If you are a perceptive human, you may have twigged to the fact that the fur persons in your life have come to you for a reason. Companionship. Service. Training (yours and ours). Love. Entertainment. Cats often take this principle a little too far, treating their humans like staff. Many of my smaller K9 buddies focus on love and companionship; some of them get so good at their winsome ways they become TV stars, traveling around in purses held by their humans, even on Car-car in the Sky. Such lifestyles of the Bitch So Famous, however, are not the usual lot of German Shepherds, which is half of me. Sheps live to serve and protect their humans. If, along the way, they get to learn every trick in the book and have their own TV show, that’s fine but it’s still just part of service to humankind.
I want to tell you what my wilder half was sent to humans for. Why does Silva, Goddess of the True Woods, send humans great big K9 galoots like me—a wolf hybrid?
From the start, my four siblings and I were not like other pups. Our mother, a beauteous but romantic young Shepherd bitch, had fallen in love with a wolf, a big black guy, who used to leave offerings of freshly killed rabbits, mice, and, unfortunately, chickens, just outside the puppy pen, for our nurture and edification. I say unfortunately because, not only do chicken feathers make puppies sneeze and choke, but my mother’s human would do a tarnation dance, a shotgun brandished in both front paws, every time a chicken was left for breakfast.
What was his complaint, really? He ate most of the chickens, and rabbits, too. The mice he left for us.
As you may imagine, Daddy made himself scarce during daylight.
Mom had not been able to tell us much about our handsome father. Her previous mate, a collie mix about as smart as a bag of kibble, had never brought gifts of food, and his one notable act in life was jumping the fence one night for a date with Mom. She hadn’t seen ear nor tail of him since. But falling for a wolf was different. Every now and then she and Daddy held a tryst, paws across the kennel, noses through the fence.
“Your father’s disappointed that I can’t take you hunting,” she told us. “He says you pups must have a special destiny with humans. Something about learning all about them and bringing the knowledge home to Silva…and also training humans to be…better people? Oh, I can’t remember exactly what your father had on his furry mind…oh, yes, and teaching humans to howl. Well, Darlings, I can’t help you there.”
Mom was no singer. Her occasional attempts to howl back to Daddy and his pack started us puppies giggling. The first time we raised our own little muzzles to the sky, however, Mom’s human went into his tarnation dance again, swinging the shotgun in our direction. Mom stepped between us and him, her ears in pleading mudra, and that worked. That was our first and last howling party.
My first human family really wanted a wolf pup. Well, they thought they did. Some bits of smelly paper were exchanged, Mom’s human called me a friendly little thing and gave me a pat on the head, and I was carted off, never to see my family again.
My first pack of humans laughed and clapped whenever I howled along with those big howling machines on wheels that humans use to spread their news. Little did they know I was trying to send a message back to my family, along with a plea to Silva for guidance. Hey, I’d already noticed humans don’t come with instruction manuals. Just how was I, a young teen wolf cross, supposed to relate to this bunch of apes?
The relationship couldn’t last. I proved unable to teach my family the wonders of Walkies; so I developed a habit of accompanying the postie on her rounds, or any other human who seemed inclined to ramble. Not infrequently, these humans, assuming I couldn’t find my own way home, dropped me off at the Pound, whereupon my Pack would pick me up. The Pound building smelled terrible, but on the whole this system seemed workable to me. My Pack, however, didn’t care for it. The umpteenth time they had to give up some of their smelly paper to spring me, they decided they couldn’t handle me.
In reality, I had failed to handle them. My father and Silva would be disappointed in me.
My second human was a loner, like myself. We took each other places, and he proved a pretty good student of Walkies. We spent years learning to love each other. Then one day, he didn’t smell so good. I sniffed him over for some injury I could help him with, but his sickness was deep inside. As he sickened, life became difficult for us, until one day he said, “Major, Old Boy, I’ve found someone to take care of you while I’m sick.”
