Family

Family

By Merf

Written for Animal Quills November 2006 writing prompt.

Monday, the 20th of November: It was my day off, and I was walking back to my apartment with a fresh DVD rental when I felt a bit of a pain in my lower abdomen. I thought I was just a bit hungry and initially ignored it. I was in the emergency room by the end of the night, and in the operating theater surprisingly soon after that.

Turns out I was suffering from Appendicitis, which is good, considering their first theory was kidney stones. It was a simple procedure, since I didn’t rupture, and was in the hospital for about thirty-six hours. Now, I’ve always been a remarkably fast healer, physically, so that’s not proving to be a real concern, but something else remarkable did happen. I was in and out of consciousness for most of Tuesday as I slept off the anesthetic, but woke at one point to find my mother there beside me. When she’d heard of my operation, she’d found a sub for her fifth-grade class and drove out to see me. In the three seconds I was awake, I managed a smile at her, which she returned, but she spent the next three days or so in Omaha, helping me through the first few days of recovery.

We wound up having Thanksgiving dinner together, as well. Originally, I’d been planning to spend the day alone, since my sister (my only family living in the area) was spending it with her in-laws, but now here I was with my mother. Both of us are food geeks, and we got creative with the meal and surprised ourselves with our innovations. We talked a lot about spirituality in living life and she found herself encouraging my artistic endeavors professionally. Previously, she’d encouraged me artistically, but only if I’d pursued it in my spare time.

To top the day off, my baby brother, who had until very recently avoided the whole family like the plague for years, called me, that day. He’d heard that I’d been in the hospital, and wanted to be certain that I was all right before getting shipped off to the Middle East. We had a very personable conversation and for a few minutes, it was as if we were kids again.

The whole experience strengthened my belief in family and seemed to hasten my recovery from surgery. It helped to give me a stronger sense of well-being and helped me to feel okay as I healed.

Part of my recovery from Depression over the last couple of years has had to do with my discovery of the therian community. When I found that there were other people like me out there, and that they had words for what I experienced, I was able to accept myself for what I really was. When I was able to look the Bear in the eye and not be afraid of her, I was finally able to begin seeing myself as okay. I was able to begin exploring my inner world without shame or fear. One revelation that this led me to is that the body, the mind, and the spirit (or identity) are not separate things, as classical “reasoning” has historically suggested. They are intrinsically linked, for good or ill. They cannot be separated. What affects one must affect all others.

On Thanksgiving, however, I was reminded of something else. Through spirit, a person is also his connections to others. I remember reading, years ago, a book in which the author claimed that the word “I” in the English language is much more fluid than most westerners choose to believe. He believed that “I” is actually similar to “here” and “now,” that it’s meaning is indistinct. In many cultures, the word for “I” could mean one person, a whole family, or a whole tribe. It was reading this that first got me thinking of Spirit and the Divine as not an intelligent being outside the universe, but as a force of nature, similar to gravity. Whereas gravity draws us towards the earth, Spirit draws us towards others. We are not as separate as most of us choose to believe.

This is why I believe that there must be a therian (or “animal people”) community. To know of and interact with others of one’s own nature is a very healing and strengthening thing. Like most bears, I tend towards being by myself; I am slow to trust strangers, and I need a lot of time to myself. But on the other hand, once I do accept someone as a trusted friend, I am loyal (or so I think), supportive, and dependable. Even solitary creatures like me must have others around, once in a while, especially others that we can relate to.

I often wish that the therian communities were less divisive. There is so much potential for mutual support and aid, but a lot of it is lost to popularity contests and power struggles and it sometimes becomes unhealthy to be there. I am just as often reminded, however, that every community in the world has the same problem, from families to church parishes to sports teams to bridge clubs. Gather a bunch of people together, and they’ll often squabble, just for something to do. When the chips are down, though, they’ll just as often surprise each other with demonstrations of generosity and support, like my family did, last week.

Between the attention hogs and the posers, I often think of giving up on the therian communities. I don’t think that I will just yet, though. There’s still hope, just as there is with my family.

