In Touch With Her Inner Wolf

When good dogs go bad: Tsuga in 2003 at 4 months (just been "tutored")

I used the term “inner wolf” first in 2003.

We had put Buster down after a long and still-unexplained period of pain and suffering–a robust 90 pound black Lab, who lived with us only 4 and a half years.

A few weeks after his passing in July, we brought home an 8 week old male we named Tsuga, named after the genus for eastern Hemlocks, a favorite tree that is steadily disappearing from our forests.

When Tsuga was about Gandy’s age, we left him for a week at what later became known as “Puppy Camp”, which he came to enjoy. But his first visit erased all the good behaviors so hard-won during his early puppyhood. He was unruly, snarly, anxious and obnoxious—“in touch with his inner wolf.”

Gandy only the week before we left in April 9 had turned the corner: less jumping up on people, easier to walk on the leash, and even actively affectionate at times. We were finally getting somewhere! Then we left her at Puppy Camp, not only for a full week of separation, but for spaying. She came home with stitches, antibiotics for a skin infection she’s had since we got her (staph pyoderma) and an attitude.

By late in her first day home, she acted like she sort of remembered the routine, who we were, and the perqs of living on Goose Creek. Problem is, she can’t enjoy the creeks–not until her stitches come out in an agonizingly long week at the end of a leash. Add to that the days of rain between now and next Tuesday, and I do not look forward to the travails of pet ownership.

Then, we’ll have it behind us, and move on towards a relationship we only hope for and expect, and will look back on these brief encounters with Inner Wolves. We have our own, too, and I confess I felt more than a little feral yesterday with Gandy leaping like a marlin on the end of a canvas strap out of the tall grass of the pasture. This too shall pass.

About

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

2 Comments on “In Touch With Her Inner Wolf

  1. Memories of the “leaping marlin” will bring a smile some years down the road. I hold fast to such memories now as I am watching my dear dog in quick decline.
    Thanks for reminding me of Gary Larson’s classic cartoon about going to get “tutored”!

  2. We all address our inner wolf from time to time, Fred. Spencer, like most GSPs is sweet tempered and just a tad bone headed, but there are days when he is crotchety and has even been know to utter a wee growl now and again – the spray bottle comes out again on such occasions. Gandy is probably rather sore after her surgery, and that doesn’t make for a happy canine girl. This too shall pass.

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