Midnight Journey is a big and extra-intense, extra high-energy wolf; rangy, long legged and active. His emotions are filtered through a strong masculinity and dignity – he does not wear them on his sleeve, entirely unlike that passionate little wolf Cucumber for example. He is go go go go go go go, looking about, looking for food; restless unless he is moving, searching . . . exploring. He is so handsome that he was selected to be in a photo shoot. We are glad for these opportunities as they help feed the animals.
The set up took forever from our point of view and even longer from Midnight’s. Wolves are not the most patient beings and he was pacing back and forth in frustration as Chimayo, the other excellent wolf on the shoot, was getting treats, a lot of them, and he saw E-v-e-r-y One Of Them. To ease him I started to massage him … inside and outside of his ears, back of his ears, back of his neck, down his spine to his hips and lower back and then up again, feeling each vertebrae as I went, taking my time to dig in just so, feeling where there was tension and just enjoying his wolfness. That big restless wolf with enormous pent-up energy, with strangers doing strange things with lights and cables and things and another wolf getting treats…. this wolf suddenly stood still, got an inner look in his eyes, quieted, then melted into the massage. Just melted. He turned his head just like a dog does when you get the best spot on his rump, communicating to me through his body just where to stay longer. Go deeper. For 15 minutes I massaged him and for 15 minutes he stayed stock still, melting against me, receiving the sensations. It wasn’t just the massage he was enjoying – he was sucking in the attention. As I mentioned, he does not wear his heart on his sleeve, but in his own dignified, masculine way he accepted and (dare I say) loved it.
I like working with photo crews because it is an opportunity to show people who often know nothing about wolves, something beyond the clichés. The wolves do the teaching, by who they are and their unexpected sweetness and responsiveness, their usual state when they feel safe. One of the crew looked over wonderingly and said “He is really enjoying that!” A wolf, enjoying, accepting, a massage from a human … allowing it to calm and reassure him … more effective in changing minds and hearts than lectures about their habits and nature; than the philosophy that they have a right to live; than the fact that they are vital in the ecosystem, important and true though all those are. If only decision makers could see their unexpected sweetness and responsiveness; their intense enjoyment of life, their fear and vulnerability, their grief … I keep hoping we will reach a tipping point of numbers of people who value them so we can create a more humane policy.
I was invited to dinner the other night and the guests next seated next to me turned out to be a hunting guide. He was a nice man. We were talking about wolves and I described how they rolled over for tummy rubs. He said “really???” in astonishment. Obviously that aspect of wolves had never occurred to him. He just saw them as two dimensional; as fierce predators and rivals for his prey, the elk. I wish he could have been there. It just never occurred to him before that they are living feeling beings. He never had to a opportunity to meet them that way, and it might have changed his mind.