Crow

Crow

By Adagio

What does “crow” mean, anyway?

The word crow technically encompasses all the birds in the genus Corvus, but the word implies so much more than that.

(Keep in mind, throughout this essay when I use the word “crow”, I am using it to specifically describe the carrion crow and the common crow, and not every member of the corvid family.)

Crow means adaptation. I am a crow because I change. I’m a scavenger. I do the best I can with what I have, and find ways to get the things I need or want. This doesn’t just apply to food or actual objects, but also to knowledge, guidance, success, things of the more intangible nature. I look and find and take.

I used to live in New York City. I was young, but not so young that the city didn’t make an impression on me. It was fast and required me to keep moving, looking around, being aware of things. I adapted. It wasn’t anything personal, just something that had to be done. Then when we moved to where I currently live, a very small town surrounded by farmland, I adapted. It was different than living in a big city, yes, but it still required me to change in order to fit into my new environment. I prefer the small town, but I didn’t hate the big city. They just have different requirements. They ask different things of people. The big city is not for everybody, just as small farming communities are not for everybody.

Me? I adjust. I am a crow.

Crow, as much as it represents change, also represents stability. Crow is always there, and I’m always a crow. Crow seems old, and smart, and always knows what to do (and if he doesn’t, then he improvises.) This again relates back to survival, but I perceive these two aspects in different ways. Adaptation isn’t necessary, but it is a good idea. However, without intelligence, adaptation is nearly impossible. Intelligence is a constant.

Crows have quick thoughts and analyze every situation, to figure out how it can be a benefit. Many animals also display this ability to adapt, but it is an essential and core part of the crow’s nature, and is the focal point of experiencing being crow. I do like knowing things, and if I don’t know the answer to something, I will find out. That way, if I encounter the same question or problem later on, I will know how to handle it and hopefully make the outcome be to my advantage.

A common stereotype of the crow is “trickster”. Tricksters like to joke and play tricks, and laugh at the expense of others, even if the other person is hurt or embarrassed in the process.

That is not how I experience the trickster attribute of the crow. To me, “trickster” means manipulating a situation so the crow will benefit in some way, but still being able to appreciate the humor and possible irony that results. This serves to help me not get frustrated and upset (although that does happen from time to time, of course). Maintaining a good outlook about a situation is vital to making it work out for the better.

I also associate sarcasm with crows, even though that is not necessarily a crow behavior, since sarcasm is a human concept. Still, the two are inexplicably linked in my mind. Crows laugh and look at things differently, with a question in their eyes, and they don’t worry about keeping up false pretenses. I tend to do the same.

Everything about crow is related to survival. The crow, essentially, is a being of instinct. It’s all about survival, changing, staying alive, and doing what you have to. All of the crow’s intelligence and problem-solving skills are to help the crow thrive. Crows are successful and it is in their nature to try to conquer any situation and benefit from it.

Expanding on the sense of humor attribute: Crows do have a sense of humor. The crow is not particularly mean, he just sees the humor in situations that others may not find funny. Some people may think me insensitive, but I figure life is too short to take everything too seriously. True, I may also laugh at the folly of others and get great enjoyment from it, but I also keep a sense of humor about myself. When I fail to achieve something, I take it as a lesson. I laugh at myself because I was so silly to make a mistake. Errors are something to be learned from and laughed about. They only cease to be funny when the person fails to learn from their mistakes. Dwelling on things will not help. You have to move forward, fly away, adapt, fix it.

Humor is also tied in with flying. Flying is pure joy and freedom, and I laugh at that because it’s so funny, so enjoyable. It’s an opportunity to forget. It’s an opportunity to realize that nothing is so serious that I can’t still enjoy life. I enjoy laughing and I enjoy finding things to laugh about. It’s much easier to adapt and survive with a flexible and humorous view of life, instead of a bleak and pessimistic one.

Learning from mistakes, adjusting, surviving, keeping it all in perspective. This is crow.

