Wednesday, 21 August 2013

White Fang II

After Winston died, every dog owner that I knew told me to get another dog immediately. They were right. For many years, I had two dogs -- the other being Nakita, a female rescue Border Collie. When she died at the age of twelve, I missed her passing as well, although not as strongly as losing Winston. What I did not realize after Winston died, was that there were really two losses: Winston, himself, and the fact of living with a dog.

I was watching an episode of "All Creatures Great and Small" where a man had lost his only dog, and Siegfried, the older vet, had strongly advised him to get another one right away. So, when I got my new dog, who is part German Shepherd, I started to think about a German name for him. I didn't like the name "Siegfried" much as a dog's name, so I picked the name of Siegfried's young brother: Tristan. I had always like that name anyway -- even though it means "sorrow". Besides, the name evokes the Medieval Celtic legend of Tristan and Iseult, and that story has elements of the Irish "The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne". I had written about Diarmuid (Diarmait),  in 1996, in "The Role of the Boar in Celtic Iconography and Myth"

I decided on another rescue dog, and I found a likely candidate on the website of the City of Calgary Animal Services. He had been found running loose a couple of weeks after the Calgary flood. and no one
reported him missing. I needed a couple of appointments in order to get him as he had some "issues" and they would only allow him to go with someone very experienced with dogs. That criterion gave me no problem at all, and they were very happy to release him into my care.

So Tristan came home with me and I started on his training right away. I was amazed at the speed that he learned things, and he already has a good grasp on the basics -- he is even doing fairly well on not pulling on the leash (unless he spots a squirrel or a jackrabbit!). He was listed as a German Shepherd / Border Collie cross, but I could not see the Border Collie part at all. When I asked about that, Animal Services told me they were not sure either. That night I spent a few hours searching for his features on the web and was not entirely surprised to discover that he is part Coyote. I had already noticed that his tail was very much like that of a Coyote, but the clincher was the "M" shape on his forehead which appears on some "Coydogs" as they are called.

As part of his rehabilitation yesterday, I took him on a bus and through downtown at lunchtime to get him used to crowds and noise. We were walking along the 8th Avenue Mall, when I saw a booth run by the Calgary Parks Service about wildlife in the parks. Coyotes were mentioned. I couldn't resist stopping. The
You can see the Shepherd and the Coyote in this shot
women running the booth thought that Tristan was a very attractive dog and one of them said "So he's a German Shepherd cross -- what else is in him?" I replied, "Look at his tail". "Coyote!" she exclaimed, and spent the next ten minutes dragging various people over to take a look.

Finally, as one of my favorite stories when I was seven years old was Jack London's "White Fang", about a dog/wolf hybrid, I called this post "White Fang II". Of course, Tristan is part Coyote and their behavior is very different from that of wolves so the connection is slightly tenuous.

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