Mourning a Canine Companion

Wolfie the Labradesian had come out of the wild and into a special relationship.

Posted Dec 14, 2016

Several weeks ago, I received an email from William Harris of Adelaide, South Australia. He is a frequent commenter on this blog, whose knowledge of the natural history of dogs, wild and domestic, is broad and whose opinion I respect. Because this email, reporting the loss of his great companion, an event that many people sadly have experienced firsthand, speaks directly to the depth of the dog-human relationship, I asked William if I could run it as a guest blog posting.  He agreed and so here it is, with photos. William tends to the Wikipedia dog origin pages. He also started and keeps current Wikipedia entries on the evolution of the wolf and on the Greenland or Arctic wolf.  

Harris, used with permission
Source: Harris, used with permission

Hello Mark,

My magnificent, 45kg black Labradesian (Labrador retriever x Rhodesian Ridgeback), whom I removed from the wild at around 11 months of age and spent many months slowly socializing, is no longer with me.

His name was Wolfie. People assumed that he was named after the wolf. Although that had some influence in that he had been living in the bush from about 6 months of age up until 11 months and had gone feral, living out of other dogs and cats food bowls in the middle of the night in this bushy region, he was named after Mozart. When I first started propping my doors open so that he could begin to come in and out of the house as he pleased, he would fall asleep in our living room, possibly the only undisturbed sleep that he was getting. I would put the classical music radio station on so that he would be immersed in soft music and soft human voices as he slept - a complete contrast to where he had been sleeping. I noticed that he would relocate and go back to sleep near one of the large speakers when Mozart was played. After he did this the third time, he had a new name.

In mid-November I took him to the vet with two lumps in his throat, which was diagnosed as lymphoma and he was expected to have only 4 weeks to live—he was not even going to make it to Christmas. I had him euthanized at home among family 2 weeks later before the cancer could start taking hold. He was only 6.5 years old, highly intelligent, highly emotional, highly willful – he was similar to having a 5-year-old as my shadow and companion.

My reason for sharing this sad news with you is because over the past week I have had time to both mourn his passing and reflect on the nature of our relationship, along with comments from friends and family. My summary is this: I loved him dearly and he loved me with his whole being. I never "owned" him apart for legal purposes and we never had a "master-dog" type relationship. The best description that I have comes from my wife—that we had "aligned" with each other.

Harris, used with permission
Source: Harris, used with permission

I would like to think that fifteen thousand years ago, a wolf similar to him became "aligned" with someone similar to me—the result was civilization.

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