Monday, November 12, 2007

Walking the Wolf

Is this a new genre? The fictional essay.

Walking the Wolf

There is no such thing as a tame wolf or even a partly tame wolf. There can only be a wolf who, for the moment, has decided not to attack.

Walking for three or four miles with a wolf on a leash is never casual. There are no moments of illusion that you are one with your “pet.” You are only there as an adjunct to his hour. The leash only keeps you within each other’s boundaries in a vaguely consensual orbit.

There is always, in the pull and tug, the awareness of the relative pound for pound difference in your strengths. He is ninety-five pounds, and if you consider this in strictly human terms, you lull yourself into a false feeling of equality, or worse, superiority. A ninety-five pound man, when pushed, will fall. The wolf will not even allow himself to be pushed. His bones are light and his body fat is nonexistent. He is all muscle. And heart. And will. Pull hard and he may come, but you must always know that he will come on his own terms, and he may decide one time that those terms may be backed with anger. So you go together as a small pack, every minute weighing which of you is the leader.

You jog past a house with a fenced yard and in the yard is a large German Sheppard. The dog barks. The wolf stops. Wolves don’t bark, except when they are pups. We have bred dogs to remain pups through their lives and so they bark. The wolf sniffs. You feel a quiver through the leash, but the wolf calculates and in that moment decides the dog is not worth fighting and not worthy of inclusion with the pack. You move on.

Rounding the third mile the road heads home. A dog, sensing the nearness of his kennel will pull, or maybe drag back, tired from the walk. A wolf does neither. Home is where the wolf is. And wolves never tire.