Sunday, January 6, 2008

A Word on Howling

In the world of wolves, howling has many purposes. It can be a way to keep the pack together, signaling the location of other members. It can signal boundaries from one pack to another, and can be a warning from an alpha male to another pack of his intent to guard his territory. It can be a lonesome howl of a lone wolf, or a jovial chorus of howls and barks, a gesture of unity throughout the pack.

The howling in a dog yard seems to have a lot of the same purposes. There is a welcoming howl first thing in the morning when mushers and care givers emerge to feed and spend time in the yard. There is a thank you howl, usually sometime after a feeding, or after chores are done for the day. When lights go out, many times all the dogs will howl, as if saying goodnight. There is a lonesome howl, where one dog begins howling long wailing notes strung out, mouth an “O” shape, neck elongated and head back. Invariably, a lonesome howl usually leads to a chorus of howling, a way to communicate the solidarity of the pack, to let the lonesome one know he is not alone.

Hearing the dogs in the yard howling always makes me smile. In this video, note the three dogs howling. Jughead, the white dog, starts it. Sunny and Libby both join in, as if to appease Jughead and reassure him of his pack. Jack, my Siberian, just barks like an idiot. He's young. :-)

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