Once upon a time, a young woman flipped through a picture book with her pet dog. The book was about wolves. With the dog’s head perched delicately on her lap, she remarked:
“Look, pup, that’s you!”
At first, the dog was taken aback. Wolves were strange, savage creatures that roamed cold and barren lands, always playing the villains therein.
The dog thought over this for the rest of the day- for many days, in fact- often skipping meals. In light of his behavior, the dog’s master thought it would be wise to take him to the doctor but never got around to it, which was just as well, seeing as there was nothing physically the matter with him.
Or was there? The dog was, after all, the great-great-great-grandpup of a savage beast. This worried the dog tremendously at first, but eventually he came to like the idea. After all, wolves were a simple bunch. They roamed about as they willed, where they willed and when they willed. This could definitely not be said of the life of a dog. Excepting the food he stole off the table, breakfast was always at 6 AM, dinner always at 8 PM. There was no lunch, for the master was off at work.
And that was another thing: wolves spent most of their time in packs, but the dog spent most of his time alone. True, he has all comforts a dog could ever want- a roof over his head, food, and a certain degree of companionship- but often, while his master was away, he found himself lonely and bored, because there were only so many places one could venture in an enclosed, suburban landscape. Of course, they did go for walks with some frequency, but those always came with the addition of the leash, which was horribly grating upon his neck and got yanked at moments he did not appreciate.
There was also the matter of discipline. The master was kind enough, and there were many times when her punishments were most called for, like when he defecated on the carpet or shredded his master’s favorite pair of jeans. But there were other times where the punishment was based on a standard beyond him. In these times, the master would gesture wildly and speak harshly, but the dog hadn’t the foggiest idea of what crimes she was accusing him of committing. Thus unable to speak or understand her language, the dog often found himself subject to frequent frustration, even pain, when their two worlds came into unfortunate conflict.
Indeed, when it all came down to it, he had to agree with his master. He was different, inalterably so. That was just way things were.
Once he came to terms with this, the dog had to decide what to do with it. He was, after all, still his master’s pet. True, he could run away, surely. But there was no promise that there would be somewhere for him to run to. Yes, the hills were said to hold their share of coyotes, but he was not a coyote, and had no ambition to be. Coyotes were in-betweeners, preying off suburbia while counter-intuitively purporting to be free. The dog wanted none of that. If he was to free, he wanted to free truly, not just in word.
So days, even years, passed and he found no solution to his problem simply because there was none to be found. No physical one, at least. But as years marched on he found peace in his role. He was a wolf, but he was also a pet, and there was pride in the former and comfort in the latter. Yes, he found no hypocrisy in any of it.
Then, near the end of his days, a queer thing happened: his master tapped into the same rich vein he had found much earlier on (the animals are always the first to know, after all). She began to recognize in herself a foundation call of the wild, a call to be free and in community and separate from the boxes and rules and loneliness her daily routine had subjected her too.
So, one day, she packed her things and moved to the country many miles away with her trusty companion in tow. There, they purchased a small cottage at the end of the wood. It was quieter, slower, and took much time getting used to. But the found themselves gradually and happily adapting to it.
There were places now, many paths to chase and go down. In the evening, they would sit by the fire. She would pet his head. He would lick her face. Things were simple and good.
Eventually, grey came like a sunset upon his golden face. As with anything else, he greeted it warmly. And when the time came to say his goodbyes, he panted once, twice, and then never again. But his last pant- it was so grateful, for he at last seen, tasted, smelled, and touched what it was like to be free.
Author Bio: Aaron D. Ybarra is a writer & founder of Our Kind of Awesome Productions (www.ourkindofawesome.com). He lives in the Asheville area with his wife, Katie, and eagerly awaits the debut of his new musical, “Into the Word.”