The Mendenhall Requiem

  1. Requiem: noun, (re-qui-em) A dirge, lament, elegy

  2. Elegy: noun, (el-e-gy) a song or poem expressing sorrow or lamentation for one who is dead.

  3. Paean: noun, (pae-an) A work, song or poem that praises or honors its subject, a tribute.

  4. Threnody: noun, (thren-o-dy)A song or hymn of mourning composed or performed as a memorial to a dead person

I was perusing some articles on Yahoo recently when an article caught my eye. It was about a wild wolf that had somewhat adopted the town of Juneau, Alaska. This wild creature began openly approaching humans and their dogs with no hint of malice. Was the wolf just curious or was it lonely or possibly mentally inept? It was certainly odd for a full grown Alaskan wolf to seek the company of man. This animal was by no means a house pet or even vaguely tamed in any manner.

Upon doing some research I found out that the Alaskan Wildlife Department had culled the Mendenhall Wolf Pack. There had been about a dozen of which they destroyed ten leaving two breeders to sire a new pack. Romeo was the male but his mate was killed crossing a highway. This left Romeo alone and alludes to his strange behavior.

The wolf was named Romeo by the man he first approached (actually his wife named him) and created a rapport with. The wolf and man were both timid and cautious at first but soon a relationship developed into something unique and beautiful. The wolf would actually play with the domestic dogs and the wolf even took up the game of fetch. Please understand that you could not pet this wolf or even get too close. If you got too close he would simply slip off. The wolf was more interested in the domesticated dogs than the humans.

The wolf was full grown when he began this odd behavior and lived to the approximate age of seven. As you can see from my photos he was a magnificent creature and twice the size of the domestic dogs he played with.

I am curious as to what attracted or enticed him to associate with humans other than their pet dogs. It is my thought that the wolf was simply lonely because he had lost his mate. As is often the case with wolves, they will mate for life. His only other recourse would have been to entice a female from an established pack and incur the wrath of that pack’s alpha male.

The wolf became popular and people started visiting the Mendenhal Lake and Glacier area to let their dogs interact with this wolf. I am almost positive he was fed tidbits thrown by ignorant humans. Feed an adorable raccoon and soon he will be in your house eating your dog food. Make a pet of an orphaned squirrel and he will eventually be a meal for a housecat. We all know this or we should and it probably led to Romeo’s demise.

I purchased the book” A Wolf Named Romeo” by Nick Jans. It is nicely written and informative. I will say that with each chapter I read I was saddened because I knew Romeo’s familiarity with mankind would eventually lead to his demise. It became a carnival with people taking every type of dog and hoping for an interaction with the wolf and a possible photo opportunity. If Romeo had lived longer they would have probably had bus tours with Japanese tourist.

Why am I writing an article about this wolf? Actually this is my second article concerning wolves. It’s because I feel a kinship with them and always have. I identify with them somehow. I am not a Native American so I don’t belong to any wolf clan or cult. My roots go back to Gaelic, Norse and Celtic origins, but like some cultures I see the wolf as strong and noble representing strength, cunning and courage.

I will note that everyone doesn’t share my affinity for wolves. I understand if you have livestock, to you a wolf is a menace. I used to be a hunter and at one time I wouldn’t have minded having a wolf pelt as a trophy. I realize that indigenous people see them as something to be harvested. I think hunters and sportsmen view them unfairly and think of them as a detriment to their moose, deer and caribou herds but this has been disproven, they are a balance and needed in nature. Starvation and disease are the primary culprits in herd populations.

None of the above had anything to do with Romeo. This wolf ate snow hares and porcupines and small game as was evidenced in his scat though he may have eaten one unlucky beagle. This wolf was researched thoroughly but you can’t change people’s minds and a lot of people just saw a scary black wolf that was a threat to their children. A large wild thing just isn’t allowed to coexist with mankind, espeacially a wolf!

I will attempt to write some prose about this wolf as a tribute of my esteem. As always, these are my thoughts and it may take a weeks or months to publish something I’m satisfied with.

O For Shame Romeo! Why art thou so named?

Art thou a lover of Montague and Capulet fame?

It’s such a riotous name for one such as thee

Why not White Fang, of Jack London’s reverie

Thou art a solitary creature, standing alone

A holy icon representing an unpeopled world

Thou art Lupus, Fenrir, of mythical acclaim

Anciently holy and as formidable as Beowulf’s bane

Yellow eyes bespeak a Grendel’s fierceness

Thy fur is shadowy, backlighted by a whiteness

Amidst the snow laden palisades of the tundra

Thy silent footfalls solitary now, thy mate asunder

Thy howls reverberate longingly in icy air

Thou meddle inured by the north’s frozen fare

Freed from the dwarves dreadful Gleipnir

Thou art loosed from this world and mankind’s fear

To some you are a denizen, not easily ignored

To some you are adored and to others abhorred

Thou did not eat Red Riding Hood nor the Three Pigs

But thou art a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a dark effigy!

Thou art a predator that treads thru arctic heather

Amongst the lilac lupines and abides winter's weather

Peering from the spruce forest with piercing eyes

Sinister to some but aloof and regal in my eyes

Methinks thou didst betray thyself to seek mankind

Thou broke thy sacred vow by seeking gentler canines

Mankind murders with such obscene disrespect,

Mankind is the meanest and vilest of all created things

I rejoice! I celebrate with heartsease thy memory

The Thane King has bestowed upon thee thy imagery

Thou art the Wolf Star Sirius, the North Star.

That walks the Wolf Road of the Milky Way from afar

In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts bring sad thoughts to mind.

Your fire is dead, I regret your pain, yet you are dead and I remain.

But a part of me has also died with thee.

“Of thy wild eyes, Oh! Yet a little while may I behold in thee what I was once” Fragment by William Wordsworth