The howling, at night, of the wolves; the howling in the past week of the wolves seemingly all day long, or at least every time I go outside to bring in firewood, or walk the dogs, or drive to town, or watch the current supermoon rise. It seems there is always, these days, another supermoon; when I first heard the term a few years ago, it was the brightest supernoon since 19whatever and it won’t happen again for twelve years; then, “another 34 years!”, then, in our lifetime… The frequency of super moons seems to increase with a variable definition, an arbitrary portrait of statistics, like in baseball.
Our UPS man, delivering a package yesterday, mid-afternoon, stopped in mid-sentence and asked, “Doesn’t that bother you? I can’t stand it…”
“What?” I ask, senses seeking something that might bother me in the beautiful expanse of outside, finally settling on only one sound coming from the direction he’s waved his arm. There are no trucks, drills or saws. “The wolves?”
“Yes!” he says, “the howling!”
“You don’t like wolves?”
“They don’t belong here! They’re wild animals. They shouldn’t be fenced in a yard! She’s got three of them!”
I guess I’d rather hear them than a fracking drill venting day and night, I think. Or a quarry going on. “I think they’re rescued from somewhere,” I ventured. “Maybe they’re not whole.” I actually love hearing them. They should be here, wild, and if not wild I still love hearing a sound that’s been missing from this landscape for a century.
“They don’t belong. I’ll never go up there again. I took a package up to the gate one time, and all three of them were pacing the fence, never took their eyes off of me.” He shrugs with the willies. He loves my dogs, and gives them cookies every time.
I wonder who he voted for. We are friends who don’t know each other well. I know he eats what he hunts, including fish, and he almost won the ice fishing championship last year. In a delivery sense, I can trust him. I know he’s got a sense of humor. I love his smile. I know it makes him very happy when I give him a bottle of Crown Royal at Christmas time.
That I live where I can hear wolves at all, no matter they’re fenced in a yard, makes me very happy. And other wild canids, too. This summer and fall we heard more coyote choruses, and closer to our homes on this mesa, than many of us have heard in years. The past few years we’ve watched with delight as one or more fox litters has grown up before our eyes, knowing where to see them along the roadside, playing in dormant irrigation pipes still laid out from winter, or dashing to and from their burrow on a hill. And the foxes yipping we heard this spring and summer, barking and laughing in our fields, more than usual. It’s been a good year for wild canids here.
The other day, before the big snow, I ran the dogs up the driveway in a drizzle. Stellar lifted his nose and took off from his usual casual lope into a dead run, and I saw a large red fox flush from the tall dead grass. Raven spotted it and made a mad dash to catch up, but I called them both off, slowed them down, gave the fox a chance to get far ahead, then started up the car and let the dogs run again. Sniffing and poking into grass and ditch they ran in fits and starts up the rest of the driveway hot on the trail. We turned around at the top and my calls dragged them back to me; they continued back down the driveway racing from one pungent scent to the next. My own wild canids.
A few days later, a bunch of us went to our wonderful Paradise theater for the Wednesday matinee of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” Some of us seeking distraction from a political world that depresses us, and some, maybe only me, because I’ve been waiting six months since the first trailer to see this film. I loved the movie. I loved the fantastic beasts, and where they lived in his suitcase, and the mischief they got into when they escaped, and everything about the film.
I got home just before dark, to a houseful of my own magical beasts. My first sight of each of my pets that evening gave a deeper glimpse into the wonder of their being: at all, and in my house, and each in their unique way in a complex relationship with me. I saw each of them more thoroughly, body and soul, than I tend to day after day in the comfortable complacency of our staid lives. Such a wonder that they live here, with me!
And that made me celebrate their lives, again, reviewing pictures. No matter the money their vet visits cost, no matter the glassware they break, the paper towels they pull from the garbage and shred, the hairballs they puke up onto the occasional rug. The truth of them is the warm hefty shoulder against mine in bed, the purring on my chest, the bounding joyful greeting when I come home, the happy glance back to make sure the pack is all together on a walk through the woods, the quivering nose knowing something I can’t, the proud trot home carrying a shed antler, the cat chases up and down stairs, the certainty that the dogs have my back.
There’s more and more science coming out proving that dogs have cognition, sentience, and other formerly-considered exclusively human qualities. Anyone who has lived with animals they love, of any species, is way ahead of the science on that score. We know that animals are conscious beings. All animals, domestic or wild, are sentient beings. The question of sentience can take us down a rabbit hole (and has! like, is an amoeba, then, sentient?) but that would be a detour from my point here. And I guess that is simply this: that I consider myself blessed beyond rationale to know now, and to have known in my life, such an extraordinary number of remarkable animals, wild and domestic, each a fantastic beast in its own right, and it is the greatest joy of my life to wake up each day and share it with them.