A Wolf in Dog’s Clothing

My dad isn’t a dog person, on the whole. 

He doesn’t like that they sniff him in his nether regions – “Oh!  Why… excuse me!  I didn’t see you there.  Was that your crotch? Oops!” – luckily, Gwynn doesn’t seem to do that nearly as much as other dogs.  He doesn’t like having to wash his hands constantly because Gwynn is following him around the kitchen, sneakily darting in to lick his fingers as soon as he allows his arms down below chest level.  In my opinion, he will be grateful for this training should he ever have to go after the Phantom of the Opera.  He is definitely not a huge fan of the poop-pickup duty, and hasn’t got any interest in being involved in the dog training. 

I do catch him, on occasion, talking to Gwynn.  If I come downstairs quietly enough in the morning, I might hear my dad in the kitchen offering the dog some Yummy Cheese, what a good dog you are, or enthusiastically urging him on – “Go Get the Squirrel!” – as he opens the starting gate, aka back-door.  Before you say anything, no, he isn’t anywhere near fast enough to catch a squirrel, or anything else that we’ve seen in our back yard.  On the whole, my dad isn’t a squirrel person either, but he doesn’t want their corpses scattered around our yard.

This is why it was so … SO… very confusing to come home and find that both Tall Sister and dad had leapt to meet me at the door, along with Gwynn, my usual welcoming committee. Not confusing that they leapt to greet me at the door (I am just that awesome), but that there was a clear dog-related goal in leaping into action in this way.

Tall Sister – “Quick, come in!”

Dad – “WAIT! No… just come in like you usually do.  Act naturally.

Tall Sister – “Just greet Gwynn like you usually do”

A note here: My standard entrance to my house is this:  open the door, shoo the dog back, and keep shooing until he is about 5 ft away from me (this is to prevent him from thinking he’s allowed to mob whoever comes in the front door), where he generally sits, with rigidly upright posture, waiting for me.  I put down my bag, take off my coat, hang my coat, take off my shoes, put my shoes out of reach of the dog, and walk past him.  I release him from the sit, and, in the living room, give him lots of pets and he prances around a bit.  This is considerably more difficult to do when the dog is extra excited because half the family has come to greet the boss (me) as well, and everyone else is watching me like I’m about to grow a second head at any moment. 

So, with great awkwardness, I take my coat off and unzip my boots (No small feat, I am not the most balanced person, and my crowd of onlookers are blocking access to a chair), and start the walking past Gwynn part of the routine.

Dad – “Don’t forget to greet Gwynn!”  (At this point, I’m thinking – it’s not like I’ve been gone for days and days… I’m just coming home from work!)

Tall Sister – “Don’t worry, this is what she usually does”

Dad  – “oh… ok.  Just… when you greet him, really watch him.”  And then to Tall Sister “Tall Daughter, get it set up.”

SUPER AWKWARD.  And what the hell does that even mean?  What are you setting up?!

So, I go into the living room, call Gwynn over, and as soon as he is within reach of me, about to get pets and affection, and prancing a bit, Tall Sister and my Dad start cheering like they’re standing at the finish line of the Kentucky Derby.  Their conversation is basically an exchange of “Did you see that?!” “Yes! Excellent!” “Wow!”

I couldn’t have been more baffled by this than if they’d started complimenting me on my toilet-bowl scrubbing form (And a 9.7 to Alexandra, for that marvellous wrist-flicking-swipe at the end!  What a showing!… You couldn’t be more right, Stan, she is definitely going to be the one to beat in today’s Toilet Bowl Cleaning Competition.), or my ability to stir a pot of boiling water.

So, not to keep you guessing any longer, go to this video , and watch the red wolves of New York greet each other.  This is the video Tall Sister was getting set up for me to watch once I had unknowingly shown them what they wanted to see.  You’ll eventually see a new wolf come out of the den/hole-in-the-ground, and that is when the wolves will greet each other.  They wobble their heads from side to side like bobble-head dolls and they spastically lift alternating forelegs in a kind of penguin dance.  This is how my dog greets me every day when I come home from work.  He waits until I let him come up to me, and he head waggles, penguin dances and bows with gusto and abandon.  Exactly like the wolves greet other wolves, except that he also bows – probably because I’m such an awesome pack-leader that I deserve extra praise… right?

Ok, fine, probably because he wants a treat or wants to play with me.  But still, the main thing I get from this is that I am clearly considered to be Pack, and my dog is clearly actually a wolf.  In a fluffy orange kind of way.  I watched a video recently (and can I find it online?  Nope.  I’ll work on that and try to post a link later… or even just it’s name!) that explained that scientists had proven that every dog is descended from wolves.  EVERY dog.  Chihuahua to Husky, they’ve all got DNA portions that match best with wolves.  Not, as was originally thought, like hyenas and coyotes and whatever other wild dog type creature is present in a particular area.  There has been a ton of evolution since then, and I would definitely not recommend that you go out and get yourself a wolf pup.  This show spoke of studies done comparing a wolf pup and a dog puppy raised in the same environment, and the dog puppy is much more able to work with his person, and much more able to understand and communicate with his person.  But when speaking of origins – it is the wolf that originally started the journey to man’s best friend oh-so long ago.  I found it particularly interesting to see that this wobble-headed wolf greeting came through in my own furry buddy, despite his lack of wolf-ish-ness. 

For now, check out the red wolf video, and also some of their other videos – it is entrancing, watching these wolves go about their daily business from so close-by.  For later, I’ll try to find that video about the history of dogs, because it was very fascinating.  Also, do you see your dog do the wobble-headed-penguin-flap (for lack of a technical term) when he greets you?  Let me know!  I’m going to try to make a video of it, though it will require some coordination between me arriving home and Tall Sister having her camera set to videotape.  She’s reading this right now, going “Aw, man!  Why did I ever show Alex the wolves?!”

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  1. “…Not confusing that they leapt to greet me at the door (I am just that awesome)…” wouldn’t we all love an awesome greeting like this!


    • One of the great things about having a dog is that he’s always excited to see me when I come home! He already recognises my new car’s lock-beep, too, so he can race to the front door ahead of me. It’s a bit disconcerting to have half the people in the family also bounding towards the door, though!

  2. Tall sister

     /  April 15, 2011

    Aww man! why did I ever show her that wolf video?
    Don’t worry, I set up another e-mail for spam mail…
    also, so hilarious when he does that!!! I’ll work on getting the video regardless… will try making him comfortable with the camera in any case 😀

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