I was at least halfway through my life when my descent into hell happened. The new humans tied me up outside and forgot about me. They weren’t interested in Walkies, much less the fine art of howling. The food was cheap kibble and precious little of that. Bugs attacked my coat and skin; my fur fell out in great patches and I couldn’t stop scratching. The humans held their noses when they came to feed me.
One rainy day, a skinny, light-furred human bitch arrived, with a truck. A shouting match erupted—those sound fights scare me—but the skinny ape won. Guarded by a bigger ape in a uniform, the skinny one approached me cautiously, snapped me onto a lead, and led me to the truck. I was scared, but so miserable I hardly cared if I lived or died. If this is my last day, I thought, so be it.
I was dropped off at a humans’ den crammed full of them, their stuff, several cats, and a dog a third my size. Later I learned it was a foster home, a sort of hotel for orphaned critters like me. The humans were very kind, slowly bringing back my faith in humanityj, but I knew they didn’t want me to stay long. “Holy sh–! He stinks!” They took me to the vet: “Holy sh–! A 140-pound naked wolf!” They fed me: “Holy sh–! He eats like a horse!” I knocked yet another piece of their furniture or toys over as I chased their little poopsie dog—at her invitation, of course—through their tiny den: “Holy sh–! He’s a big oaf!” The sirens went by for the fifth time that day: “Holy sh–! How do you turn him off?”
By the number of Holy sh—s shall ye know them: I wasn’t their type.
One day a pair of humans, mother and daughter bitches, came to take me for a walk. “Well,” grumbled the old one, “he’s no wolf-husky, and he sure doesn’t know diddly squat about leash-walking.”
“Why not take him for just three days?” said the poopsie-dog’s humans. “We could use a little respire.”
“Because he stinks worse than a manure pile and he’s not the kind of dog we always have,” said the grumbler. My heart sank.
“Yeah, I know,” sighed the male human. “We washed him, too, but it didn’t—ow!” His mate had kicked his shin.
“We could take him off your hands a few days. Mom?” wheedled the young bitch.
A few minutes later, my tail wagging all by itself, I was in their nice car, stinking up the leather upholstery.
The next three days were bliss. The elder ape washed me, gently, every day, and sprayed some good-smelling stuff on my bare spots, which by that time were most of me. I slept on a big sheepskin, when I wasn’t stretched out beside the younger ape on her bed. They shared their meat with me, gave me tasty kibble—well, insofar as the stuff is ever tasty—and cooked me eggs. A soft cloth choke collar was looped around my neck, and we went for long walks in the woods near the den. I even had a chance to swim in a lake—bliss. If only it would never end!
And best of all? When I sang with the sirens, they sang along! Not that they were any good at it, but they could be taught.
On the third day, the mother called the skinny bitch on the little black box. To this day I have never been able to figure out whether all of the human or just the voice is inside that box, but I know for sure it was that voice. “Oh,” it said in disappointment when the mother human finished what she had to say. “Well, just return him to the foster parents tomorrow, then.” I heard her sigh. She must still be in charge of my fate.
I had to do something if I wanted to have a life. Surely these two female humans were just whom Silva had in mind for me! Surely they were the right stuff to join me in the quest for harmony between wilderness and civilisation? Surely in time they would come to love me?
I got up from the sheepskin and padded over to the daughter. She was sitting at the perfect angle for me to place the top of my head against her chest, right where her heart was. Her arms came around me automatically. Please…! I thought at her as hard as I could. Please!
“Oh, Mom!” she said. “He knows!”
That was my signal to move over to the mother with the same power ploy. Because, you see, one thing I’ve learned about human apes is that they, especially the females, are at heart the most compassionate of creatures. (They have to be: otherwise they’d kill off their young I frustration—the cubs take so long to grow up!) It is the job of dogs and K9s to bring out the best in humans, to show them their own capacity for compassionate love.
I pressed my big head against the mom human as hard as I dared. Her arms circled me as her eyes filled with tears. (Yeah! Isn’t that a weird human thing?) She kissed the top of my head and reached for the phone.
“Audrey,” she said, “Too late. We’ve fallen in love.”
And the rest, all four gloriously happy harmonious years of it, is history.