Sometimes when people call us in the morning they comment we seem rushed. That is because meditating with wolves had recently been added to our daily routine. This is our current early morning schedule, which starts about 7 am – we are at the moment a two-wolf; two-dog cabin.
Every winter Wamaka the wolf loses the hair on his back end, loses weight and goes into depression. We just can’t leave him out in the below zero cold half naked and sad. He has to come in to the cabin for warmth, love and light. But we have learned from bitter bitter bitter experience and the cost of thousands of vet dollars that if Cucumber the wolf doesn’t come into the cabin every morning for love and treats and a dollop (small but it’s the principle) of organic heavy cream she starts to fade, droop, lose weight, go into dramatic physical decline. She used to be very clear and assertive about her annoyance when we left her out, but she is now 14 and her response is drooped patheticness. A beaten-down displaced wolf. We have learned, and paid for, the consequences. . .
Our “infirmary,” especially in winter, is our cabin living room area 15×18 feet in which we have Jean’s desk, my desk, bookshelves, a couch, a dining room table, a wood burning stove, two dogs, ferns, orchids and barely enough room in which to turn around. Cucumber has to come in every morning – no option. It’s too expensive in vet bills and psychic toll otherwise. Wamaka has to come in. But Wamaka is a very big and somewhat rambunctious wolf and, from past experience, known for leaping on desks and table tops as if he is made only of air and huge paws, and the computers, papers and plants don’t do well. Part of the cabin concrete floor is still pink from where he spilled paint last time. Also, this is Cucumber’s special, high status lair and she doesn’t tolerate anyone else. So we brought in an oversized portable cage for Wamaka to protect him from Cucumber (1/3 his size but she is fierce) and the cabin from Wamaka. We made it into a cozy nest for him.
Our mornings consist of putting Talkeenta the malamute out in the Wildlife Garden (she is a runaway and can’t be let loose), because Cucumber sees her as competition and wants to do her in. Because Wamaka has a jaw deformity and can’t eat easily he gets crazy around food. So we put Wamaka out in the enclosure back of the cabin with a treat, and prepare Cucumber’s special breakfast: high quality dog food (she can’t digest raw meat any more) mixed with Joint Aid, protein powder, digestive enzymes and salmon oil, and bring her in. Or rather we let her out of her enclosure and she races to the cabin, slams open the door and is into her breakfast so fast you see only a blur. Jean and I have a standing joke: “Did you see a wolf come in?” “No. Whatever it was it was too fast.” Or “Oh my god there’s a wolf in the cabin!”
Once she has wolfed down her breakfast, had her cream and been properly greeted and petted, I take her out and distract her while Jean brings Wamaka back in. Once he is safely ensconced in the cage and settled to his satisfaction we bring Cucumber back in to join us in our morning meditation. She insists on it – has for the past two years. She has taken over from where Stardance the wolf started us on our meditations until she passed away two Novembers ago. All this time Boychuk our German shepherd whom all the animals love is sleeping peacefully on a mound of cushions under the table. His presence is a reassurance to all our animals, from wolf to bear, keeping them calm(er). We can’t leave Wamaka alone in the cabin even in his pen. He would destroy it, tear it apart, and let himself out into the cabin; then start tearing the cabin apart in his attempt to find companionship. So poor Boychuk is sacrificed as babysitter.
Figuring out all these arrangements took a while. At first we didn’t know if Cucumber would attack Wamaka. She wasn’t happy about the intrusion and for several days circled his pen menacingly, stalking, prowling, patrolling, letting him know who was boss, making herself very large on tippy toes. There is only perhaps a foot of space between the table and the pen where she manages to squeeze herself through on her patrol emanating domination from every pore.
It took a few weeks for things to settle down. Eventually the arrangement was accepted – as long as it was very clear that Cucumber was top wolf and #1 special wolf and Wamaka stayed in his pen. After properly dominating Wamaka she eventually settles herself under the table near Boychuk. We have to push the pen with Wamaka in it toward Jean’s desk to make enough room for Jean to sit so we can meditate. When we signal the beginning of the meditation by ringing the Tibetan singing bowl Cucumber gets up and begins to circle us several times, pushes her nose vigorously into Jean’s armpit as she goes around, then lays down peacefully under the table, joining Boychuk, her paws or head on his paws in loving companionship.
Finally, things settle down. Wamaka curls comfortably in his pen. A deep peace reigns. There is a sense of enjoyment from all the living beings around us including us. We invite in all the spirits of the animals and trees and land around us.
We signal the end of the meditation with the singing bowl. Cucumber rouses herself, gets up and circles us again several times, pushing her nose again into Jean’s armpit or my lap, giving quick little licks as she passes around us. This is her ritual- she developed it and does it absolutely without fail. Then she gets her second breakfast, we put her back out, and bring Talkeetna back in. Another story. . .
So now what? Wamaka is positively delighted with the new arrangement, and has settled in as if it were permanent. If we put him back out we fear he will go into depression. Perhaps not as intensely as Cucumber, a highly emotional wolf where it basically turns into a matter of life or death if she comes in or not, but still, if you “promise” in effect, something really important and then take away it can have a major impact. On humans too. And now Uintah, Cucumber’s companion, howls mournfully, longingly, aching, when Cucumber comes in and leaves him alone. He needs special attention too, after nearly having died as well. How do we manage three wolves? Or five wolves?
By now it is usually 8:30 in the morning and we need to start the day…
by Susan Eirich, Ph.D.