Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Let's Do This

After a lot of poking and prodding from my friends, I'm starting a blog about my adventures with my wolfdog, Bastas. The suggestions to start a blog may have been partially fueled by a desire for me to stop spamming Facebook with pictures and short stories, but I think a blog is better suited to story-telling anyway. ;)

My other entries probably won't be such a wall of text, but introductions take a while.

I suppose a background of the story of Bastas is in order, since he's the star of this show. So, I'll tell you first how he came to me, a broken little thing in need of rescue.

About 5 months ago, in May of 2013, I was being a creep. This is not unusual for me, but this particular bout of creepery involved trawling Craigslist to look at critters. To be honest, I'm not sure why I look at animals on Craigslist. It inevitably makes me angry and sad to see all the animals being bred, sold, or rehomed for reasons like "Just don't have time anymore!" or "Moving to an apartment!" I'll save that particular diatribe for another entry, though.

You can imagine that looking at puppies and hearing their sad stories is all manner of tempting, but I looked at animals on Craigslist for years and had never been impulsive enough to get one. There were some close calls, but good sense prevailed over good intentions.

The first week of May, I saw a post for a 9 month old Belgian Shepherd mix in a nearby town. The post mentioned that he was part wolf, but didn't say anything else about him except that he was being beat up by the owner's other dogs. I remember sending the post to my best friend, Cait, and that the email contained only the phrase "JESUS CHRIST." I can be so eloquent at times.

I wanted him, sure, but I knew I wasn't in a position to take care of a puppy, much less one with possible wolf in him. I closed the ad, and while I didn't really forget about it, I moved on. The dog wasn't in immediate danger, and I thought that being a very good-looking wolfdog, someone would snatch him right up and he'd have a home.

Several days later, surprise surprise, I was creeping on Craigslist again, where I found another ad there for the same dog. I opened it, wanting to see the picture again, and noticed different contents this time - they no longer had the dog. The post said, "Posting for a friend! They took him to the shelter, so if you want a good dog, you'll have to go get him there! He's really sweet but it's too much trouble to keep all the dogs separated!"

I cried.

I guess maybe I'm too soft, or too vulnerable, but I cried. I have a soft spot for animals and I knew the shelter the dog was taken to was not a happy place. Are they ever? I'd been there in the past and seen how miserable and sad the dogs inside were, all of them waiting to die, none of them knowing why they were there or what they had done wrong and why their people weren't there to save them and I cried.

Buckle up, because I'm going to get wishy-washy for a minute.

Sometimes you reach those watershed moments in life where you have to make a decision that reaches down to the soul of who you are, and this was one of those moments for me. I knew that impulsively getting a wolfdog puppy because of some internet sob story wasn't one of my more responsible adventures... But I also knew in my heart that if I let this happen, if I let this dog die because it was easier or more convenient for me, I would not be the sort of person I want to be in this world.

So this time, good intentions won over good sense and I started plotting.

I wasn't 100% sure I knew which shelter held him, so I emailed the poster of the second ad, but of course got no response. What did they care, the dog wasn't their problem any more, so why bother, I guess.

Everything seemed to line up at that moment. I have family in that city, and as luck would have it, one member who I knew would be irresponsible and crazy enough to help me spring a wolfdog out of the pound. After an amused phone call, my cousin agreed to help me search for the dog, and we got work.

An hour later, I hit gold when the city pound posted this image to their website:

There was my foundling. There he was, plainly miserable and alone. I still had a problem, though - he was being held in a city several hours away and I had no way to get him before he was due to be destroyed. My cousin came to the rescue again, going out to the pound to negotiate an extension for the dog and visiting him to check him out.

My cousin's reports came back enthralled - the dog was even more gorgeous in person, very calm and very friendly. The shelter agreed to give him an extension, and listed him as a Belgian Shepherd mix on all of his paperwork to avoid the "w" word. I spent the next days stockpiling dog supplies and mulling over names, and when the day came, I loaded up my best friend in the car and we drove to meet my cousin.

Our first meeting was overwhelming in a lot of ways. Superficially, he was breath-taking to see in person - all long limbs and grace even as a puppy (I found out later he was only 8 months old, not 9). He lacked any signs of puppy clumsiness, and had the stateliness and calm of a much older dog. My cousin raved about his agility and athleticism, and his relaxed, pleasant temperament. All of my family that had met him was charmed by him, and my cousin asked, only half-jokingly, if I was sure I wanted him - if not, he would gladly load the dog back in the car and take him home with him.

Under the looks, though, was a level of neglect that was hard to look at or think about for long. His greasy coat stank of urine. Clumps of feces and vomit stuck to his sunken sides, where you could see each individual rib outlined in pale skin. His spine stuck up out of the fur on his back, and his hips sunk in so far, you could fit your entire balled up fist into the empty socket where flesh should. His armpits bled from the wads of ticks balled underneath them, and he had the tell-tale, booming hack and snort of a raging case of kennel cough. Anywhere he stood for more than a few minutes became a tiny lake of the mucus that dripped continually from his nose.

After a lot of bathing and brushing, he turned into this:

And then fell straight asleep on the couch.

I didn't know it at the time, but I had just adopted a whole heap of trouble for myself. But more on that later :)


  1. And he is forever grateful, I am sure.

  2. Wolf dogs make me sad...many people as I'm sure you know get them becasue they want a "piece of the wild". They are then mistreated...Glad he has you in his life though!

    Question for you...what kind of dog experience did you have before you took on the responsibility of Bastas? I recently did a short bit on a Wolf-hybrid I met - not a good story another sad one...Anyways i'm interested in your opinion. :-)

    I'll keep reading your blog though, so far its fun!

    ~DZ Dogs

    1. Thank you for your comments, I'm glad to read you enjoyed our entries. I did see your piece on another wolfdog you met, although I'm sad to see there is a lot of misinformation about wolfdogs on it. Wolfdogs are not wild animals. They are not half wild and they will not turn on you like many people believe. They are exceptionally shy, timid creatures that definitely prefer flight over fight. I would love to talk to you further about them if you are wishing to learn what they are really like. :)