Flocke and Chinook get along outstandingly well, and I very much hope that they will finally have pups. Unfortunately, the wolf pack doesn’t exactly appear to be savvy when it comes to mating, and so the den remains empty this spring, to my great disappointment. At nine years old, Chinook is probably getting too old to produce offspring.
After long deliberation, I decide to enlarge our little wolf pack by one member. In case anything should happen to Chinook, Flocke would then have a new companion with whom she is already familiar. I decide to get a young male and raise him on a bottle to get him used to people. In this way it will be easier to integrate the pup into the existing tame pack without fear or shyness.
The second wolf pack, into which Flocke was born a few years ago, has pups again this spring. When they are a week old, the veterinarian checks their health. During their examination, they are wormed, immunized, and marked with electronic chips. We pick the strongest male out of the litter, and his siblings remain in the pack so the female can raise them herself.
We name the little pup Nanuk, which means “polar bear” in the Inuit language. From the beginning, Nanuk is of a totally different caliber from the once deathly ill little Flocke. As a young pup, he has big character differences that can already be distinguished. At four weeks, Nanuk leaves our house and wants to stay in the yard. We install an electric fence in order to make our property escape-proof. From now on, Nanuk spends the days in the yard; evenings, I shut him on the porch, where he is protected from the wind and rain. The dog, Senta, avoids him. She wants nothing to do with him. Raising one wolf is enough for one dog’s life.
For company, the pup enlists our two-year-old female dachshund Drossel day and night. Nanuk is five weeks old and exactly the right size for Drossel. They romp and play around the clock; to sleep, they lie crowded together in the dog basket. Nanuk continues to receive his little bottle from me. Once, when he spits out a handful of dachshund hair after drinking his milk, it becomes clear to me how brave Drossel must be when they play. In less than two weeks the dog saves herself from Nanuk on the safe height of the table in the yard. It is interesting that the little wolf doesn’t show any aggression toward me at this age as Flocke did. Thus my earlier supposition is confirmed. With Flocke, the dog Senta took on the role of mother. She protected and nursed the little wolf around the clock. Since I was constantly nearby, Flocke categorized me as one of her siblings. With Nanuk, I adopt the role of mother, and Drossel is the “wolf sister.”
Admission to the Pack
It’s actually quite unusual that a little pup would trust itself so far away from its “mother den,” but our sterile yard apparently has become too dull for Nanuk. It is now high time to introduce him to the pack. I’m aware that this undertaking is not without danger. If something goes wrong, Nanuk could be killed with a single bite. Tensions can build up among the wolves in the enclosure and it would be possible--though inexplicable to us--for the pack members to react angrily to him.
Both Flocke and Chinook have already gotten to know Nanuk indirectly. Since the pup has lived in our house, they have inspected me very carefully every time I visit their enclosure. Flocke, in particular, sniffs me very intensely every time--concentrating on my hands, my lap, and my shirt--and can hardly tear herself away. What could she be thinking? Indeed, as alpha female, she made very certain during the mating season that no one but she could get pregnant. I had to avoid her, and now I appear with a pup. She probably no longer understands the world.
To prevent every possible risk, the first real meeting is arranged to occur on neutral ground. We go for a walk together. For the experienced Chinook, it’s love at first sight. He already had pups once with his earlier partner, so he knows right away what is to be done. He immediately follows Nanuk step by step and never lets him out of his sight. Flocke, in contrast, is somewhat awkward and appears not to know what to do with Nanuk. Her feelings seem mixed. On the one hand, she submits herself to him; on the other, she jumps up immediately and tries to get out of his way when he comes too close to her. We have to take many walks together before I can be certain that Flocke has fully accepted the little one.
In the meantime, to gradually get Nanuk used to the enclosure, I take him there for a couple of hours in the afternoons. Compared to our yard it is a paradise for him: a big pond to splash in, holes to hide in, feathers and bones to play with, and most important of all, two wolves available for every form of entertainment. Despite all of this, at first Nanuk welcomes my return in the late afternoon to pick him up and take him home. He’s so tired from playing that he falls asleep in my arms on the way. But it doesn’t take much longer before he feels on top of the world in the enclosure. I decide to leave him with his new family.
The Amazing Story of the Woman Who Lives with Wolves
Kinship with the Wolf
The Amazing Story of the Woman Who Lives with Wolves
• Dispels the myths of the wolf as a “blood-thirsty predator”
• Shows the spiritual importance of connecting to the creatures of the natural world
• Tells the story of the author’s 8 years of living with wolves at the Lüneburger Heide Wildlife Preserve in Germany
In the past, animals had worth to people only if they were edible, could carry heavy loads obediently, or had some other practical use. Recently, however, we have started to realize what we have lost through the extinction of so many wild creatures. Every step we take away from nature we pay for with a loss of understanding and wisdom. What we persecute and exterminate in the outer world we also eradicate in our souls. The highly stigmatized wolf, brought nearly to extinction by humans, is one part of our natural world whose value and wisdom we are just beginning to understand.
In Kinship with the Wolf, Tanja Askani reveals a new facet of relating to wolves and to the world as a whole. Unlike other wolf researchers who strive to dominate these “vicious predators” and who measure their success by how much the wolf pack obeys them, Askani bases her wolf relationships on broad respect and knowledge as well as extraordinary empathy and love. She reveals a new picture of the wolf as a highly intelligent, social, sensitive creature that brings inestimable value to healthy natural systems. Her respect for the pack’s autonomous rules and her sensitivity to the wolves’ changing feelings and moods clearly distinguishes her from others who work with wolves. Her ability to communicate with and relate to wolves is a model of how we can respond to the intelligent complexity of life with care, respect, and wisdom and how we can maintain an intensive connection to the natural world without exercising human dominance.