Anger and the Animal Person

Anger and the Animal Person

By Merf

Originally posted on Animal Quills.

In my own experience, very few children take responsibility for their actions when angry.

“He hit me first!”

“He called me a sissy!”

Thankfully, most children grow to learn how to take responsibility for how they express their emotions. Anger and frustration are natural defensive responses to a situation like being pushed around. Violence, however, is a choice. Self awareness – the ability to step back and examine our own thoughts as they happen – affords us the ability to choose how we will respond to our own emotions. This could very well be the very definition of the term responsibility (response-ability).

Some, however, do not learn this valuable lesson. Some go through life a slave to their emotional responses and the ideas of what they’re supposed to do with them. If they are angry with something, they hurt it. If they are afraid of something, they either run from it or fight it. If they desire something (or someone), then they pursue it. I can recall a number of instances in which larger classmates, after having beaten me silly, blamed me. If I hadn’t talked back to them, you see, they wouldn’t have had to hurt me. That’s the universal cry of the bully. “It’s your own fault.”

Learning this lesson takes time, however, and some self-exploration. One has to think about the roots of one’s actions and emotions, and learn why they responded as they did.

“Why did I punch him, knowing he would beat me senseless?”

“Because he was laughing at me.”

“Why not simply walk away?”

“People were watching and laughing. I didn’t want them to think I was weak.”

“Why do we care what they think?”

“Because I have to care. If I don’t stand tall, they’ll ALL laugh then.”

“So this is about pride…”

“Hey! If you don’t have pride, you’re nothing! I have to defend my image!”

(and so on and so on…)

It is not entirely surprising, then, that some animal people, upon encountering their animal aspects, erroniously believe that their animals are to blame for their emotional responses. Animals, after all, have a reputation for passionate responses to threats, dangers, or hungers. Animals are seen as wild and free, and believed to do whatever they like, responding to everything by instinct. Having an “animal nature” can offer up a temptingly quick and simple explanation (or excuse) for one’s emotional actions. It takes time to look past the “inner animal” for other explanations, and not everyone is ready to do it very readily.

It can be especially confusing when one first encounters their animal aspect as a child. Now, I can not speak for anyone else, but I know that I, myself, have always been more aware of my animal when I was feeling very emotional. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s because strong emotions – especially “fight or flight” emotions – intensify awareness. When I was bullied, it often felt as though the bear seemed to leap up out of somewhere deep inside me when I was pushed around, and I reacted by clawing and growling. It’s a simple step from that perception to thinking that the bear was responsible for what I did. “It leaped out and took over.”

I think that I may have originally feared “the beast” because I thought she was “making me fight.” I was supposedly acting like an animal because of her. I pushed her away, mentally locking her in an imaginary cage and trapping her deep inside, because I wanted it to stop. That may have been the very beginnings of my own lessons in emotional responsibility.

I can look back now, of course, and realize that the bear was always there. She and I are one. I simply became more aware of her – and every other part of me – as I became angry. I chose the violent response to the situation, myself. The presence of the bear only meant that I clawed instead of punched and growled instead of yelled. I can easily imagine, then, that other animal people draw similar conclusions.

These days, after so much time exploring my image of “Mama Bear” and I, I’ve come to see us as essentially strong, both physically and emotionally. Strong enough to stand against the flood of our emotions. Strong enough to be able to choose to walk away. I have a strong sense of my own “response-ability.”

…But I can only speak for myself.

Wintercrow

Wintercrow

By Adagio

The snowflakes are falling silently. I can see them through the window, little white dots drifting down, sticking to the grass and the sidewalk and my car. The sky is grey and cloudy, and I am drawn closer, compelled to stand up and walk over to the window so I can have a better view. I visualize myself flying through it, black and shining, contrasting sharply with the sparkling white landscape beneath me. I am swirling with wings outstretched and the biting cold air is forcing me to keep moving, keep moving. Then I open my eyes and I am still standing next to the window, one hand raised with fingers touching the icy glass, my feet planted firmly on the ground, featherless, undeniably human.

