I‘ve been missing my dogs a lot lately. We had Tasha for ten years, then Goldie (pictured here) for probably four. I inherited her from my nephew after Tasha died. I think she was around six years old, though I’m notoriously bad about remembering lengths of time with any precision.
Tasha—whose full name was Tashuunka Wakan Heyoka Yellowdog—was deeply loving, and generally obedient until she was outside and off-leash, when she became a wild wolf, running with all her might around the neighborhood, dodging helpful folks who tried to lure or lasso her. She’d usually return about four hours later, exhausted, filthy from playing in the canal, afraid of punishment, but unable (or certainly unwilling) to control the urge toward unrestricted freedom and exploration.
Goldie was in most respects the more gentle and compliant of the two, remarkably obedient off-leash, and afraid of nothing but thunderstorms and fireworks, both of which turned her into a quivering bowl of jelly. But her most endearing trait was the Morning Howl.
She slept in my room. When 9 a.m. rolled around, we’d get the newspaper, go to the kitchen and make coffee, then take a couple of mugs into Mom’s room. She’d leap onto Mom’s bed and wake her up by rolling around and getting all snuggly, which Mom thought was a marvelous alarm clock. Then Goldie would sit up straight and tall, settle, then begin: a few short “ooohs,” deep and quiet, like an engine starting up; then a stronger, more urgent demi-howl; until it burst at least into a joyous, full-throated ululation, the howl of her wolfy ancestors.
Apparently wolves in the wild howl whenever members of the pack have been separated from one another for awhile. It’s a reunion ritual. For Goldie, the night’s separation was all the excuse she needed for a serious howl.
She’d howl at other times, too: when she’d hear the siren of an ambulance or EMT truck; when she wanted attention, as sort of a party game; or when I’d howl, which I did with some frequency. Hers was such a “real” howl, the howl of a wolf rather than that of a coyote or a dog, that I wanted to hear it whenever I could.
Two weeks before she died, she met a wolf at PetSmart. An actual wolf. The owner said initially that he was a half-blood, because I think there’s a local law against owning a dangerous animal, but on further questioning he confessed quietly that he was closer to fifteen-sixteenths wolf. He certainly looked like every Gray Wolf I’ve ever seen in documentaries.
Goldie was immediately entranced. She had found her long-lost brother or cousin or lover. There was no introductory sniffing, no getting-to-know-you cautiousness. Just a deep play-bow from each of them, and the dance began. They danced together with joy and abandon in the aisles of PetSmart. They danced as if they’d been doing so for many lifetimes.
I’ll be howling over my coffee this morning.