The fresh ocean breeze strutted jauntily down Main Street of this quaint Oregonian fishing village. If it wasn’t the most beautiful day of the young summer, it was certainly damn close. I was trying desperately to focus on the boundless beauty currently overwhelming the senses of this Midwestern boy and to NOT dwell on my imminent return to Chicago the very next day. I prefer seashores to suburbs; I’m funny that way.
As always, my wife’s agenda differed markedly from my own. Hers was to immediately head to the nearest tourist “boutique” (trap) and create as much havoc with her credit card as is humanly possible. My plan of attack was to locate the nearest Bar and Grill, though the possible absence of the “grill” side of the equation was not a “deal breaker” for me, even at this early hour of the day.
As the best of plans and the purest of intentions of both man and beast can easily go awry, thus did my own. Before furtively ducking into the aforementioned watering hole, I made one last casual glance toward the glistening beach and saw a scene that would forever change my life.
Wandering somewhat aimlessly down the cobblestone street was what I will loosely describe, in politically incorrect fashion, as a “typical” Oregonian hippie wanna-be.
Hell, had it been forty years prior, he might have actually qualified as a genuine, take-it-to-the bank, honest-to goodness, VW-van-driving classic hippie. But that era, along with all of its naïve Polly-Anna idealism, had long since disappeared from the face of the planet.
As he slowly meandered in my direction I could tell he was doing his best to market two of the cutest creatures I have ever seen, albeit to a very limited market. Truth be known, I am always a sucker for all animals, even the ugly ones. Thus, there was no other alternative than to dart into the bar and have one of many early-morning libations—lest I fall in love yet one more time. Upon exiting the aforementioned “comfort den,” in an obviously enhanced frame of mind, I encountered the worst of all possibilities in the universe—my wife.
As expected, her arms were now overflowing with all of the pure and absolute necessities of beach life: sacks of Chinese sea shells, numerous plastic coastal whales of various colors, sizes, and breeds, and the perfunctory beach post-cards. The fact that the last person who actually SENT a postcard in this country died in 1947 made little difference at this point on our dwindling vacation.
“Hey, did you see the stoner with a cute puppy in each hand,” she asked. “Ah, no,” I
lied, not wanting to become a card-carrying member of the stoner’s “target market.”
“Oh, you just HAVE to see them,” she gushed. “Well, we really don’t have time,” I said—grasping at a slight chance for vanishing logic and reasoning.
No luck, as she grabbed my arm with her bear-trap grip and pulled me at nearly the speed of light toward the young lad and his precious cargo. At this point I knew that nothing “good” could come out of this imminent encounter. I have never been more wrong in my life.
“They’re on sale, today only. Usually $50 each but today only $25,” he stuttered, even though we were barely within earshot. My wife, always searching for the proverbial bargain, instinctively grabbed for her wallet. “Slow down,” I gruffly cautioned, ignoring her customary “drop-dead” stare.
“Cuter pups you’ll never find.” The sales spiel had begun. I couldn’t actually disagree with him, mind you, but what kind of pups were they, I silently wondered? After all, we were in the untamed regions of Oregon. They could have been ANYTHING-- Sasquatch pups, for all I knew.
Truth be told, both pups, cradled comfortably in the hippy’s small hands, resembled lovable Arctic seal pups. You know, the kind that are mercilessly clubbed to death every year by the thousands to fulfill man’s insatiable appetite for cruelty and fur.
My wife had cleanly snatched one of the pups and was already busy bonding with said pup, displaying the world-class maternal instinct for which she is well-known. When the stoner and I saw the pup hurriedly bound a dozen steps toward my wife, jumping high into her outstretched arms, I knew our fate was sealed.
“Guess he found his momma,” the stoner slurred. I had no choice but to reluctantly agree. “But we’re flying back to Chicago tomorrow and there’s no way we can bring him.” My final stab at reason hit a dead end, as my wife was already on the phone with our airline. Within several frantic minutes all the arrangements were made.