The crow in my head preens his feathers, waiting to see my reaction. In a way, the idyllic winter scene outside my window is compelling, and makes me want to just disappear into the clouds, glossy-stiff feathers propelling me forward… but I am human, and so vulnerable to cold. A shiver runs down my spine as I think about it. So the crow fluffs up his feathers, and I wrap a scarf around my neck and zip up my jacket (but that doesn’t stop me from dreaming) and I have no choice but to restlessly await spring so I can fly.

[feb. 2007]

Call me crazy. I get the opposite of what most survival instincts will tell you.

Find warmth! Eat a lot of food! Hibernate! Fly south!

Nope.

Fly! Fly! Fly! is what I hear.

My computer desk is situated facing the wall, and the door that leads to our back yard (our back yard is a parking lot – we live in an apartment) is to my right. I keep glancing out as I write this, pausing, sometimes for minutes at a time, to look at the 8+ inches of snow and the sleet that is sprinkling gently against the windowpanes.

This is not a sparkly, crystalline, entrancing winter – this is grey, cloudly, wet, bitter cold, windy, completely unbearable… and completely alluring. The cold is invigorating. The cold makes you want to keep moving! keep going! keep flying!

Call me crazy. But I sit here at my desk, making numerous typos because all I can focus on is the snow and flying, flying, flying, and the invisible wings that grow from my shoulder blades are itching to be used – but I can’t, because it’s not real, the feeling of wings and feathers. What’s real is this desk and this computer and these hands. So instead of flying off through the cold like the crazypersonbird I am, I sit here typing about flying off through the cold, because it’s the next best thing.

What Exists

What Exists

By Kusani

Who I am is not to be judged. I am not to be caged, or bound, or restrained. I am not to be labeled, scoffed at, laughed off, mocked, belittled, or looked down upon.

I, along with every other living creature in this world, have every right to be who I am in my entirety.

There are some sacred truths I hold. That is one of them. Who I am changes, and will always change. Not just fluctuate, not just shimmer a different shade of the same color – but change. I am coming to realize how many things that were once so intrinsic to my Self have been lost.

It has been a summer of healing and of learning, as I had hoped – a summer of shed skins and spilt blood. The summer dwindles and the darkness lengthens, its grasp on this land tightening. Soon, snow will be squeezed out onto white knuckles and the heat flee like feeling past a stranglehold.

I am lioness, yet the winter smells like home.

So many things I want to write about. Reading always gets the muse whetted, honed and sharp, ready to carve meaning from these simple text words. It is up to the fingers and, nominally, the mind, to choose how to wield that blade of inspiration, the fire that pours forth and threatens to drown.

I’m waiting and listening to the tendrils of muse-music-life pour down my bare shoulders and seep past my lips, and I wonder if I shouldn’t be doing something Important And Concrete, like packing. I move in three days. I wonder if maybe I should just experience. Maybe I should be on World of Warcraft, offering my time and energies to my guildmates, most of whom are close friends, all of whom are a strange sort of family. Maybe I should be posting on animal_quills, because I have been aching for a place like that. Maybe I should be working on my website, or writing something other than WoWfic.

Or maybe I should be right here, doing what I’m doing, being what I’m being.

So tell me what is. Not what it is. What is. What exists.

What is? Lioness is. Human is. Woman is.

I have watched from afar a small handful of feline therians. If they are not outright transgendered, female-to-male, most are androgynous. I’m not. Lioness is not lion, lioness is as she is – but is she. I am the Warrior and a guardian, I am a singer and dancer, I am an empath and a nurterer, and some of this is classed as “masculine” and some as “feminine,” but guess what. Human society holds an awkward grasp at best on the meanings and implications of gender – be it soul-gender or biological gender. I am a female. I am feminine, in the lioness meaning. I am the huntress and I am the mother. I still play. I still feed. I am impatient and curious and demanding and (sometimes) practical. I am smug, nestled into myself, enwrapped in my own strengths and quirks.

