Monday, October 24, 2011

Animal Magnetism

I was kissed by a wolf the other night.  It was a dream come true. 

He was black with silver-tipped fur, luminous eyes, and had the startling ability to vanish entirely into the darkness of his pen - but there he was, bouncing and leaping against the chain link fence, wagging his tail for all it was worth, whimpering and whining in an ecstasy of greeting - "HEY!  New people!  Hi!  Hi-hi-HI!  You're here to see ME, aren't you?  GOSH, I'm glad to see you!  Got anything for me to eat?"

Of course, it wasn't exactly sanctioned or approved, that kiss.  After the fact, the staff in charge of the two "ambassador wolves" did ask all visitors not to put our fingers or hands through the fence... and I suppose, that being the case, I was obeying the letter of the law, if not the spirit.  I did NOT put my fingers, hands, or any part of my body through the fence.  I did not press any part of my body against the fence.  Zephyr, the wolf pup in question, did that all by himself... poked his nose and half his muzzle clear outside the fence, slurping the air with his tongue, so I decided that it couldn't hurt to give him want he obviously wanted so badly - to kiss one of these new humans who were so tantalizingly close to him and his sister.

I was, as could be expected, in heaven for the rest of the night.  Not even taking a tumble off the bleachers by the pen later on could take that glow away (in fact, it bought me a few more precious moments in the company of Zephyr and his sister Alawa, nursing my bruised dignity and trying to stretch my banged-up joints and muscles into cooperation).  Long after we left the Wolf Conservation Center, I was thinking of the kiss, remembering in, feeling it again... and that, in turn, triggered my mind to ramble backwards.

I've often wished my life was more interesting.  A teacher by day, a writer by night, a wife and mom, my life is anything but poetic or mythic.  But when I stop to think over the animals who have shared my life... well, suddenly, my story seems worth telling.  Being kissed by a wolf is only the latest in a series of exotic and unusual creatures who have crossed my path - in the good company of countless dogs and cats, gerbils and rats. 

When I stop to think about it, really, it reads almost like one of my stories.  In my life, I've played ball with bottlenose dolphins, befriended beluga whales and young sea lions, fed sharks and octopi, sung with coyotes, and "talked" in trills and chirps with raccoons.  I've looked deep into the eyes of a gorilla at close range, defended the rodents in the Mouse House from harassment by ignorant zoo visitors, and been waved at by an elephant.  A baby corn snake once twined itself through my fingers and finally settled its chin on the pulse-point of my wrist; I swear I felt a wave of pleasure and satisfaction coming from the little one, the first time I'd ever felt such from a reptile.  I've rescued thrown-away rabbits and abused rats and found loving homes for both.  None of these were "for pay" encounters... I either happened upon the animal, or earned the right to be with them through volunteer duties. 

In fact, the one time I did pay to do one of those "swim with the dolphins" encounters, I got the distinct impression that the dolphins were considerably less than enthusiastic about the meeting... I was just part of the job for them, and they'd oblige by pushing me through the water and letting me touch them, but didn't particularly care for me one way or another.  "Just doin' our job, lady - time's up."

I don't think I'll pay for encounters with wild things, anymore.  I'd rather meet my fellow mortal creatures on their terms, through shared aquaintances and happenstance.  That sort of thing can't be purchased, can't be coerced.  I'd dearly love to be kissed by a wolf again... maybe without a fence between us, next time.  But that will have to happen in its own good time.



  1. Jealous. Totally and completely jealous.

  2. :) It's a once in a lifetime thing. Would now be a bad time to tell you that I've also been able to make friends with a sea lion, two beluga whales, and have played catch with dolphins between shows at an aquarium I volunteered at?