Yesterday was a big day for…for…yeah, still no name yet. We’ve had 24 hours to mull it over since my last post, and still nada. We’ve got nothing.
Jim calls him Buddy or Bub a lot; I have started calling him Big-bad, but I should probably cut that out lest the great powers in the universe fail to recognize that my tongue is planted firmly in my cheek when I use that name. It comes out something like “Bib-bab” when you actually put your tongue in your cheek while saying it. Anyhow, we need a name to avoid having my potentially poorly selected nickname become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I actually suggested the name Christian yesterday. As in Christian Grey Wolf. I cannot begin to tell you how fast Jim vetoed that name. So fast. Can’t say I blame him. (To give you a quick book review here, I sum 50 Shades up as a massive, horrible literary car/train/plane wreck, and yet people (ok, women) everywhere just can’t seem to stop looking. I know. I read it. Don’t judge.)
Moving on with our PG-13 content (missed out on G because I do say testicles later). Yesterday was indeed a big day for our wolf-boy. Jim and I took him to meet Karen, Terry, and Stephanie from Freedom Song Wolf Rescue. We were eager to meet with them so we could learn more about our new foundling. Of greatest interest to me was finding out just how much wolf content vs dog they saw in his soft, furry mix.
We met at a park under the shade of a couple of trees. Big-bad was a bit unnerved by some squealing kids running near him (me too, big guy, me too), but then greeted Karen and Terry like long-lost family. Just as we were all making nice and introducing ourselves, Stephanie arrived with her two sweet daughters and Yuma—basically a younger, healthier, more enthusiastic version of Big-bad. (Seriously, I promise that won’t be his name!)
Our wolfdog was very interested in Yuma until the point where Yuma fell into the role of annoying kid brother and Big-bad was in no mood to play. It was hot, it was a bit stressful, and our skinny guy just pretty much wanted to crash in the shade and enjoy a belly rub or two or five, which we all happily provided while Yuma entertained himself by good-naturedly mauling Karen. (For future reference, a good-natured mauling does not result in permanent damage or loss of life/limb.)
So what did we learn? Well, the experts from Freedom Song believe that our wolfdog is at least mid-content wolf. With no knowledge of his actual parentage, they assess wolfdogs based on physical characteristics…legs, feet, the shape of the head and ears, coat, and overall conformation. Taking all factors into consideration, they feel that our guy is at least half wolf content. Grey wolf, to be specific. (Jim, are you SURE we can’t call him Christian? It’s just a bit hysterical, really…)
They agree that he is a youngster despite some tartar on his teeth. Poor diet is likely the culprit there. Based on physical characteristics—the size of his canine teeth, and the size of his testicles (or current lack thereof, bless his heart…pretty sure no man or beast wants the words “aren’t they cute” used to describe his man bits)—it was determined that he is about eight months old. Oh, and he’s about 30 pounds underweight (I would gladly give him about 15 of mine…).
After that assessment, they launched into an obviously often-used panel discussion that I shall call “Your Wolf And You.” These are rescue people. They are deep in the trenches of caring for a breed of animal that is, to some, a fad, a mere novelty. You know, it’s cool to own a wolf, right?
I feel their pain/determination. I’m a founding member of our local Dalmatian rescue group that was formed in 1989…just before Disney re-released the animated version of 101 Dalmatians and then, just to mess with us, came out with two live-action movie versions as well. Oh goodie! (Disclaimer for my Disney-loving friends: I do know that Disney meant no harm to Dalmatians/Dalmatian fanciers…but MAN did the fine folks of the Magic Kingdom screw with us to the tune of 50 to 75 Dalmatians per year through our little rescue for a bit there.)
When you care about a breed that surges into the limelight…or a breed that requires a great deal of special knowledge as well as commitment to care for it properly…well, you get a bit possessive.
