The Pack that Howls Together
When we were kids, we often hung out with the kids who lived across the street. It was more a matter of proximity than shared interests, which pretty much boiled down to snowball fights in the winter and leaving bicycle skid marks up and down the block in the summer. Another favourite activity was to go behind Across-the-Street's garage and make the dog in the next yard howl.
The dog was a beagle, so this wasn't very difficult. "Howl, dog, howl, howl, howl, howl!" we'd yell and the dog would happily oblige. We called him Howl-Dog and he was always good for a few minutes of entertainment. I don't know if we were teasing the dog, I'd like to think that we weren't, that we were just encouraging him to sing.
I didn't think much about howling again until we had Kodiak and Caper, and I discovered that by howling, we could get the dogs to join in. I loved doing this. There was something primitive and wolf-ish about it, something deliciously and inexplicably feral. For those minutes that we were howling, we were a pack. It reminded me of the time we went to Brookfield Zoo's Mexican Wolf exhibit.
One wolf sat atop a pile of heated rocks. As the sun began to set, the wolf started to howl, a plaintive directive that was slowly matched by similar cries coming from different directions. The sounds converged as the pack assembled on the rocks. It was magical.
Toby is not a howler. We've tried a few times, but he looks at us like we're crazy. Once, when he and I were alone, I tried to see how long I would have to howl before he would get the idea. My throat gave out before a single sound had issued from him.
Shortly after I arrived in Cleveland last week, Middle Brother told me he had a picture that he'd wanted to send me, but didn't know if it would upset me. I asked why and he said because Kodiak was in it. I love seeing pictures of Kodiak, especially if I'm in them. The memories are enjoyable now, a comfort, a reminder of a good friend.
Middle Brother tappity-tapped-tapped on his laptop and produced a picture of Kodiak, the Kid, and I. We're all bunched up together on Kodiak's dog bed and the camera has captured all of us mid-howl. I remember doing it, remember how amused The Kid was that we could all sing together like that.
It's not as weird being here without Kodiak as I thought it would be, probably because I lived in this house for many years before he did, so he's not a central force to all my Cleveland memories. (It would probably be much weirder and difficult to go back to Wheaton.) But there are still little reminders of his absence - the fact that you can open the side door without trigging a volley of deep-throated guard dog barking or the fact that you can leave food unattended. Saddest of all, to me at least, is the fact that if I start howling, no one will join me.