October 16-22 is National Wolf Awareness Week. This is a time to try to dispel the myths and prejudices that wolves have suffered under for so long. Considering how wolves are vilified by some, it is truly ironic that the gray wolf (that has now been proven to be the “exclusive ancestor of dogs—Vila, et al. 1997),” has, by inference from the lifesaving capabilities of our pet dogs, saved more human lives than perhaps any other species. Yet we continue to brutalize and kill totally innocent wolves every year. Consider the following heroic actions of dogs:

A dog led firemen to a man sleeping in a burning house several weeks ago: We should thank a gray wolf for that, because it was her/his inclination to do that for the past 15,000 years that led to the creation of the animal we call “our dogs” today.

A six year-old boy was saved from a rattlesnake by a Labrador Retriever who stepped between them two years ago in California. The dog was saved only by heroic veterinary measures including blood tranfusions: consider the gray wolf in that scenario because domesticated wolves have been standing between predator animals and people for 15,000 years, often giving their own lives in doing so.

A blind dog rescued a woman from a river in the Midwest five years ago: consider that the instinct to rescue a human family member came from the gray wolf as well.

If we continued with this appreciation, we would have to say thank you many times, to represent all the human beings that have been saved by domesticated wolves (and their “grandchildren” the dog) over 15,000 years of domestication. In a single week recently, two cases of human lives being saved in the U.S. by dogs were reported in the national news. That is probably an exceptional week; nonetheless, consider that those were only the ones that came to the attention of the media. But what if we use one life saved per month in the U.S. as a starting place and add just five other countries? Keep in mind that that would include rescue dogs (at least one of which is credited with saving 40 lives himself!), military dogs, watch dogs, assistance dogs, etc. Therefore, 60 per year worldwide for 15,000 years. The hypothetical total would be 900,000 people. Now, cut that number in half to be conservative and let’s say 450,000. Any individual, institution, or group of people that had saved roughly half a million human lives would garner not only thanks, but universal recognition. What do wolves get? Bullets, arrows, poison, gas, leg snare traps, and worse.

So then, is there any other reason the gray wolf should receive special consideration? Consider that world renowned zoologist Desmond Morris has pointed out that out of 1.7 million species of animals on earth, only two have ever been made full members of the human family—the dog and the cat. Thus in all that time, we have only chosen two animals, and one of those choices was a wolf! There must have been something quite special about the animal from which we created our dogs to attain such status. Morris has speculated that one of the reasons for this may be that the gray wolf (at the time of domestication), was nearly identical to humans in at least six social categories, including how we hunted and how we “educated” our young. In a social sense then, it may be that gray wolves are the most similar animal to humans on the planet.

If you still think dogs are far removed from their ancestors, consider the fact that most of the 400 breeds of domestic dogs were only created several centuries ago. Their looks have been so altered that it is easy to forget that under their skin beats the heart of canis lupus. The animal we took to our homes and hearts thousands of years ago may have looked more like a wolf, but she would have behaved much like our dogs. She was our friend then, and she continues to be our friend and rescuer today. Every good trait our dogs have came from that same animal. Every life saving instinct, every companion tendency, every keen physical sense, every tender part of their natures came from one source only—the gray wolf. To venerate the dog while vilifying the wolf, is like savoring a drop of water on one's lips while cursing the stream from which it came.

Some will say, “wild wolves have killed human beings.” True enough, and when it has happened, it has been terribly tragic. In a few of those rare cases, starvation and/or rabies has been found to be contributing factors. In a few others, we may never know the cause. But what we do know is that humans have never been the natural prey of wolves, and these incidents have always been seen as aberrations. In the past 100 years, out of 80 cases of “wolf aggression,” only five have been judged the fault of the wolf. All others were the result of the ignorance or stupidity of humans. Typically, humans have gone right up to wolf dens to try to see the puppies. What would you do if threatening strangers came into your house and headed for your children’s bedrooms?

Please think about some of these things during Wolf Awareness Week and all year long. Just because wolves don’t vote, don’t contribute to political campaigns or have a public relations machine, doesn’t mean they don’t deserve protection from irrational persecution. By the way, you might be surprised, as I was, to learn that some of the “wolf control” practices mentioned above are sanctioned and even carried out by our state and federal governments with our tax money. Congress tried to outlaw aerial shooting in 1971, but unfortunately, some states found loopholes in the law big enough to fly a small plane through.

Your dog is a wolf, and her or his forebearers deserve protection. Wolves play, they grieve, they use facial gestures just like we do. Males and females bond, for the most part, for life, and the males take care of the pups 50% of the time. Sometimes wolves have to be managed, but it can often be done non-lethally, and can always be done with the same compassion that humans most often give to animals that must be killed. Please let your Congresspersons know that you want wolves treated with compassion and mercy.

If you are a dog owner, then the dog you have at home is a wolf by any other name. Some people don’t want you to know that, but during National Wolf Awareness Week, some others are going to try to tell the truth about who the gray wolf is. It is time we thanked the gray wolf (the original dog) for all she/he has done for us for thousands of years. She did not earn the title, “Man's (and Woman’s) Best Friend,” for no reason.


Responses to "National Wolf Awareness Week"

  1. Awesome post!
    Thank you, Tweeting & facebooking...

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