My Pearl and the Wolf Pack

Part One

This is from an old blog, written around 2000  with some new updates at the end. I will put up pix, soon.

Pearl was MY dog. That is, I was HER person. She walked by my side. Her head was exactly under my left hand. She lay at my feet when I sat down. She slept by my side of the bed. I never put a leash on her; she did not want to stray from my side during the day (with a couple of exceptions). I talked to her in sentences; I never gave her commands. She preferred I whisper or use a very quiet voice with her, rather than speaking out loud. Or maybe she knew I was talking to HER when I whispered. She responded to my whispered requests e.g. to take a bone outside or to move out of my way.

She never advanced to other people, though she let them approach her and pet her. She tolerated a great deal from kids and babies before she would move out of reach. She was a “watch dog”  in her own way. She could hear approaching cars or people and flicks of her ears and a pointing of her muzzle would alert me that  we would soon have guests. If it were a family member coming home a thump of her tail in addition to the aforementioned would tell me. She would relax and put her head down unless I got up; then she would follow me.

Pearl looked like some kind of near descendant of wolves mixed with some kind of shepherd type dog. Her grandmother was a beautiful wolfy-type Rez Dog who was silver colored. In fact, her name was Silver. She was Lynne Hughes and Chandler Laughlin’s dog. Lynne and Chandler said she was bred to some part wolf/dog of someone at the Red Dog Saloon (the bouncer?) and produced a litter, one of whom was Chato. Lynne and Chan gave Chato to Stella Leach and he became Stella’s devoted companion for over a decade. Stella was Colville, but also claimed some Lakota. Chato was large, bigger than a shepherd or a malamute, probably 26 “ at the shoulder. He had short hair, shorter than the usual shepherd, husky, malamute, or wolf; a crew cut. He was dark gray except for his underbelly, chin, lower legs and feet, which were white. He had a perfect “wolf mask” on his face, framed by white. Chato is a whole other story. What a dog. What stories I could tell you about him. He was magical. Stella always said the wolf dogs of this line were Indian dogs of the classic type. “Rez Dogs” was their nick name. They didn’t have recent wolf, they just looked wolfy. Exactly like the dogs in George Catlin’s paintings and drawings. Karl Bodner’s too, and even a couple of Russell paintings.

Anyway, one day, a young, beautiful Rez dog showed up in Stella’s yard in Oakland, in full heat (Stella had 7 sons and 3-4 of them were there at any given time, with their friends) and Chato and she bred. Her name was Gypsy and she moved in. Gypsy was kind of golden with dark hairs, but had white on her feet, belly and chin,  with a nice mask. She had a shorter back and longer legs than a Shepherd, and carried her tail low. Gypsy produced her litter, one of whom was Pearl. When Gypsy’s pups were weaned and  went to close friends homes, Gypsy disappeared as she had arrived with some young friend of Stella’s. I got Pearl.

Pearl was a beautiful gray with white running from her chin across her underside and down her legs and including her feet. She had a beautiful Mask defining the gray to the white on her face, and it gave her a white smile around her mouth. She wasn’t all that big, about 22″ at the shoulder, 45 lbs. and she had a slighter longer back to leg ratio then Chato or Gypsy, and the tail carriage of a shepherd. If she had had long legs and bigger feet, she would have REALLY looked like a wolf. Even so her coloring and facial mask and facial proportions and ear carriage were more wolf-like than not. Everyone asked if she was part wolf. She was, though it was probably not much and not recent. She was a classic Rez Dog of the wolfy type. In my opinion a far better dog than any one breed I could think of and she was above all, a dog, not actually part recent wolf. The wolfy type rez dogs varied more than a breed, but they typically looked like a shepherd/malamute cross might look, more wolfy looking than either breed, alone. I am sure that a lot of shepherd/husky, shep/malamute  crosses are rez dogs.

When Pearl was about 3, I got her hips xrayed and found they were excellent. We found a handsome male for her. His name was Kodiak. He was very large, almost 30 inches at the shoulder. He had the same tawny coloring as Gypsy with thick, long hair, and fringes on his tail and legs. He had a beautiful mask with the white chin, chest and legs. 9 weeks later, Pearl sneaked away and went in the wash behind our house and found a kind of cave made out of concrete detritus, where she gave birth. Of course I moved them out of there, but we took a picture of Pearl and Kodiak sitting in the mouth of the “cave” taken when Kodiak’s people came to get their pick of the litter.

Pearl and Kodiak posed in Pearl’s “den”, 1976

My pick was Naiche. I noticed that when people came to look at the puppies, Naiche did not advance to them, nor did he retreat. He stood and watched. People tended to pick the puppy that came to them.  I picked Naiche. Naiche grew up to be a good-sized dog, he was about 26″ at the shoulder. He had a white face with a dark gray widow’s peak on his forehead. He had short dark gray hair, but not as short as Chato’s. Naiche is another story, too. If anything, Naiche was the best of Silver’s descendents. Another pup from this litter, definitely the most beautiful, was Joba (pronounced HOE-ba, short for jojoba). Joba went to my sister and her family. Joba looked like a wolf, light gray and white with a perfect mask. His tail was carried low, but had a pronounced curl to the tip. Joba had a wonderful life, full of stories and adventures. We had another mating to another Cody, and another 8 puppies went out into the world.

 Naiche very excited

Pearl adopted me, but I could not rule her. She would leave me for early morning or evening forays when she wanted. No fence could pen her. She went hunting and brought home her finds. At home, she would tear apart some plastic bag and eat the contents.It was some kind of garbage from neighbor’s cans. We lived on the edge of the city limits, on the West Branch of the Santa Cruz. It was a great corridor to the Santa Cruz less than a mile away and there were few homes, there was mostly a Pecan Ranch.  I never stopped worrying about her being loose, which was against the city and county rules.

We had horses back then and several rides a week out into the Tucson Mountains or to the dry river bed was the rule. Pearl and Naiche had many adventures out there and lots of exercise. They liked to hunt and even chased a few rabbits. By the time Pearl died, the empty hills across Mission Road from our home were filled up with houses and the pecan farm became a subdivision. It was impossible to take the pack because of all the unfenced fighting dogs along the way. Naiche never ever even looked crossed-eyed at another dog outside of our yard, but the other dogs wanted to attack him as he passed. When I realized I would have to trailer the horses to go riding, I reluctantly gave the horses up. Those rides with the pack were some of the most fun I ever had as an adult.

I missed Pearl terribly when she died, but I imagined her head under my left hand and felt her lying at my feet. She is still there, 25 years later.

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