March 11, 2004 ~ Extreme Sports
KK, joining in on a howl
Just after slipping into the pen, I felt Banjo's muddy paws hit my shoulders from behind. Catching my balance, I laughed. "Hello to you too." I tried to turn, but, "Ow!" He had bit my hair tie and was pulling my ponytail like mad. "Off! Banjo! Ah! Dammit." I tried to swat at him, swat at an approximately 130 pound wolf attached to the back of my head. Right. "OFF!" I roared, in the gruffest voice I could muster.
He let go and dropped back to the ground. My scalp tingled all over. He challenged me in a play stance, ears down to the sides and tongue hanging out in a goofy wolf-grin. Oh, it's ON, Mr. Banjo. I charged, got his back, he twisted around and bit my arm, then gnawed on my hand (ouch), swiping half-heartedly at my leg with his paw. I pulled my hand back, attacked from the side. He jumped up against me trying to push me over, then got my hand again, gnaw gnaw gnaw. Catching him off guard, I pushed him over on his side, and he rolled onto his back, surrender. I rubbed his belly, and he wiggled all over with delight, then bounced back up again, to start it all over again, Yetti joining in too.
We do this, over and over again, until those two very hyper wolves finally start to settle down, then it's quieter times, time for getting my face licked all over, and scratchin's, nuzzling, and only the occasional love-bite.
These play sessions leave me bruised, sore, and sometimes slightly bleeding. "Going in with Banjo and Yetti," Morgan later said, "you just have to expect to get pretty beat up. It's part of the game." Those Bites and scratches are wolf-speak for, "Oh, I love you! Let's play!"
This week's wound report: ninety-eight large-to-huge scratches, welts, and cuts (didn't count the small ones), eleven bruises, and one sore wrist. Not so bad as last week, when I had half that many cuts and scratches, but one seriously screwed up twisted knee and a back so sore that I couldn't move without wincing. You'd think I'd joined some sort of Fight Club. Extreme sports: Wolf Wrestling.
(When I came limping into the Co-Op last week, Billy asked, "What did you do?" then looked me up and down, noted the bruises, welts and cuts on my arms, and said, "It looks like you had some sort of unfortunate high school depressive episode." heh. Of course my answer of "wrestled wolves" didn't exactly do anything to put his concern to rest... "Oh, right. So, you are suicidal, and you've just picked a rather unusual way to off yourself.")
But honestly, more exhausting than the wrestling is Wolf Walking. Yeah, you read that right. Taking a wolf, who has been cooped up in a tiny pen all week, putting a leash on her, and "walking" her. I'm lucky I walked... er... limped away with only a twisted knee.
Banjo and Yetti
Morgan took Banjo, I took Yetti. There were still three to six inches of slushy, muddy, melting snow on the ground. We were to "walk" them up a mountain and then back down the mountain. Walk. Right. More like, hang on for dear life to the leash and run after the wolves, trying not to fall flat on your face, collide with any trees, or be drug along on your belly. Most strenuous workout I've ever had in my life.
I slipped and I slid and I ran into trees and my sides ached from trying to catch my breath, heart pounding in my ears. I twisted my knee when she wrapped the leash around my legs. I fell over more than once. (And, every time, Yetti would give me a look that said, "Hey, what are you doing? Don't just lay there! Let's get going!") But, to my credit, I did not once let go of that leash. At several points, she got tangled in it, would growl at the leash, snapping at it, and then she'd jump on me, begging to be freed, and I would attempt not to lose an arm in the process of unwinding it from between her legs. Morgan and I learned early on that, whatever we did, we mustn't let them get tangled in each other's leashes, or all hell would break loose.
Gasping and wheezing, Morgan and I decided that it was time for a break. Stopping, during wolf walking, is, apparently, a learned skill. Morgan managed to stop Banjo by tackling him to the ground (thus mixing the two sports, "Wolf Wrestling" with "Wolf Walking," a tactic that seemed to serve him well). I dug my heels in, leaned back, and yelled for Yetti. (At this juncture, I quickly discovered yet another sport--Wolf Skiing). Twenty feet later, we stopped, two long trenches behind me from my dragging heels, I'd leaned back so far I was in a sitting position. Hey, whatever works. We rested for a while, finally caught our breath, then got back up. The wolves took that as a cue to run.
"Melissa!" Morgan yelled. "I just realized something. When we rest, they rest too!"
Banjo ran and ran then rolled over into his back, and Yetti took a flying leap on top of him. Or so I thought. Except that she didn't land on him to play, as I expected her to. Instead, she landed just beyond him...
And kept running.
Which pulled me on top of Banjo, who was still on his back.
I yelled at Yetti, hanging onto the leash, and Banjo looked at first surprised but then gave me a look that said, "Oh, I get it, you want to play!" and started chewing on my shoulder. "Augh!"
Meanwhile Yetti came back and helpfully licked my face. Laughing and attempting to push Banjo away (who was now mauling my ear), I begged, "Morgan! Would you please try to pull him away?"
Yeah. Wolf Walking. It's a full-contact sport.
This week, Dream made it clear that she didn't want to have anything to do with me, so I focused on several other animals. Two were Washi and Cherokee, two of the lower-content wolf-dogs, both extremely friendly.
Washi in front, and me with Cherokee
When Washi looks at you straight on, his nose curves sharply to the left. He can't quite close his mouth properly. Someone beat him with a metal bar when he was a puppy, breaking his muzzle. Yet he's still incredibly trusting, happy, and sweet.
(I'm sorry, but why in the hell would anyone beat a puppy with a metal bar? God.)
Cherokee was eagerly rubbing up against me, and I quickly realized why. Cherokee is shedding her winter coat. Furiously. All at once. She loved me for ridding her of some of it. Within minutes I was completely covered in fur, and every swipe of my hand gathered a huge handful:
handful of fur
Hair was flying everywhere as I rubbed her, sticking to me in huge clumps, drifting off in the breeze, and Washi kept cocking his head at me with what looked like an intensely quizzical expression, but then he'd sneeze several times and shake himself. I couldn't help but laugh.
KK stares warily at the camera
Every week since we started coming, a wolf named KK has been terribly shy, watching us with her deep red-brown eyes from a safe distance, quivering with curiosity, but not daring to come close. But every week, she has ventured just a little bit closer.
"You want to go in with her and Monty?" asked L. this week. "She's always much more shy through a fence. She's more friendly if you come in and sit down."
I came in the pen and sat down in the sun. Monty, even more shy, stayed at the back of the pen, occasionally sniffing at us from behind the little house enclosure. KK, though, came over, sniffing at my outstretched hand, coming around behind and inspecting my back. I held still and talked to her in a soft voice.
talking to KK
Before I knew it her posture was completely relaxed, and she was making the begging "Love me, please love me!" gesture with one of her front paws, turning her head to the side. She came up and started nuzzling my face, then licking me like mad, my hands, my neck, my face everywhere, ears, anything she could get her tongue on.
sweet, happy KK
Before I knew it she was sitting in my lap, quite pleased with my presence. Oh, what a sweetheart. I had no idea she'd be so loving.
They all have such complex personalities. Dream and her proud mood swings. Banjo and Yetti, with their rambunctious playfulness. And KK, timid yet so openly loving once you introduce yourself up close, without a fence between you.
I've so much to learn.
Note: All pictures in this entry taken by Morgan, as, again, I had my hands full.