Encountering My First Wolf

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Mouth open, fingers clenching the cloth of my jean dress, I stare directly into the gold, vacant eyes of a predator.

She has long forelegs that look inappropriately skinny next to the outrageously dense coat covering her body. My eyes trail down to the thick grommets holding together a leather muzzle keeping her teeth in check.

I am face-to-face with my first wolf client.

“What can I do to help you both today?” I ask her trainer in a voice that sounds far braver than I feel. Flustered, I consult her record for a name.

“What can I do for Ripper today?” I sit on the stool which I usually leave vacant, as my courage suddenly deserts me.

My mind obsesses on the question: what if those grommets give way?

Her handler speaks for the first time. “I want you to take a tooth out of her nose.” He studies the floor of the office for a moment. “It’s another wolf’s tooth, of course.”

“Of course,” I reply, as though that were the most natural course of events in the world. Wolves always come into the office to have another wolf’s tooth extracted from their noses.

“James,” I say, studying the record again and stalling a bit before my next comment. “Can I call you Jim?”

He nods.

I say, “I cannot remove that tooth without heavy sedation.”

He arises out of his chair, turning his back to me. His hand is against his forehead, as though forcing the signals in his brain to provide an answer.

He whirls and looks straight at me, confused brown eyes full of emotion.

“No. You’ve got to think of another way to do it,” he says.

To read more about how the tooth was extracted, read the chapter in "In the Company of Dogs" entitled Wolf!