I own a wolf dog. I did not set out to get a wolf dog. In 2004, I went to PetSmart to buy a fish for my grandson. The Humane Society had puppies there. My daughter said to me, “Mom, you just have to look at these puppies. They are gorgeous.” I looked; I was smitten. Isabella is ¼ wolf. She was seven weeks old when I took her home. She is smart, loves people, guards my 15 or so acres, and was incredibly easy to train. She weighs 80 pounds. Sometimes people think she is a German Shepard, but she is taller and heavier even though she is also ¼ German Shepard. Even people who do not like dogs love her. When I first got her, I researched wolf dogs on the Internet. The information seemed incredibly complex and sometimes contradictory. I trained her the way that seemed right to me. She will not live forever and on the rare occasions I think about this, I realize I will never be able to find another Isabella or even come close.
Isabella leads me to the topic of wolves. One of my long term goals is to research and study why so many people feel such an intense hatred of wolves. This intensity is lacking in the way people view other big predators in the US, e.g. pumas, bears. Why wolves?? What is it that makes ranchers and hunters in states where wolves still exist so intent on destroying them? As a one time rancher who raised cattle and horses and a person who still owns a farm and grew up on one, I know it is not only because wolves occasionally kill a calf or two. Something else drives this hatred. What is it??
Recently, I had the occasion to have a discussion on this topic with a biologist friend. He said, “People hate wolves because they are so very human. Wolves remind them of themselves, especially the willingness to kill, the survival instinct, the wild.” He also told me that he had read a research article on ancient hunters and the domestication of wolves, the precursor to all dogs. Some researchers believe that ancient humans and wolves hunted together to maximize their hunting success.
Strangely, I came home, opened a book of essays, and there lay Sherry Simpson’s essay, Killing Wolves. I read it. I read some of it twice. I have reread parts a third time. She says, “The unknowable wolf hunts along the edge of our vision, never allowing a clear view of himself. Imagination, fear, and longing fulfill what experience cannot. And so a wolf is no longer just a wolf. It’s a vicious, wasteful predator. Or it’s the poster child of the charismatic mammals, the creature that stands for all that’s noble, wild, and free. A wolf is social, family-oriented, intelligent, and communicative—like humans. A wolf kills because it can—like humans. It’s either-or, the sacred or the profane. Inevitably, the wolf becomes a distorted reflection of the human psyche, a heavy burden for one species to carry. We can hardly bear the burden of being human ourselves.”
8 thoughts on “Wolves”
Surely Leopold was right, “Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of the wolf.”
My son had a wolf-dog (1/2-1/2) for about 2 years. He trained well,and behaved as long as my son was present, because my son was the alpha, the leader of the pack. However, when his wife was the only one there, the wolf-dog, Sasha, would challenge her, and only with difficulty could she get compliance. They adopted a chocolate lab, who was calm sweet, and submissive. Sasha was threatened by her presence. They had to confine them to kennels when they were not home to protect the lab. Once, when they left the room, Sasha attacked the lab and nearly killed it. They then feared for any child that might be there, as she had also threatened the wife’s grandmother. So, even if the wolf-dog is trained, it is still a wild animal in some cases. Just keep that in mind when she/he is around babies, etc.
She loves people, especially children. I have trained her to chase other dogs off. I have had the experience of other people’dogs chasing horses and I had to have one horse euthanized because dogs chased her through a fence causing her to flip and break her back. From what I have read, it depends on the individual dog. She is also half blue heeler. I wanted a sort of guard dog that people would fear, but she is way too friendly for that. Of course, no one has threatened me so I do not know what she would do.
You took me to so many places. Your canyon, my own thoughts about the sacred and the profane. I don’t know what it says about me but I find wolves powerful, “magic,” and therefore very attractive. How can we as a society love dogs and despise wolves? These forefathers gave us their young–who are now our companions, who share our lives.
Here’s one of my favorite quotes that seem to reflect so much of what you shared:
“Often a holy thing is hidden in a dark creature.”
I admire wolves. They’re gorgeous, smart animals.
I like them also but like big cats the best. In fact, as you might notice from other posts, I am rather obsessed with pumas. If you have an opinion as to why so many people hate wolves, I would like to hear it. Juliana
Honestly, I don’t have an opinion on that. My thought is that wolves are usually associated with killing people’s sheep and other cattle. This is why so little ofthem are left – people try to kill them off. But in reality wolves kill only weak or sick animals, so it’s a very natural process – the weak are killed, and the healthy ones keep population strong. I also like the social structure the wolves have – they have a strong hierarchy and they always keep together. Unlike humans.
Great piece! First of all, congrats on being blessed enough to get to share your life with a wolfdog! I bought a wolfdog puppy 2 and a half years ago – a precious animal, so unlike any other puppy I had ever met. Sadly I could only keep him a few months because of my own deteriorating health so the breeder helped me rehome him. I still miss him though, he was a once in a lifetime dog already at that young age, so I can relate to your Isabella. I can’t seem to shake what you wrote in your last paragr, their wild spiritaph above. It seems there is no middle-ground when it comes to wolves, people either admire and are fascinated by wolves or hate them with a vengeance which they cannot explain. For me it was love at first sight! I admire their beauty and wild spirit, how they are devoted to their family, their intelligence and their power! The resemblance to man does not contain pettiness or greed, jealousy or hate. Perhaps that is why man hate them so much ~ they reflect us and our kind without all the traits that fault us,