We have a wolf. Not that we own a wolf, but that we have one in the broader sense such as when one has a storm coming in, or a street they live on. The wolf is not our possession, but maybe we are his, as he possesses our little neck of the woods and is one by one, taking possession of our pets.
It’s something of long use in lore: The wolf gobbling up a grandma, the human wolf Lev in Remember, the lurking lupus scanning for his supper from the edge of the forest in Peter and the Wolf. There’s even a modern-day mythology that flips wolf folklore from foe to a noble woodland creature.
I never thought much about that mythology, although on summer nights, standing out under the stars, wolf howls echoing off Precambrian rocks and lakes somewhere west of us, I was aware of their presence, but always they seemed far away. And so, I still went out at night, first sliding my flashlight’s tunnel over the edge of the forest checking for bears, never thinking to look for a canine profile etched against the velvet black.
And then they came within our sights. First, in Alberta, a wolf on a highway, running the gravel shoulder at top speed, eyes, nose and ears pointed somewhere behind us as he swept within feet of our car. He looked like something out of the movies; thick silver and steel coat, bright eyes, long sure legs. Then, Yellowstone, a mile from the road, spied through the telescope lenses, a wolf lying down to his caribou kill wearing the same look of pleasure as a dog licking peanut butter from our fingers, a wildlife photographer telling us this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but it repeated, and only two days later, in Ontario, as we slowed past a wolf 15 feet off the highway, 30 minutes drive from our place, gnawing on a young moose, tail tucked tight between his legs as I filmed him.
Provinces shrunk to districts and then to neighbourhoods, when a friend sent a photo of a wolf outside their house, staring nose to nose with their dog, only a sheet of glass between them.
And then the wolf pack of nine that loped not a half-mile from my door, at my neighbour’s lot while he was shingling his garage, fortuitously out of reach while his small grey and white dog barked from inside the cab of his truck. The same wolf pack seen coursing over our frozen lake in the winter.
Still, they had not paused to look at us; they had not stopped and stared, not yet.