Had a good cry last night. We were watching a program on NatGeo about wolves. It wasn’t the usual presentation of the fierce debate over whether wolves were good for the ecosystem, or the scourge of the lives of ranchers. It was, instead, the culmination of a long study, by an interdisciplinary group of researchers, on the role that relationships played in the formation and sustainability of the wolf pack. They focused their observations on one pack, in particular – one of the few packs in the park, that had survived multi-generational leadership.
For the needs of the research, the wolves were assigned a number, which made it possible to track their movements and closely examine how they built relationships within their pack, and protected the pack from intrusion, by other wolves, that had no history with the pack. They were absolutely clear, firm, and fiercely resolute about the boundaries that they had established. They warned intruders who encroached, and killed those that ignored the warnings.
In addition to focusing on this one pack, they followed the evolution of the pack leader, as he came into his own and built relationships with other members of the pack. He was no. 6, and he was a magnificent creature. He was handsome and dignified – an awesome and overpowering presence. He was discriminating in his use of power and stature, and only exerted his dominance, when the rules of the pack were being violated. As he matured, he was courted by many of the females. He chose no. 42; perhaps because she was the only one not trying to obsessively win him over.
No. 6 and no. 42 were inseparable. They watched over the pack, they defended its boundaries, and they nurtured pups. No.6 rarely strayed far from 42, nor did she from him. The researchers were struck by the closeness of the pair. They had not witnessed anything like it before.
One day, a researcher found her body. It was not clear how she died. She had not been attacked, nor did she show signs of severe illness. The research team immediately went looking for no.6, but to no avail. Then, a few days later, someone on the team saw a wolf ascending one of the taller peaks in the park. It was walking slowly, but resolutely. As the team got closer, it was clear that the wolf, pushing itself up the mountain, was no. 6. A few days later, they found his body. He looked peaceful, like he had died in his sleep. It was hard to not believe that he couldn’t live without 42.
It was a good cry. I haven’t wept like that for many years. The devotion of these two wolves, to each other, cut right to my heart. Arleah and I have talked about what life would be like without each other, and what would keep us going. We grieve this often, and it helps us move on