Our dog died about a year ago. Her name was Gillian. She was a proud mutt, a terrier-and-hound mix (we think) with a remarkable facility to amaze us with her doggy brilliance and confound us with her canine hardheadedness. This was a dog who taught herself how open latch-handled doors and ring a bell to be let out, but who was so ravenous no foodstuff was safe. A pile of potatoes, cooling on a kitchen counter—made to vanish without a trace. A one-pound box of Aglamesis Bros. chocolates—snarfed down without the slightest digestive reaction. Soup—what dog eats soup? Once I brought home a roasted chicken and stupidly left it on the dining room table unattended. Ten minutes later, my ears picked up sounds of lip-smacking and concentrated chomping, telltale indicators of an orgy of carnivorous overexertion. I hollered and bounded downstairs to find Gillian splayed on the living room floor with a wing and part of the bird’s rib cage laying in front of her. The rest was gone. The look on her face said, “What? What?!” It took two doses of hydrogen peroxide and two applications of some kind of emetic powder for her to relinquish her prize. “She just didn’t want to give that chicken up, did she?” said the emergency vet.
I was reminded of this shortly before Christmas when I journeyed out to Brookville, Indiana, so that my daughter Nola could take part in the photo shoot at Wolf Creek Habitat & Rescue for our Hidden Cincy feature. Nola is crazy about wolves. She’s read books, watched nature shows, even delivered a talk about them at school. So interacting with a live wolf was an opportunity too good to pass up. Under the watchful eye of co-owner Kathy Baudendistel, we trundled into a large fenced-in area, the territory of four wolves who were happily jumping all over us from the moment we entered their space. Yes, there was some snarling and nipping (of other wolves, not us). Yes, there was howling. Yes, there were deer parts strewn around the yard. Yes, they were big and powerful and not to be toyed with. But were these wolves ever happy to see us! They licked my glasses right off my face and made it clear they did not want Nola to stop scratching their bellies. Ever. I couldn’t help thinking of Gillian, and how we used to call her a “wolf-dog” because of her size. I now know that she was definitely more dog than wolf. But I also know where her thing for chicken carcasses came from.