I have my pride. My pride, and my Den – those make Home. And when I say Den, I don’t mean, literally, a den – a nest, or a hole in the earth, a cave or burrow. I mean Den is where I belong, Den is Territory, Den is Home. Den is mine and if you touch it you’d best be part of the pride, because otherwise you will see the business end of the lioness very quickly.

Mist, is what some music feels like. Cool and damp, roiling, feather-light touch.

I suppose this is a shift? If you can call it that – I’m not sure. A “shift” is generally a noticeable, nonpermanent bias towards an animal nature – can be voluntary, can be unexpected. I haven’t “shifted” like that in .. ages. More, this is an explosion – of me, of all that I am rising to the surface and begging expression all at once. When the water begins to boil and the steam rises and coils.

I have a thousand things that I want to write. Therianthropy. Spirituality. Gods. Self. Death…

There is something untouchably sacred about winter. The snow piled against the doors and windows, holing you in, and a warmth at the center of what is Home. A fireplace, or a steaming mug of cocoa, or candles and incense. A friendly voice in the ear, be it a familiar and well-loved movie, or pleasant music, or a person there or on the phone – or on the screen. Being enclosed by the wild world outside, and being able to step outside and touch it, feel the wind whip ice against your cheek, smile and wince simultaneously – but being able to retreat into a warm, safe, secluded haven. Time stops when the sun goes down beyond snowclouds, and the night is forever – and you have time to dig, nestle more securely into your own fur and skin, reach out and touch what is icy cold. Time to write, and dream – time to live.

Summer is different. Summer is boundless freedom and no cage that fits properly, no snow-banked doors and windows. Summer is plains and plains and plains and then more, open and brown-green-yellow, open and boundless, open and inviting. Time to hunt that which feeds, stalk it under the sweltering sun, then doze in the insufficient shade. Summer is the ability to move as much as you want and need, no chains, no ties – all physical exertion, sweat and shedding, thirst and heat. Pushing the body to the limits it was made to meet and exceed, and smile for the burn of exhaustion in aching muscles.

Spring is explosion, like tonight, winter-into-summer. Spring is green things and colorful things, uncoiling and slithering towards the sun with tiny leaves and even tinier buds. The rich, almost pungent scent of flowers and thawing sap and moist earth – scent of rain, icy then refreshingly cool, scent of the winds that still nip with winter’s fangs. Spring is life, is birth, is rebirth continual and endless – spring is reawakened curiosity and mobility, as snow melts and feeds the streams, as the animals emerge from their hidey-holes and look around with renewed wonder at the world unfurling around them. Tentative steps, remembering old dances and old trails, and joyful song.

Fall is death. The winding, slow, meandering death of a stream that dries out amongst the rocks – the withering death of a green leaf turning brown and cracked. Fall is the dark rain that falls as night lengthens but does not yet bring the white relief of snow – fall is the cold winds that drive the rain to rattle the roof and windowpanes. Fall spits the rain in the eyes, a warning to hole up and prepare for winter, making sodden all the fallen leaves and the mulch, darkening the rocks. Fall warns, and if you don’t listen, fall rips your throat out with the first snows and lets your blood be a decoration on the virgin whiteness. Fall warns, but if you listen, you watch from those windows as the rain sheets down and floods the world, soon to ice over.

Hm. Am calming a little – the words coming less readily. I eased the press against the dam, I suppose, and I’ll be content with that. I cannot afford to knock everything down and let the river rage – not yet, not when I have to deal with wood and metal, paperwork and legalese.

But soon, I’ll have Den, and will break the dam down.

That Pack Thing

That Pack Thing

By Paleo

I’d like to talk about pack-desire among canine therians. For the purposes of this essay, I will be using the term “canine” to mean the dogs only. I am not considering foxes in this writing as foxes are quite different from their larger cousins, and it is debatable as to whether the social structures they form could fairly be called a pack.

