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