Who is Chuck and why does he like to travel?

I was born to be a writer and when I wrote my novel Wild Point Island, Chuck, my orange and white recently rescued feral tabby, got it in his head that he wanted to travel to the island and see the place for himself. Well, of course, Wild Point Island, can only be seen by revenants (you'll have to read the book to find out who they are) and Chuck is no revenant so instead, I concocted a plan to take Chuck with me when I travel around the world, which I do frequently. Not an easy task. First, I have to deflate the poor kid of all air, stuff him in my carry-on bag, remember to bring my portable pump, and when I arrive, I pump him back up. Ouch. But he's used to it by now and given the choice to either stay home in his comfy cat bed or get deflated, he pulls out his passport, ready to travel, every time.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Chuck Howls in the New Year with the Wolves





I guess I will never learn.

Years ago, and I mean years ago, Bob and I visited Yellowstone National Park, and I heard wolves howl for the first time. It was a magical moment that I would never forget. I couldn’t see them, only hear them.

Years later, back in my home state of New Jersey, I heard of a place and of a man, a photographer, to be exact, who had bought some land, fenced it in, and built himself a wolf preserve in Columbia, NJ. You see he had been to Yellowstone, too, and wanted to build a home for some wolves back on the east coast.

He called this place the Lakota Wolf Preserve.

This year I thought what better way to welcome in the New Year than to howl it in with a bunch of wolves . . .

Well, the Chuckster thought so, too.

It’s cold up there . . . in the mountains . . . when the wind blows. So cold in fact, that sometimes your battery in your camera konks out. Your breath blows like smoke in front of your face, and the trail that you follow to where the wolves actually are . . . well, it is so icy, you have to walk it, not take the small “shuttle bus” that is provided for the visitor’s convenience.

Yeah, it’s an experience. But you get to see real wolves up close and personal. You get to hear them howl. There is nothing better than that. Your eyes tear up, and your heart quakes.

I wasn’t sure if Chuck was up to that kind of adventure. After all, these wolves live on a diet of dead road kill and eat approximately 30,000 lbs. of meat a year. When their jaws clamp shut, (they exert 1700 lbs. of pressure as compared to a dog’s 700 lbs.) it sounds a bit like a thunder clap rumbling in the sky. If Chuckie ever ended up in the middle of the preserve--with the wolves--he would become their next dinner. He couldn’t run fast enough or long enough to escape. Wolves can run at a pace of 35 mph for 12 miles and if they slow down to 12 mph, they can stay at it for 8 to 10 hours. The belly boy wouldn’t stand a chance.

Danger would lurk around us. Chuck knew that, and I knew that.

Unfortunately, I had talked about the wolves so often, my almost brave cat couldn’t resist the opportunity. He wanted to look a wolf in the eye--through the chain link fence, of course.

And, as you guessed it, none of this was allowed. At this wolf preserve, twenty five wolves roam an area which resembles their natural habitat. All of these wolves came to the preserve as pups and have grown up there. And although the owner can walk among them, he does so fully cognizant of the risk involved. What he doesn’t need is a cat on the other side of the wire fence stirring up the wolves.

The wolves are lured out of the woods with dog biscuits. The owner shakes the box and the wolves slowly emerge from behind the trees’ shadows.

So, yeah, by being there with the Chuckster I was breaking every kind of rule.

Chuck’s head peeked out of my backpack. He was mesmerized immediately. He wanted to see more. I moved closer to the fence. He craned his neck out farther. Luckily, I was standing in the back and the man in charge was busy talking about the social habits of the wolves and didn’t notice my ever curious Chuck, who stretched out his paw and was attempting to reach through the chain link fence and make contact with a wolf who eagerly was leaning against the fence, wanting to make contact (or was he thinking “meal” with or “of” my Chuckie.

There was no chance of that, but still, what was the kid thinking?

Finally, the moment came that I had been waiting for--setting the stage for the wolves to howl. It didn’t take much. We were instructed to cup our hands around our mouths and HOWL.

First, the man howled.

Then, we howled.

Then the man howled again, only louder.

We howled again, louder.

And this is where, some say, the miracle happened.

THE WOLVES BEGAN TO HOWL.

OMG.

I glanced over at Chuck. Now, he couldn’t howl with the wolves, but he certainly appreciated the moment. With one paw, he swiped at his eyes.

I nudged my ever faithful husband. “Look, the kid is getting all teary eyed.”

“Who wouldn’t?” Bob said. And then he sniffled.

My two boys were losing it.

“It’s okay, Chuckie. It’s a magical thing to hear.”

What a way to bring in the New Year!!!

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