As an individual, I feel I have at least some authority when talking about packs as the vast majority of my life has been spent reading and researching animal behavior with a heavy focus on Order Carnivora and focusing even further on Family Canidea. I have worked with and cared for grey wolves, and among that work I did a three month study on inter- and intra-sex dominance/submission displays among a socialized, captive wolf pack consisting of seven individuals. I am more knowledgeable than most about these things, but I am far from claiming the title of expert.

As a therian, I feel I must admit I am only a good candidate for discussing this by virtue of being canine. However, according to scientific guesses and my own internal feelings, dire wolves were not as tightly pack-bound as the more familiar (not to mention extant) grey wolf. In truth, it is African wild dogs who have mastered the pack structure, followed closely by grey wolves. Even domestic dogs are better “teachers” of what pack-mind is.

Speaking of domestic dogs, my advice to non-canine therians who are curious about pack-mind is to befriend a dog or visit a dog park. Try to lift any biases you might have about dogs and attempt to see yourself and others through their eyes. A dog is an individual and still has personal boundaries, but the identity of a dog is intimately tied to those it considers its pack. A dog is able to operate alone as a Self, but place it in a group and it shines. Dogs prefer to operate as We, as Us. This is the basic lesson of pack-desire. Different species have differing pack behaviors, but it all comes down to forming a fluid, working We/Us mindset while still retaining a sense of Self.

While emotionally, the difference between wolf pack-desire and human troop/tribe-desire is crystal clear, it is hard to sort it out in logical language. I can certainly admit that when you look at the Animal Kingdom as a whole, wolves and humans are strikingly similar by virtue of being intelligent, social mammals with innate hierarchal structures and a bonding instinct. When one focuses solely on humans and wolves, though, the differences are striking.

Walking as a dire wolf among humans has been confusing and frustrating to say the least. Emotionally, I don’t understand why modern humans make things so goddamn complicated. On one hand, they spew their sociality all over the place, and on the other, they insist on being so damned closed and self-centered that they cut themselves off from forming any meaningful bonds.

I find myself constantly having to remind myself to mimic the “social” behaviors that humans try to foist on me. A pack is a closed structure, and beyond those few that I feel packish towards, I would prefer not to interact with any others. I often feel my ears pin back and my hackles rise when a stranger gets in my face and starts talking like we are friends. After puppyhood, wild canines are very slow to develop bonds with new individuals. I do my best to remain friendly with new folks, but it is rare for me to start considering someone a friend until after months of watching them and “getting a feel” for them. And even then, it is a small chance that I would consider them true friends. Pack-desire may lead me to greatly desire the company of others, but it certainly doesn’t lead me to rush out and search for companions. Such an attempt would only cause me great anxiety. I also think that many humans I face pick up on the fact that I am at least slightly suspicious of them and they take it as a huge insult. I don’t understand this. Why should I trust a stranger? Why should they trust me? Those that aren’t pack are more likely to be my competitors, rivals, and enemies. I will *not* drop my guards until I get a better feel for someone and those feelings tell me that the person isn’t a threat. I find all the pressures to be an open, friendly, cheerful human woman to be insulting and even insane. Stupid humans, take care of you and your own, and let me take care of me and my own in peace.

Also, those who seek to put me in a one-sided relationship and attempt to call that a “friendship” are going to find themselves dealing with one pissed off dire wolf who will seek to drive them away. As a pack animal, cooperation is *very* natural to me, but if that cooperation doesn’t go both ways, you are just weighing me down and aren’t my friend, much less my packmate.

As a pack animal, I do tend to view others in a sort of hierarchal way. I am deeply aware of who is stronger and who is weaker than me. Now it is a myth that all wolves are driven to be top dog. Some wolves do have a very strong alpha-drive that keeps them striving for the leader position. I’d imagine that a wolf-therian with such an alpha-drive would have an entirely different view of hierarchy. I myself have only a slight alpha-drive. I tend to think of myself as good beta material, and it shows in how I view my relationships towards others. I have no problems differing to stronger individuals and can be very much at peace with my role as follower or supporter. However, I can’t stand being made to follow a weaker individual. In that case, my tail shoots up, and I greatly desire to knock them from their position. Thus, most of the time, I am quite happy to lend support to my “alphas” and am known for being a great “right hand man”, using my strengths to help those in charge. Of course, I’m also known to be the first to start growling and yipping and demanding the overthrow of bad or weak leaders. My first instinct is to get the “pack” to do the overthrowing and to prop up the person I feel is the best leader. However, sometimes I *am* the best leader, and while I get little pleasure from leadership roles (it makes me feel like such a target), my instinct drives me to take the role at times.

