Wolf at the Door
No matter what pooch I end up with, I know one thing with
certainty: the dog will like me.
The dog will like me because I will make sure we’re
compatible (duh), but also because dogs always like me. Always. Cats, not so
much, but dogs…
With one exception.
When I was living in Brooklyn
a few years back, I rented a room in a converted brownstone. My room was on the
ground floor and faced a backyard that was about 20’ x 20’—a far cry from the
acreage my family lived on at home. Still, it was better than looking into
someone else’s room (which one of my roommates did, and after seeing some…private
things, she kept her blinds closed on a permanent basis).
There was also Spirit. Spirit was a husky who belonged to my
landlords and who called the backyard home. Upon first seeing him, I thought I
was beginning an ideal relationship with a dog: I got to look at, pet and maybe
even walk a very pretty creature, but I didn’t have any real responsibility towards
That is, until I actually started trying to befriend Spirit.
It was winter, and my landlords had tied the poor dog to a stake in the
backyard. One night early on I was watching Spirit circle his post during a
particularly heavy snowfall. He looked distressed. I felt sorry for him, so I
went outside to undo his chain and let him in. Now, up to this point, Spirit
and I had passed in the hallway, and I had given him a small pat or two as my
landlord walked by with him on leash (he always seemed to be on leash).
Now in the yard, I reached toward him to unfasten the chain
from the spike. Spirit immediately leapt back in fear. I tried to speak calmly,
coax him nearer. I went inside and fetched a piece of cheese (there was nary a
dog treat to be found in this house). He still wouldn’t come. I tried being
playful. Dominant. Submissive. He still wouldn’t come near me.
Months passed, and winter became spring. Still, Spirit was
weird and skittish; I started to think he was being mistreated, or at least had
been in the past. But my landlords didn’t seem abusive, at least not where
Spirit was concerned. With each other, on the other hand, they were a little
more aggressive. One day they got in a horrendous fight regarding another
tenant, which I heard in all its glory through my bedroom door. Marco, the
husband, promptly moved out, and around the same time, Spirit disappeared. I
assumed he’d gone with his male companion to a new home. To tell the truth, I
was a bit relieved.
A few weeks later, Marco returned to get some things. I happened
to pass him on the corner by the house, and we struck up a bit of a
conversation. I asked after Spirit.
“Oh,” Marco said, looking surprised. “Spirit’s gone.”
Gone—a weird verb. I considered its different iterations.
Ran away? Dead? Marco saw my expression and guessed at the path my brain was
“He’s at a wildlife preserve in Alaska.”
“Oh,” I said. Then I thought about it. “Wait, what?”
Marco looked surprised. “Spirit was 100% Timber Wolf. When
we kicked out David [the tenant over whom the fight had occurred], he called
animal control and got Spirit picked up. It was in the paper and everything. I
thought you knew.”
I just stood there on the corner, mouth agape. I had lived
next to, attempted to pet and befriend and even fed…a wolf. Not husky. Wolf.
“I’m still mad,” said Marco, finally. “That wolf cost me
$4000.” (Priorities much? I moved out shortly thereafter.)
New York is a strange and
beautiful place, particularly Brooklyn. When I
think about it, I think about waking up to that wolf staring at me through a
pane of glass.
So I guess my record is still clean—no dog has ever disliked
me. Just wolves.