Arturus, Robbed of his Birthright
It was the spring of '79. He slipped into this world quietly, in the depths of a cozy den in the frozen wilderness. For the first week of his life he knew only the warmth of his mother's belly fur, her warm tongue, and the rich supply of milk he could suckle whenever the urge overtook him.
Not long after that he woke to find his mother absent, and rough un-furred paws reaching for and grabbing him. Those paws withdrew him from the only world he had ever known, examined him, and rudely stuffed him into a rough smelly sack. Another furry body was stuffed in beside him, whimpering as he had done. Little did this babe know of the journey ahead.
After what seemed an eternity, he and sister were removed for the smelly sack and once again examined by these strange un-furred creatures. Where was his momma? Where was her musky warmth? Where was his sustenance? Both pups mewled and snuffled seeking the milk that momma so readily provided.
Someone pushed a cold rubbery thing into his mouth, and he immediately spat it out. The one with un-furred paws laughed and said "When they are truly hungry, they will eat." They were then buried in a pile of dirty blankets.
In the morning his belly was so empty that when they once again pushed the cold rubbery thing in his mouth he began to suckle. "See what did I tell ya? They will eat when hunger drives them too it." The milk didn't taste good, but it was all he had.
Over the next few days he was handed around to many un-furred paws, each one exclaiming over how fuzzy and cuddly he was. Each one wondered what he would grow up to be like. His sister was no longer with him.
Those were to be the good old days in the 14 year life of Arturus. His first six months were a blur of un-furred paws looking him over, cuddling him, and allowing him to sleep on their bed. All of a sudden though, he found himself caged by metal bars, bars he couldn't chew through. He howled for his un-furred companions, oh how he did howl!
Then came the angry human howlings and the biting stick. What had he done to deserve them? He howled for the company of his un-furred family, the ones who had cuddled him. Why didn't they pet him anymore? He just wanted to be WITH his pack, not caged. He wanted to eat with them, not have food shoved under the gate on the cage. Not to see fear in their eyes when they looked at him.
One night as he was howling, the man came out, howling as well - in man talk. He smelled bad, and he held a stick. He struck out with the stick and it bit Arturus, hard. Excruciating pain shot through his leg. He could not stand on it. He screamed, and then fell silent. When his leg healed, he howled again. Each time he started howling again the stick bit him in a different place. Each time he healed before howling again.
In time, he was moved from that cage to another. He wasn't bitten by the stick here as frequently, only when the man had tipped back a lot of bottles and smelled "bad". The food was worse, and it came seldom. When they put a metal vine around his neck, and tied him to a tree, he howled his indignation. The stick began to bite him again, until he finally ceased howling completely. Humans always "smelled bad" when the stick was poised to bite. He was to endure 6 more years like that. During that time, he never bit anyone, though the humans concocted a story about him doing so to make him seem like a 'big bad wolf'.
During those 6 years he was bred to any canine that could be obtained, including a bull mastiff. Why? For money. The breeding times were the only ones that gave him any joy. The stick didn't bite him then, but he stayed silent anyway. Arturus never saw his pups, so he could not teach them what he had learned of the ways of humans.
The time had come for him to be moved again. Could it get any worse? This time he went to live with a woman who smelled "bad", like when the stick had bit him. But she didn't have a stick. She talked in soft words and tried to coax him to come to her. He knew that bad smell, though it was a little different now, and would not approach. Each time the woman came to him, the bad smell would happen, and each time he backed away. She looked disappointed, but she never used a stick to bite him.
One day she came to him, looked him in the eyes, and turned away, and just stood there. She still had that bad smell, but she was not looking at him. He walked slowly to her and sniffed up and down. Then he put his head under her hand. The hand moved, and he backed away quickly. This was repeated daily, and every time the hand moved Arturus skittered backward. The bad smell was less each time though...
Eventually the woman learned that he backed away from the moving hand. She finally let him put his head under her hand and it did not move. The bad smell was gone. He was not afraid anymore. He even let the hand move now without flinching.
Over the next few years, he sired a number of pups, though not near as many as when he had been with the 'stick people'. He was given good food, he gained the weight needed, and was by his own choice not handled or confronted by many humans.
He even competed in wolf-dog hybrid shows a couple of times, though the crowds made him nervous. He was examined at one show by a female judge who was also an ER nurse. She found that nearly every bone in his body had been broken at some time in his life. It was then his final guardian began to trace him back to the time of the den. To uncover the truth about the abuse heaped on him over his first 7 years.
At age 12 he become deaf, and amazingly began howling again on a regular basis. LOUD howling - he couldn't hear it, and it felt good. No Stick looked so funny when she jumped up and down, mouth moving soundlessly, shaking a fist hoping to quiet him. He surely must have found that amusing.
During his 14 years, he never injured a human though some injured him severely. When he was old, he got loose, and refused to be rounded up. He explored the property with No Stick chasing on his heels. When it looked as if she had given up, he settled down to admire the biggest female wolf-dog hybrid he had ever seen (not knowing that he was her grandfather 5 generations back).
As he was deaf, No Stick had little trouble sneaking up behind him through the trees and body tackling him. The pain in his old joints made him lash out at what had caused it. He grabbed the arm of No Stick in his mouth before he could stop himself. When he realized what he had done, he curled into a fetal position waiting for the biting stick. A stick was not to be used. No Stick got up, led him to the big den (house), and then back to his confinement.
Incredibly the bruise he left on No Stick's arm that day faded in less than a week. This from an animal who had no difficulty snapping the leg bone of a moose with one crunch.
Arturus' final days came during the short summer of his 14th year. He remained alpha of his pack till the end. A kinder, gentler alpha has seldom been seen - a trait he passed on to most of his offspring. When his time in this life was done, his body was returned to whence he came - the wilderness.
Would Arturus have lived 14 years in the wild? Probably not. But his life would have been his own. To travel where hunger led. To have a family of is own choosing. To know freedom instead of beatings, cages, and chains.
Could he have been returned to the wild to live out his life? The sad truth is that no captive wolf or wolf hybrid can be "set free" in the wild, and live for long. Hunting, for the most part, is a learned skill, not something they are born with. Wolves are pack hunters, and the coordination of the hunt is taught by the pack elders.
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