It should be pointed out that in this time and place, “strength” and “weakness” is not limited to physical traits and raw cunning. My human-mind is quite capable of determining which strength a leader needs for different groups. Because of this, I take into consideration experience, knowledge, people-skills, and the like. If the group is best lead by a driven people person, then I can accept a leader highly skilled in that area even if s/he may be my “weaker” intellectually or otherwise. I often find myself viewing others as being stronger than me in some ways and weaker in other ways, and I am very fluid in how I deal with specific individuals, groups, and situations. It must be said that for me, “stronger” and “weaker” aren’t judgment calls. It is simply fact. It is only logical that the stronger lead as that leads to the greatest chances of group-success. I don’t think this makes me slavish. I am not an insect or a Borg. A tyrant wolf is often overthrown by the pack despite being the strongest, and the same thing is found among primates. Submitting to my betters is natural, but so is the drive to keep testing and watching for signs that *I* am the better. Some wolves can be quite antagonistic about it, but I prefer to save my snarls and snaps for the things I find most detrimental to myself and my pack. I am an easy-going yet very cunning and political beta-type.

Pack is close-knit and closed-off to outsiders. Pack is hierarchal and fluid. Yet I have yet to get to the meat of what Pack actually is. For me Pack is simply family, folks who band together and help each other survive. Pack isn’t always loving or gentle. Pack isn’t a feel-good club with artificial ranks and duties. Pack isn’t even a group of friends who gather for entertainment and then go back into their lives only thinking about their friends when they feel like some fun.

Because humans are also social animals, it is possible for me to ease some of that pack-desire by interacting with my dearest friends who I know are truly “there” for me and who know I am truly “there” for them. Alas, modern humanity has severely limited any chances of forming a true pack. Modern humanity has even limited any chances of forming a *tribe* which is as important to the human psyche as packs are to wolves. Would being in a human tribe totally eliminate my longing for a pack? I don’t think so, but it would certainly ease that longing. I feel that tribes are far more natural and sane than the stupid, highly ineffective, and artificial constructs we use today. I have no idea if it is the primitive human instincts or the dire wolf instincts that cause me to see things this way. Probably both.

Speaking of artificial human bullshit, I feel that it is a sad thing that modern humans are mostly only comfortable with physical contact when it is sexual. In fact, they seem to feel that *all* intimate touch has a sexual context. I often desire to rest my head on my friends’ shoulders or back, to rub my cheek against theirs, to rest my hand (paw) on their leg. I wish we could all curl up near each other (or even with each other) and sleep peacefully. Canines are sensual, comfort-seeking beasts. Why can’t I give and receive physical comfort without being seen as weird or sexual? Why can’t I cuddle, rub against, or “pet” my friends without worrying that they think I want to fuck them? I’m afraid that even my most open-minded and tolerant of friends would be uncomfortable with this. Intellectually, I understand. Emotionally… it makes me whimper in confusion and sorrow. At least I have a mate who is very allowing and understanding of my wolfish affections. That helps somewhat.

As a last note, I think Kipling hit the Spirit of the Pack dead-on when he wrote, “The Strength of the Wolf is the Pack, and the Strength of the Pack is the Wolf”. Without a pack, I feel weak and incomplete. Sure, there are individuals I feel packish towards, but it really isn’t the same. Sure, I can form human bonds which add much to my life, but still my soul aches to run, to romp, to hunt, to howl as a member of this beautiful, natural, sometimes-peaceful, sometimes-savage entity called Pack.