruedi had a special spot in my heart. Some days, that spot was not what many would expect, as he could be a bit of a challenge because he wore his rank so well.  In giving meatballs, many were the times that he got the treat, and Tristan’s medicines contained within, by either playing the puppy lick or the “spank me” game that had Tris get mad, and get so focused on chastisement that he forgot that he even had a meatball — a thing Ruedi never forgot. Those days were a trial I suspect to staff and volunteers as ever more inventive ways were tried to keep Ruedi from stealing the meds Tristan really did need.

Nor was that the only way or time such was done.  I’ve lost count of the number of furballs I’ve seen where a treat or trophy was being fiercely contested — and Ruedi worked his way carefully out from the bottom, carrying off the trophy or rapidly eating the treat while the others continued on unaware that the prize was gone.  I swear, I think he burped one time in someones face when they came to see if he might know where it was, innocent look on his face.

That innocent look was a trademark, and in some ways he struck me as the Forest Gump of Wolf Park. Yet, there were times when there was a flash of something more, a glimpse that made one wonder if there wasn’t a calculating smart mind carefully hidden within.  If so, he kept it well hidden 99 percent of the time.

A smile still comes to my face remembering the day that Echo was giving him the full Mae West treatment through the fence.  There was bawdy Echo, suggesting he come be her cabana boy and let her make him a man.  There was Ruedi, head down, backing away, going “You’re a strange lady, I don’t know what you want but you scare me.  Uh uh.”  I think that I and others all thought or said “Oh, Ruedi!” at that, for it was so typical of him.  Yet, in time, he did find that something, and I am glad.

In reading a series of books:

I could see bits of him in the character “Blind Seer” and wished he could have more of that life.  Yet, he appeared content in many/most ways, and wore his role as Omega not just well, but in a way to make it uniquely his own.

I still can’t really process what has happened, but there is also a part of me that is not surprised that if anyone could find a truly new and novel way to leave us from the park, it is Ruedi.

May your spirit fly free in peace and joy, and your memory live on.

For anyone who can get there, Winter Wolves is this Saturday.  I highly recommend going, and if you do, please think of Ruedi while there.