Monday, 8 November 2010

Wolf Talk

Perhaps you’ve seen wolves, in a sanctuary or at least on a TV documentary. But did you ever hear them talk? The wolves we saw at the St. Francis sanctuary in Montgomery, Texas, appeared at first to be large dogs, but upon a closer look their eyes were nothing like a dog’s. You sensed an intelligence behind them, that the wolf studied you closely, reading your mood and your character. It knew more about your feelings and impulses than you knew yourself.

They talk to each other. Listening closely to their howling, you soon realize that there’s an elaborate conversation going on. Each cry contains, words, vowels and consonants strung together in a way that’s not haphazard. As in our conversations, the wolves aren’t talking at once. First one calls out, a long drawn howl modulated; more like a song with words. Another wolf responds, but using different words and then a third. You’d swear that they’re having an elaborate conversation. No doubt you’ve heard a dog howl at the moon, but not like this. Unfortunately we've no Rosetta Stone to help us understand that the animals are saying. We can only surmise.

I’ve known Jean LeFevre for almost twenty years. She and her husband John settled on the rolling hills near Montgomery about the time I moved to Houston. They built a church and a retreat centre there. Also a wildlife sanctuary to take care of sick or wounded wild animals that people brought to them. Among their patients, there soon appeared several wolves, brought often by police or rangers. Now that they are in the sanctuary, the wolves can no longer be released into the wild. But --- do they have a bad life being fed and cared for by Jean and her volunteers? Click on the link for a look at the cast of characters.

St Francis Sanctuary

I last saw the wolves five years ago and since then they’ve been one of my passions, to the extent that I recently wrote an entire novel around their lives. On this visit to Texas, while Amber reconnected with her family, I needed to reconnect with the wolves.

Duchess wasn’t happy to see Jean that day. I’ve no idea why Duchess was so displeased, but the moment that Jean drew close to her cage, the wolf bared her teeth and threw herself against the wire. Not only did she utter a medley of snarls, typical of a mad dog, but she spoke to Jean in a dark voice, words that only a magician could decipher, telling Jean precisely why she was angry with her. The antics didn’t fluster Jean in the slightest. She placed her hand on the chain link fence, inserted a couple of fingers and wagged them in Duchess's face, not only to try to calm her down, but to demonstrate that she wasn’t afraid. Anyone else would have ended up minus a couple of fingers. Placing her lips close to the wolf’s head, Jean spoke in English, telling Duchess that she was sorry for the misunderstanding, and that she would always take care of her. Duchess snorted, pushed away from the fence to land on fours and trotted off. A minute later she had forgotten the episode. I surmised that her anger was specifically directed at Jean because when I whistled to her she smiled at me. I wanted to greet her. She was barely a pup when I met her on my earlier visit and she had been extremely friendly to me then. I told her I was pleased to see her again. She walked over to me, looked me over closely and said she was happy to see me too.

No comments:

Post a Comment