Most people who know me would describe me as a cat person. That is true. But maybe they never heard about my dog, Wolf, a beautiful, blue-eyed husky with a need to roam.
The dog who broke my heart.
When a beleaguered Quesnel SPCA centre closed down this week, after heavy rains damaged its roof, the news story took me back 20 years to when I first met Wolf.
This female, Siberian husky with curled tail and soulful eyes, aged about three, was found running back and forth along the shoulder of Highway 97, clearly lost. She’d been taken by motorists to the local shelter.
My husband had stopped by the SPCA with some donations — old blankets, toys, etc. when he saw a very forlorn looking dog in a kennel outside. No one had claimed her and a sign inside said she was up for adoption.
Her past was a mystery, but she had a gentle disposition, had been well cared for and likely had been taught to pull a sled because when she was taken for walks, she pranced.
The next thing he knew (because the SPCA gives survival courses to its “forever home” seeking dogs and cats on how to turn humans into mush) he was signing the adoption papers.
First she needed shots, vet’s check up, and, … here it comes. My husband has to go to Vancouver, so could I please pick up “Wolf” and bring her home? Strategic planning.
She quickly established her territory, claiming domain over all 20 acres of our rural hobby farm. A social butterfly, she also asserted her right to roam, which included regular visits to all our neighbours and their horses, cows and dogs.
From day one, she set down a routine and we all fell into line. Every morning, Wolf was the wake up alarm for the household…she had no snooze button. She’d start out with a soft whimper and nudge us with a wet nose, which, if ignored, was followed by a rousing bark.
She would escort our daughter down our long road to meet her school bus, then return with a stick from the woods as her reward. When the adults left for work, Wolf took her place on the front porch to guard her family: Six ducks, two sheep, three cats, and a bunny named Gabby.
In the evening she would usher the free range ducks up a hill to their shed. Then she rounded up the cats like an expert Sheltie sheep herder. When all the animals were safe in bed, she ate her dinner and declared herself off duty.
At first I dreaded a call from the SPCA that her original owner was found and wanted her back. But as months became years, and her devotion for our family grew, I forgot about those fears.
Ironically, it was not a human but a highway — that northern stretch of Highway 97, where she had been found years before — that came back to reclaim her.
One evening I had worked late, tight deadline, putting our newspaper to bed. As I drove up the long winding road home, I felt uneasy that Wolf was not coming to greet me. She never missed my homecoming and hugs.
My family was away on a fishing trip, so I was alone. With a flashlight, I searched the barn, duck shed, fenced areas and all outbuildings. I called Wolf’s name into the darkness until I was hoarse.
There was nothing more I could do until daylight, so I sat up all night, with my book, calling and checking outside every half hour. At first light, I checked the woods for any sign of her.
Then, as I neared the bottom of our road, I saw something shiny, metallic, lying on the ground. I ran to get closer for a better look. My heart sank. It was Wolf’s ID tag … on a bloodstained collar.
I picked it up and tearfully tried to put the story together. It appeared she’d survived being hit on the highway, someone had stopped and taken off her collar, but then she’d revived, become afraid, and run away, probably into the nearby bush.
I found her dead body several metres away.
Wolf was buried high on the hill of our property where she often sat, in the early days, her ears perked up, head turning, watching passing cars and trucks on the highway, as if looking for the old friend and owner she’d once lost.
Such was her loyalty and devotion.
After Wolf’s death, the household immediately fell into chaos. We all slept in. The cats appeared to miss their dog saliva showers and neglected grooming themselves. The ducks scattered whenever I tried to get them into their shed, and Gabby spent her days looking for her playmate.
I missed Wolf for all our runs and nature walks that had kept me fit. Everywhere I looked, there were memories. Old bones, favorite chew toys and throw sticks strewn around her dog house.
Wolf was very special. But then, every dog is unique, with their own special little quirks and personalities. They truly are man’s best friend — loving, loyal, and defenders of their masters.
Like human soulmate and love of one’s life, beloved dogs who pass away are not easily replaced. The best that I can do is remember Wolf fondly … and tell my resident cats they missed out on a helluva good ear licking.
What do you think about this story?