Thursday, October 18, 2007

Wolfie



The next dog to join our family was Wolfie. He was a complete surprise to me, but Ron had been secretly planning and researching for quite awhile.

It was April, 2002. Around lunchtime, Ron called to say he was coming home for lunch and bringing a surprise. I was very surprised when he got home and I saw what was in the back of his work truck.

"Oh my God, you bought a coyote!"

"No, it's not a coyote; he's a wolf."

Actually he's half wolf and half German Shepherd, but he looks like he's all wolf, and wolf puppies look like coyotes. He was only 12 weeks old.

I didn't know it until then, but Ron had been researching wolfdogs for quite awhile. At the time, there was a man in Taos selling those wolfdogs out of the back of his truck in various parking lots. Although he took excellent care of his dogs and really loved them, The Powers That Be eventually ran him out of town (and even out of the state).

I'd like to say that Wolfie was no trouble at all from the very beginning, but I can't. He didn't know us and he missed his pack. The first two nights, Ron put him out in the front courtyard (he wasn't housebroken). He was safe there, but he was unhappy and he made sure everyone for miles around knew it. He howled all night long the first night and most of the second night.

For the third night, Ron tried something different. He cleared a space in the living room and put down the old futon mattress. Then he and Big and Wolfie snuggled up for the night and all three slept together. That did the trick. The three of them bonded and Wolfie knew he was part of the pack. They did the same thing the following night, just to reinforce things. After that, Ron was able to go back to sleeping in the bedroom and Wolfie and Big did just fine together.

As Wolfie grew older, he became (and stayed) very sweet and affectionate.

The only problem that remained was containment and that took a long time to solve. Containment is one of the main issues with wolfdogs and one of the leading reasons some wolfdogs don't work out for some people.

The walls of the rear courtyard were about five feet high at their lowest point. That quickly became much too low as Wolfie grew. And so began the process of building the wall higher. And higher. And higher. Every time we thought we had it high enough, he would leap over it. I became very frustrated, convinced we would never get it high enough to contain him. Finally we got it up to nine feet high and we dug a "trench" about a foot deep in front of the wall. That took away his momentum when he tried to jump. We finally had him contained!

At the same time we were building up the walls, he was finding other means of escape, mainly through the gate. We have a gate in the rear courtyard with one of those lift-and-slide latches. After watching us open the latch, he learned how to open it with his teeth! His nickname then changed from "Houdini" to "Too D*mn Smart." We couldn't figure out how he was getting out until I saw him actually opening it with his teeth. We quickly installed a second latch; it's higher up and must be opened at the same time as the first one. He's not that smart.

He has since been given a kinder, gentler nickname by my mother. When she visited us a couple of years ago, she was a little nervous of Wolfie at first. But he completely charmed her by being sweet and gentle, even putting his head in her lap. So now when I talk to her on the phone, she always asks about him in the same way, "How's my Dear Sweet Wolfie?"

Wolfie's fine -- healthy and happy and in the prime of his life. And now he's no trouble at all. And I'm so glad he's part of our family.

6 comments:

Barbara said...

I nearly have tears in my eyes from that, Beth. First, from the story of how Wolfie joined your pack, but also because of Mother. To know why that's so special, one must know her and how nervous she is of animals, even cats. I knew she liked Wolfie, and about him putting his head on her lap, but I didn't know how special he had become to her. :-)

Beth said...

I knew she was scared of big dogs (we put Big in the kennel while she was here) and when he first put his head in her lap, she didn't know what to do, but he won her over with his gentleness.

S. Lee Whiplash said...

What a *great* anecdote. And I can SO hear your mother inquiring "How's my Dear Sweet Wolfie?"

Thank you for sharing, and I'm eagerly awaiting the next installment of the menagerie saga.

Beth said...

I wish I could get a picture of him smiling. He shows his teeth and for most wolves, it wouldn't be a friendly gesture, but with Wolfie, it really IS a smile.

Elle said...

Dear, sweet Wolfie! I like that. The wall saga reminds me of our place in Berkeley. It took a 9 foot tall fence to contain Shogun. Hard to believe that they can jump that high, but they can. It is sweet that Ron and Big bunked down with him to make him part of the pack.

Beth said...

Wow, I didn't know Shogun could jump that high! Ron knew from his research that wolfogs could jump that high, but none of the books mentioned opening latches with their teeth.