Call of the Wild

Last night around 1:00 am, a plaintive howl woke me from a deep sleep.

Many years ago, I awoke to a wolf howling from the nearby forest. I haven’t heard that since it became legal to kill wolves in Idaho.

But this wasn’t a wolf. It was my Malamute, Conall. I was instantly reminded of that earlier wolf howl, though. To my ear, their indistinguishable. Primal, urgent, full of an emotion or message I can’t decipher but which makes my heart soar to hear.

I joined Conall outside, hoping to learn what triggered this rare bit of howling from him. I knelt beside him on the deck. He showed his welcome by licking my face and sitting right beside me, snuggling his body next to mine. With one arm wrapped around his back, my fingers moving through his thick fur in a massaging motion, I followed his gaze off into the dark. Other that the stars and half moon above, I couldn’t see – or hear – anything. It’s truly dark here in the country; we don’t leave outdoor lights on at night. No one is about except nocturnal wildlife. Conall didn’t howl again. After several minutes, enjoying the darkness and silence and Conall’s warmth, I got up to go back inside. Conall happily followed me and we both returned to our beds.

Last August, something similar happened, at dusk. Because I was up, I was able to grab my phone and record Conall. His first howl – not recorded – was the best, but this video gives a sense of what he sounds like. You can also barely hear what he’s howling at: bugling elk in a field in the valley a mile downhill. Their bugle is a high-pitched whistle (heard at about 5 seconds into the video). August through October is elk rutting season, and bulls are bugling to attract the attention of females. Conall couldn’t resist adding his own bugle to the mix.

Howling at Elk

I wish I could hear wolves howling more frequently. They’re out there in the forest, nearby, but they have the good sense to stay far away from humans who kill them and the places humans live. I’m sure they’re howling, but far from human ears. Maybe Conall hears them, with his far superior hearing. Maybe that’s what he was responding to last night.

2 thoughts on “Call of the Wild”

  1. It is 1970, early morning hours and my grandfather and I stand in a duck blind on a lake 15 miles south of the town of Sprague, Washington. A howl of a likely coyote breaks the silence of the pre-dawn light. Fear grips me, I am 12 years old, but I am with my grandfather. It does not even occur to me we are armed.

    It is 2002. I am camped at the Grand Canyon with two of my children. At 2AM on successive nights I am awakened by a bone chilling howl, the first far away, then on a subsequent night very, very close to our camp. My instincts run to protecting the children as I now am in the role my grandfather had three decades passed.

    And I do not have the slightest idea of what I will do.


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