I nearly thirsted to death in Nanaimo. That gave me paws. Panting, I considered humans’ strange relationship with water.
Imagine wearing a thick black fur coat like mine in the summer sun, with nothing but your long, sweaty tongue to cool down sixty kilos of wolf body! That was me at the end of a long, sticky afternoon on the pavement outside the Nanaimo library, waiting with my Pack Leader for the third member of our mini-pack to emerge from that deliciously cool building—I could smell the coolth every time the door opened.. We hung around hot, dry downtown on such a day, instead of swimming and socialising with more sensible humans and canines.
“You can’t go in there,” said Pack Leader, pointing to a picture stuck to the glass doors. “See? No dogs allowed.”
I’m not going to take out a book, I explained. I’ll just visit the water closet for a long, clean, cold drink.
Pack Leader was absorbed in reading poems stuck to the windows. I decided to handle my own problems.
You could smell the harbour from the library plaza. I could just toddle down to the water’s edge and be satisfied with a sweet-and-sour drink. Harbour water tastes weird from all the pee and gasoline from the humans’ floating dens. Ten minutes later, I’d probably be thirsty again, but some moisture’s better than nothing. I took matters into my own paws and trotted away.
Around the corner a powerful aroma appeared like a vision of dinner, overpowering all thoughts of water. Hot meat! Eggs! Soup! Somebody in that building was cooking up a feast! On impulse I slipped through the doorway.
The kitchen pumped its heavenly aromas down a long hall to my nose. I sidled quietly along the wall, careful not to let my claws click on the slick floor. What culinary delight awaited me? Bison burger? Curried chicken with blueberries? Steak tartare aux canneberges? I forgot all about my humans left behind on the hot street. I would have forgotten my raging thirst, too, but for an opening in the wall—water closet!
There were four cubicles, all pristine. Sinks, too, on a fairly low counter. I put my front paws up and stuck my muzzle under a tap—magic! No sooner did clear, cold water flow over my nose and muzzle—deelish!—but I soon lost my grip. I decided to try instead one of the conveniently placed toilets.
At my size, using the handicapped cubicle is mandatory. How did the gods who designed these water closets imagine anyone over thirty kilos could pretzel oneself around these dumb doors, never mind store one’s hindquarters somewhere while taking a long, healthy drink? Ridiculous! For my milkbone, only the God of the Handicapped had a brain.
Humans seldom take a drinking position in the water closet. Nine out of ten humans have sore backs and avoid bending, and many are too plump to see their toes, let alone bend over for a drink. I’ve escorted Pack Leader into many water closets, and can tell you almost all humans close the cubicle door before deciding what to do inside. My nose informs me, however, that almost no human, except maybe their very young puppies, drinks from these clever, self-refreshing fountains. Why humans go to all the trouble of creating these fountains in their own dens, only to perch on top of the fountain, widdling and defecating into all that lovely fresh water, puzzled me for years—until insight dawned! Unlike us, humans can’t squat or raise a leg very well! They need to sit! Then they simply bring in fresh water, in case the next user prefers drinking.
So there I stood, philosophising and beginning a happy lapping session, my tail lagging out the door, when a small brown human entered the water closet and let out one of those screeches only the females can yowl. “Ai yi yi! Demonios! Lupo negro!”
Excuse me, I gave the shaking woman a friendly nod as I did the proverbial high-tail out of there. Business calls. My appetite wetted and whetted, I headed for the kitchen, where half a dozen chattering humans were dishing out din-din. I stood politely in a corner until someone should acknowledge my request.
“Holey–!” is the word I heard most in the next two minutes. Holey this; holey that. (Why startled humans perceive holes in whatever startles them is beyond me.) Conversation proved difficult.
“Is that a wolf?” Well, duh!
“Don’t eat me!” I never eat a hand that feeds me.
“Where’s the fire extinguisher?” Huh? I’m not on fire.
“Throw it something to eat so it’ll leave us alone!” Now you’re talking!
A man in a tall, white, poufy hat pointed one of his minions to a mound of steak tartare on the counter. “Feed it that—wolves eat raw stuff, don’t they?”
A little slave female cowered and shook as she flung me a pawful. Yum! I inhaled it and moved to thank her. She screeched, too, and shrank away. Someone threw me another pawful and I ate that, too. Again I tried to thank my hosts, to no avail.
A door opened at the other end of the kitchen and a well-furred woman clacked in on those weird paw-raisers some females like to wear on their hind paws. She smelled like a flower garden. “What’s this?” Then she saw my face. “Oh! He’s beautiful!”
All would now be well. Quickly, I bent my gnarly knees and sat down so that I could shake a paw, struggling to remember which was the right one. I was ready to win her over with a pawshake, a lick and a lean against her knee.
“Aww. You are such a gentleman!” She took my paw in her own tiny furless one. “Didn’t anybody give this good boy some water?” And a shining silver pan glinting with pure water was in front of my muzzle in seconds. At last! A human who values water as we do!
Eileen was her name. We had a very good time in that hotel. I had a chance to ask some long-held questions on harbours, water closets, and why humans are muddying the waters—not that I received satisfactory answers, but philosophy is always fun. When the fire engines came by, I sang for her and the lobby audience, who tried to join me on the chorus. As I took my leave, Eileen ushered me handsomely out the front doors. There was Pack Leader, waving at me frantically, far down the street. “Come back for a visit anytime,” said Eileen.
I confess to kissing this sweet-smelling Keeper of the Waters goodbye. Right on her muzzle. Yum. Can’t hardly wait for our next trip to Nanaimo!