"The Wonder of a Wolf-Dog" (As Printed In November Issue of St. Louis Java Journal) -- Be Sure To Get Your Copy
by Paul Flotron
Listening to stories, folklore and fairytales involving wolves is a common part of our culture, especially when we’re kids. In childhood, I remember Little Red Riding Hood and The Boy Who Cried Wolf, for example. During my teen years, while alternately laughing and crying, I watched An American Werewolf in London and the Academy Award-winning film Dances With Wolves.
The wolf has even taken on a metamorphosis and been transformed into a fictional character, the Werewolf. Over the years, people have been so intrigued by wolves that even a celebrity disc jockey, Robert Smith, took on the name Wolfman Jack during the 1960s and 1970s. I enjoyed listening to his gravelly voice as much as I did the music. I still remember him howling on the radio to give his early broadcasts a unique character.
In Native American mythology, wolves were generally revered by tribes that survived by hunting, but were thought little of by those who survived through agriculture. There’s the mythology and then there’s spirituality. In Christianity, the Bible contains 13 references to wolves, usually as metaphors for greed and destructiveness. In Native American traditions, wolves are considered to be the highest spiritual teachers, even above the hawk and eagle.
What is it about wolves that causes fear? Are they really as fierce and aggressive as we think they are? What are wolves really like? Wolves may be family-oriented, social and possess some characteristics bearing more similarity to us than we may realize. After all, humans have embraced dogs as members of their very own families.
It is commonly known that dogs and wolves are closely related. After comparing DNA from dogs and wolves, geneticists have determined that dogs are indeed related to the Gray Wolf. They studied the mitochondrial DNA, which remains unchanged as it’s passed down through the mother’s line and found identical DNA in both animals. Genetically, dogs and wolves are 98.8 percent identical.
Growing in popularity as a household pet is the wolf-dog hybrid, but it remains controversial. Fortunately, our society is becoming better informed about this magnificent animal.
Dogs and wolves share a hierarchy within their respective packs. Both are social animals that are family-oriented— they protect and care for their young— and they are highly intelligent. Another similarity between dogs and wolves in captivity is life expectancy, which is between 12 and 14 years. In general, dogs and wolves are susceptible to many of the same diseases. However, the similarities between dogs and wolves end there.
The reason a person may want to welcome a wolf-dog hybrid into their home varies. One motivation may be to protect the home, but this is the wrong animal for that. To dispel the myth, by nature wolves are shy animals, so a wolf-dog will not necessarily be effective as a guard dog. If any aggressive tendencies are observed in wolf-dog hybrids, typically such behavior will be fear induced. When an animal is prone to fear, the result is unpredictable behavior, making that animal hard to handle.
For those who may be considering bringing a wolf-dog hybrid into their home, I encourage you to consider the amount of time you are able to dedicate to the care of such a beautiful animal, as well as your experience with animals that have unique needs. For example, wolf-dog hybrids, like many large-breed dogs, are outstanding athletes, active and require a lot of space to run and play. If a wolf-dog hybrid is not provided a suitable environment, it may begin to chew on things as an outlet for its frustration and pent-up energy.
Since the wolf-dog hybrid is still partially wild, it may not be a predictable and docile family pet. These animals have special needs, both mental and physical. Many people adopt wolf-dog hybrids with good intentions, yet on a whim. Without being fully dedicated and without having done enough homework in advance, wolf-dog hybrid owners have often surrendered them to local animal shelters. What often results,
unfortunately, is that these remarkable animals are euthanized due to their established deep bonds with their former caretakers and inability to form new bonds with new caretakers.
As an animal care provider with extensive experience caring for domestic and exotic pets, I care for a wolf-dog hybrid, now called Turk. He was rescued in southwest Missouri in June. All animals in need occupy a special place in my heart. I have been told that I am a romantic, yet I have not always believed in love at first sight. I now know differently and perceive more clearly. You see, just as soon as I laid eyes on Turk I fell in love. Every moment that I am with Turk is strengthening our beautiful friendship. Turk and I enjoy our long walks in parks, and I am continuously inspired by his enormous capacity to love. Not only is he loving and sensitive, Turk is remarkably intelligent.
I’ve learned that animals, whether domestic or wild, offer unconditional love, and Isee it so clearly in Turk. He loves freely and completely, and he deserves the best care I can give him, as do all of our pets. I’m grateful for the love he offers. In the animal rescue community, foster families and forever home providers often say, “Who rescued whom?”
© 2012 by Paul F. Flotron and St. Louis Java Journal. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Paul F. Flotron and St. Louis Java Journal.