It’s easy to sometimes feel that you are the only people in the world who can properly care for these dogs…THIS dog. In the case of the wolfdogs, I’m sure a lot of people acquire these guys as cute, fluffy little cub-pups with no clue what it will be like to try to live with the mature animal to come. Oh Freedom Song, I hear you. I understand.
You should see the gyrations people have to go through to adopt a dog from me. There is an application filled with leading questions. There are reference checks. There is the face-to-face meeting. There is the home check. Yeah, it’s not an easy process and if everything doesn’t line up, I will tell you no. We are picky. We have to be. The dogs that come to us have generally “failed” in at least one home; it’s our job to make sure the next home is right.
Jim and I listened carefully to everything Karen, Terry, and Stephanie had to share. Some of it we already knew…but we listened to it again, carefully digesting all of the valuable information. On some level, I know that our new friends really just wanted us to hand Big-bad over to them. You could see it in the way they handled him, in the way that they really didn’t want to hand the leash back over to us.
They’ll read this, and I want them to know that I am not criticizing them at all. They are wonderful, kind, concerned people. They know these animals well. They know they can come with challenges. They know a lot of people get them and fail.
Jim and I know that too.
But another thing we all know is that in rescue, you eventually have to trust others. You share your knowledge; you make yourself available to help guide the way. You have to allow yourself to believe that other people can learn to care for these special animals.
Jim and I are good candidates. We both have so very much experience with dogs. We see more dogs through our home over the course of a year than most people see in a lifetime. I am a certified professional dog trainer dedicated to positive reinforcement methods. I have trained not only dogs, but everything from horses, to llamas, and even pet hogs.
Jim also has years of training experience and has shared his home with several Nordic breed dogs in the past, in addition to the husky-malamute cross we have now. He has always been fascinated with wolves and wolf/dog crosses. He’s no rookie.
Our farm is in a county where wolfdogs are legal. We live on a spacious acreage with no homes immediately adjacent to our property. We have good fencing for our dogs and can modify our yard enclosure to foil any future thought that half of this guy might have about answering the call of the wild. Meanwhile the dog half is welcome to come inside to crash on the couch with us. He has already demonstrated that he’s very good at that.
Plus, we really want to see this through. We want to help Big-bad get healthy. We want to experience dog/wolf behavior in this closer-to-nature form. Most importantly, we want to do it right. We are more than a little bit in love with this boy.
For now, he is no trouble. He is calm, he is playful and appropriate with our dogs. He goes into his indoor/outdoor dog run happily (as long as there is a food reward involved). He is smart and willing to learn…we are smart and willing to teach/learn.
We know there may be challenges. We know that in a few weeks, when this guy is 100% healthy and showing his true colors, we may wave the white flag and turn him over to more experienced hands…but I really don’t think so. I think we can do this. I know this wolfdog is the manifestation of a dream long held by Jim, and I feel he’s here for a reason. Our friend CC has suggested that Big-bad is Jim’s spirit guide. Maybe he is…or maybe we were put here to be his. I suspect it’s a combination of both.
In the meantime, we will reinforce our fencing (making it taller and dig-proof), we will begin training (I think clicker training…it works for dogs and killer whales alike, right?), and we will all figure this out together—me, Jim, and Big-bad. I think we will all be A+, gold-star students.
Soon we will give this guy a name. Really we will. It won’t be Big-bad or Christian. According to Jim, those names, along with John Mahowlkovich and Jack Nichowlson, aren’t anywhere to be found the short list of possibilities. Sigh.
And we will stay in touch with our friends at Freedom Song. They are such kind, caring people. As we were parting company yesterday, I looked Terry directly in the eyes and promised him that we would not let them down. And we won’t. Ultimately, it’s not about what Jim and I want…or what any human wants…it’s about what is right and best for this wolfdog. We won’t let him down.
When we got home from the big meet and greet yesterday, a very tired Big-bad walked up to the house.
Walked inside and promptly fell fast asleep. Hey Mr. Big-bad-sleepy-head, you should write a bedtime story all your own.
I’ll help you with that, too.