I don’t have preferences. Life fascinates me, and I’ve been a student of life, as long as I remember. I have no favorite animal, as such. I have enjoyed equally the many days (and nights) I’ve spent studying dogs, horses, cats, ducks, bees, sea-horses, and wolves. All have taught me valuable lessons that I carry with me, within me.
I was only a boy, by then. It was a late-summer afternoon, and I had been exploring the forest and the mountain all day, like I always did, curious about all life forms, big and small. The creek behind the pines was not that large that time of the year, but its water, slowly running down the slope was crystal clear and deliciously cold. After filling my canteen, I raised my eyes, and there he was, just across me on the opposite bank. He looked at me, drank some water, then looked up again. I did the same. I didn’t feel any fear, though I should have, for they—the adults—told scary stories about this bloodthirsty and merciless beast.
I listened to my friend the wolf’s stories, stories I carry with me, within me, and made me what I am. (Photo by Monty Sloan from Wolf Park in Battle Ground, Indiana, USA.)
He looked at me with his deep eyes, and for a time we stood still, barely daring to breathe and break the magic—as if time had ended, and we were but memories of an era bygone. We looked at one another for a moment scarcely, one which remains imprinted on my mind, one that made me what I am. I don’t know what my eyes told him, though his glance told me a story of freedom and eternity, togetherness and solitude. I went home with my secret; and a strange, warm feeling like when one made a new friend, I reckoned, for I didn’t know, by then, how it felt to be in love. I never told my parents, my grandparents, or anyone. I knew he was in danger, and you don’t betray a friend, do you?
A few days later, maybe more, there was some commotion in the village. My grand-daddy and I went down to find out about the uproar. On the old market square, laying there on the ground, dirty and bloody—there, he was.
A farmer had shot him. His eyes were open and serene. They had lost the spark I guess is the gift of life, but they spoke to me, nonetheless. I held back the tears I felt were building up. Big boys don’t cry, and my friend the wolf didn’t cry, so I wouldn’t either. My grand-daddy grabbed my hand and led me away while I listened to my friend the wolf’s stories, stories I carry with me, within me, and made me what I am.
Photo by Monty Sloan. Artwork by Anton Antonsen.
Learn more in our course Ethology. Ethology studies the behavior of animals in their natural environment. It is fundamental knowledge for the dedicated student of animal behavior as well as for any competent animal trainer. Roger Abrantes wrote the textbook included in the online course as a beautiful flip page book. Learn ethology from a leading ethologist.