Sunday, February 6, 2011

loving aluco

I sit on the porch, waiting. It could go either way, but today is a good day: Aluco steps toward me and lightly touches me with his black nose. Slowly I extend my hand and pet him gently. Any suddden movement will cause him to bolt. He seems to like the petting, but won't put up with it for too long. He backs away, watching me intently.

His history is unknown, but it is obvious that he is a large part timber wolf. He has a sweeping tail, long legs and coarse brown fur shot through with gold. When Jerry first rescued him from a shelter, he had to be drugged to be put in the pickup. He was moved around in his pen with a long stick of some sort. Even now he hates it when I ski behind him; my poles spook him.

Jerry spent hours with him, sleeping on the porch at night for months, taking him on walks. But Aluco will never be the same kind of dog as the others, who freely tolerate me using them as a pillow and who flop onto the bed. Aluco keeps a distance, wary, afraid.

The dog reminds me of myself before I moved here. He is torn between wanting love but fearing it. He hovers around the outskirts, watching but unable to commit to being inside, to being hugged, to being loved. He only approaches when something inside of his brain tells him it is safe, but he is always alert for any sign of danger.

I was the same way. I was an independent soul, used to going it alone. The thought of letting someone in terrified me; it was a risk I was unwilling to take. Just like Aluco, I had built my wall stone by stone, by each person who vanished citing "It's not you, it's me. Wait--it really is you."  A couple of men I cared about beat feet either mentally or physically, leaving me confused. It was better, I thought, to keep a distance.

So I see myself  in Aluco, part wolf, part dog, two sides at odds with each other. Like him, I have come a long way. A sapphire ring glints on my finger, a symbol of something I would never even have considered a year ago. But like the dog, I know that ultimately I rely on myself. I will never be one of the women who thinks a man completes them. I complete myself, thank you very much.

There are times when I really wish Aluco was a different kind of dog. I really want to lay my head on his side and listen to him breathe. I want to know he loves me. I want him to know how much I love him. It makes me sad that he won't know the comfort and safety the other dogs do, lying sprawled by the fire, tails thumping. But on the other hand, maybe Aluco likes it that way. He likes the little spark of wildness that comes with his heritage. He likes being the one to choose when he can be touched.

Of course I will never know, and what I am learning is to take Aluco for who he is, a complex, mysterious and beautiful being who runs along behind me in the woods, a foot in two worlds.


  1. Great post...very captivating and poetic!

  2. Another beautiful, thoughtful essay, Mary.

  3. absolutely breathtaking photos! i love your blog!
    candy in amarillo, texas :-)

  4. I wonder if Aluco senses a kindred spirit in you. He is a lucky dog to have you and Jerry.
    Seems that whatever you went through made you a very caring and sensitive person.
    This was a beautiful post. Scratch Aluco behind the ears from me, if he lets you.
    Hey, maybe I'll meet you in the Sierras next year when you embark on your JMT.

  5. 'a foot in two worlds' - says it all, for many of us.


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