Ever notice that wolves get a severely bad rap in popular culture?
The Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf, Little Red Riding Hood, even the recently debued movie The Grey – all portray wolves as vicious, raging creatures that want nothing more than to eat your children and are just plain bad news to have around.
Bullshit. Utter and complete bullshit.
Just as American culture has stripped pigs down to dead hunks on a plate that are hard to imagine were ever alive, our culture has also shoved a picture of wolves into the American imagination that’s draped in a heavy, dangerous costume of flat out lies.
But instead of going on and on and ranting about this myself, you all get to hear from Dana Stangel, a woman who’s worked alongside wolves like Aisha for years – and who’s one of my personal role models 🙂
My time with Aisha….
It’s still hard for me to think about her, let alone write about her. She’s been gone for over a year now…. but one thing I can tell you for sure – no living being will ever affect me the way she did.
I met her just before I was 20. I had found [Wildlife Waystation] after a bad break-up. I needed something that was mine in my life. I love animals so it seemed logical, and this place was amazing. I started with reptiles, something I already knew. I also enjoyed working in the baby animal trailer rehabbing baby animals. One evening, the wolf hybrid team helped us in the baby trailer. They liked me and asked me to observe with them soon. I was never a dog lover, but I agreed anyway. Any animal is great, right? After some observation I was invited on to the team. I learned a lot there and after a year I was moved onto a wolf team. That would be Ms. Aisha’s wolf team…
She was young, and always testing. I learned from her and her humans how to be around a wolf. She was certainly different than the hybrids I’d learned from. With her it was much more mental and much less physical. She’d plot her adventures. We learned to watch her instead of the environment to know what was going on. She was an excellent communicator and if you were paying attention, you could always tell what she was thinking. (Or you thought you could!) It’s hard to say exactly what was so amazing about her. It was a quiet thing. It was a thing that grew over a decade. There were times when she was my first born. There were times she was my sister. Times she was my mother, and times she was my best friend. She brought me from my 20’s to my 30’s and taught me patience and grace. She also taught me about the value of love and how nothing can stand in the way of it, especially not anger. There was an incident towards the end of her life, where I wanted to fight for her. I needed to fight for her, but it was a fight I could never win. So I stood down. Because I had to. I learned from that. I learned about wallowing in anger and I learned that is not a place I want to be in. I’m not sure anything in my life could have made me feel so helpless and angry. I needed it. She taught me not to run from my feelings and those that make me angry. I grew from it, possibly more than I’ve grown from anything else I can think of.
During those years, Aisha was the steady. The thing that never changed. The one I would see (sometimes 3 times a week) and all was okay with the world. I’m sure this is similar to an experience you may have had with your favorite dog. But keep this in mind, the wolf brain is one third larger…. this is an animal capable of a lot of thought and emotion.
People say wolves are psychic. I don’t believe that. I think they are in tune with what’s going on around them for sure. They are really observant and good at demonstrating and reading body language. To feel even a little bit “in tune” with that is an amazing thing. I can’t even put it into words.
The final lesson Aisha taught me is the one about death. I have never dealt with death well. When Aisha died, a part of me died with her. I still cry when I think about her and I miss her daily. But there is this feeling I carry with me – all the time – and it’s like she is here with me. I know it sounds corny, but I do feel like now that she is free of her body she CAN be with me always…. and it’s a beautiful feeling. There are so many energies we don’t understand yet and are unable to measure.
Wolves are incredible. They take the weak and the old out of the ecosystem so it can flourish. Where there are no wolves, there are more coyotes and more hoofstock. It can get out of control. When wolves were returned to Yellowstone, the beaver – a keystone species – came back. The deer were decimating the grasses that sustain the river beds; when that population was in check, the beavers could come back because the grasses they needed were there. And this is one example that we KNOW of…. I know there are many we don’t know about yet. Recently I read the Mexican wolves affect the songbird population. Something about keeping the deer on the move…. and for the first time in my life – they are off the endangered species list and we are shooting them again like we did in the 20’s. We are killing off an icon, a piece of the planet. A piece that the planet cannot live without. When we kill the wolf, we are killing ourselves.
These creatures are not the big bad wolf.
Let’s make some noise for them. Click on the link below for ways to take action for wolves.