A GRAY WOLF

Life is continuously changing though I tend to focus on the sameness in it….today my sameness was shaken a bit. This morning I was working at my desk–as I do every morning– when the phone rang. I saw that it was Susan calling me.

I felt a little annoyed: ‘Why is she calling me when she is in the kitchen?’

I picked up the phone and heard: “Come, I need your help, Tai Chi is lying on the ground, I think she is dying!”

I ran out the garage door and found Susan standing over her dog who was lying on the ground. I could see the fear in Susan’s eyes. I asked: “What happened?”

She responded: “She just dropped down and won’t get up. I think we need to get her to the vet.” I agreed and Susan went into the house to call the vet while I tried to rig a way to get the dog into the car…our vet is only two blocks from the house and they were willing to see Tai Chi as soon as we could get her there. I skipped the cart and picked her up and put her in the back of the car.

The vet confirmed our worst fears. Tai Chi had internal bleeding and not long to live. We made the decision to end her life and not try any heroic medical actions…she is twelve years old and has had a good life. The doctor gave her a shot to end the trauma. Afterwards we spent a few quiet minutes with our dog; on the way out we agreed that her remains would be cremated and return to us.

As we drove back to the house Susan thanked me for helping with the dog care during the short time that she and the dog have lived on Clemens Road. I reminded her that I am a dog and caring for Tai Chi was like taking care of a sister!

So how did I come to this identity as a member the canine family? It goes back to my first exploration as a storyteller. I was hired by the New Jersey State Museum in about 1969 to create programs for children coming to the museum. Somehow I learned about a research study of wolves living in Algonquin National Park in Canada. I contacted the scientists and they invited me to join them that summer at the park.

The part of the study that most captured my creative energy was a nightly activity. We tracked the movement of a wolf pack by going out to howl and the wolves would answer us (this was before digital tracking colliers).  For me there was something elemental, deep inside me, which was stirred to life when I heard a wolf respond to my call. I imagined it as the “wolf” in me!

I created a program for children coming to the museum in Trenton, New Jersey. It was called, “Way of the Wolf”. I began by telling an oral story and then I showed the children a film I edited to compliment the images in the oral story. The story and the film all came from my experience of the lives of wolves in Algonquin National Park…. and this was the beginning of my career as a multi-media storyteller!

My time living with Tai Chi was short, two months short of a year. Nevertheless, she did remind me to honor the “dog” in myself–to open myself to that non-rational energy.  This way of engaging the world is central to my creative life and I imagine it will help me to engage the experience of my own death…..thank you, Tai Chi!

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