“Only $75 extra to bring him,” she enthused, “and we can even stow him under our seat. All we have to do is buy an FAA-approved canine container and see a vet for a clean bill of health.”
“Oh well, that shouldn’t take any longer than 3 months,” I smirked. Even though it was now mid-afternoon, we had no idea where (or even if) we would find a place to spend the night, and our flight was at the crack of dawn, my attempt at sarcasm fell soundly on deaf ears.
Just $25 later the pup changed hands. My wife radiated a huge smile, positively beaming--having won not only the argument against all logic and common sense, but more importantly, maintaining her infallible reputation for having never, ever, passed up a true bargain in her entire life.
“What kind of dog is he,” I asked, as we started to walk away. I felt the question was not entirely out-of-line. “Dog?” He seemed surprised. “That’s no dog--you got yourself a healthy wolf pup!” My momentary relief at hearing that he was not indeed a Sasquatch pup was short-lived. As I glanced around at our unexpected, new-found bargain, his physical appearance did indeed seem to morph in a fraction of a second.
Gone was any semblance of the aforementioned innocent face of a pre-clubbed Arctic seal pup. His nose seemed to exponentially elongate by at least 10 inches. His eyes immediately narrowed on his face, their color turning from a cuddly puppy-brown color to a bright and emotionless alligator yellow.
Now, I admit I have always been a little “green” when it comes to buying wolf pups “on the fly,” but I was pretty certain that this type of purchase was non-refundable. My suspicions were confirmed when I looked around for our Oregonian “hipster” and noticed him running toward the beach, laughing hysterically, lone wolf still clutched in his hand—no doubt ecstatic that he now had enough “bread” for a new sack of “killer weed.”
The flight home was disappointingly uneventful. This came as no big surprise. After all, how much trouble can a twelve-pound tranquilized wolf pup in a zipped bag really cause—especially underneath an airline seat? Try it for yourself if you don’t believe me.
Oree, from OREgon, did not fail to live up to his initial impression as the world’s cutest puppy. He was raised by a brilliant maternal border collie with the assistance of a half-dozen assorted orphaned castaways. Better role models he could not have asked for. Still, he was never what one can really call a “dog,” in the traditional sense of the word. He mostly howled, and even his occasional bark resembled always a gravelly growl.
Dogs are, by nature, sociable spirits with a boundless desire to please people. Wolves—not so much. Oree grew from a precious, precocious cuddly fur ball into one of the handsomest adult wolves I have ever had the pleasure to meet. He was, for sure, the proverbial “lone wolf,” though he was attached like glue to his “wolf pack” and especially to me, the pack “leader.” For other people, or even dogs, he had zero use and even less interest.
Every day I looked forward to his gentle morning wolf kisses, which I faithfully received on my sleepy face as soon as I opened my eyes. As he got older he started to resemble his canine compatriots more and more. He mellowed, one might say—as we all do. Still, the focused yellow stare never left his closely-set eyes.
My gorgeous wolf passed away all too soon. A decade had flown by since that day I met my little struggling seal pup on a lazy morning along the Oregon coast. Bad days come to dogs just the same as they do to people. The vet told us the lumps on his lymph nodes were certainly incurable cancer. The chemotherapy bought him far too little time.
When Oree and I strode boldly into the sterile room from which he would not emerge, I swear that even the vet had tears in his eyes—the same vet who had performed a major surgery on him just a few years before. “He is still so handsome,” the vet murmured softly—momentarily abandoning the perfunctory impersonal detachment of a medical man.
I held out my arm toward the vet. “Give me that injection first. Oree can have a second one.”
But is he really gone? I still hear him endlessly howling every single time I come home and pull into the driveway, just as he unfailingly used to do.
I still feel those soft, loving, morning caresses on my unshaven face—just like the old days.
And I keenly look for those wolf-pup-carrying stoners, each and every day, randomly ambling along the rugged Oregon coastline--and I guess I probably always will.
View more articles in: Rainbow Bridge