I asked what wild animal my readers would most like to bond with. ‘A wolf’ was by far the most popular answer.
Dreaming the Bear, my latest book for 10+ readers (due out in February with Oxford University Press), is set in Yellowstone National Park. That’s where this photograph was taken and where, 20 years ago, wolves were re-introduced to live in the 5 million acres of wilderness. My lead character, Darcy, thinks about the wolves as she snowshoes through the thick pine forests.
30,000 years ago, some brave and friendly wolves got close to people and became dogs. When settlers walked from Asia to America on the icy land bridge 20,000 years ago, their dogs came with them. In dogs, the wolf and the human meet…but that’s not the only way we meet wolves.
We also meet them in our imagination. Because we know dogs so well, we can imagine wolves. If you learn about wolves and read about them, you can imagine them even better. And this imagining can take the wolf inside you, become part of what you are, or at least how you think of yourself
When I was about the age of my readers, I visited a zoo with a new enclosure, designed to make big cats very comfortable and happy. I leaned against a large pane of glass, looking for the black panther (in Jungle Book, Bagheera was my favourite character). My hand was on the glass as I pushed my face close, peering in. And then, in a moment, the panther was there. He leaned against the glass, too, putting his paw exactly opposite my hand on the glass. I could feel the heat of it, and see the challenge and curiosity in his big, golden eyes. That panther became part of me, or at least what I thought of myself. And I carried him with me.
Just like Darcy carries her bear…
A plan to reintroduce wolves to Scotland: http://www.countryfile.com/countryside/plans-reintroduce-wolves-alladale-scotland
About wolf domestication: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/may/21/dogs-may-have-lived-with-humans-30000-years
About how wolves first lived with humans: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/03/130302-dog-domestic-evolution-science-wolf-wolves-human/
A video about how wolves have helped Yellowstone: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140128-how-wolves-saved-a-famous-park