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The Call Of The Wild

11 October 2010 No Comment

As a species we’ve been playing around with Mother Nature for countless generations. From time to time she reminds us of her presence with earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes or other so called ‘natural disasters’. In the face of these events we are pretty much powerless and mainly innocent bystanders caught up in her destructive power.

The Price We Pay

We’ve built our societies by harnessing the riches of the Earth. We’ve mined her minerals, stones and metals. Transformed fossils and the elements such as wind and water into energy. Captured and domesticated many types of plant and animals for both energy and food.

We’ve tamed the wild often unaware of the risks or accepting them as a small price to pay for the ease and growth they’ve allowed us.

Every year some people pay for our belief that, because we can, we have the right to use the Earth for our own benefit. The recent toxic spill in Hungary threatening to destroy part of the Danube, the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico or the 33 Chilean miners trapped deep underground in the mine where they were working are just the latest in a long list of tragedies.

They are consequences of human error and until we evolve into perfect creatures (i.e. never) these regular ‘human made disasters’ will continue.

The Wild At Home

Yesterday I had my own powerful reminder of the force of nature and our not-so-innocent role when she shows her teeth.

We have two golden retrievers, well known as being amongst the most family friendly of pets and ours are good examples of the breed. They’ve both been well trained and are playful, friendly and obedient. Athos, the male, has won prizes in obedience competitions and we became convinced neither would ever hurt someone, least of all someone in the family.

Last night Athos bit our baby daughter.

She’s only 7 months so not the most delicate with them and does sometimes poke and pull them and they patiently take it. No matter how much we trust them, though, we would never leave her alone with them.

Yesterday evening we were all together and she went over to him. As she got near him he growled, snapped at her and bit her hand.

Though it could have been far worse, her wrist was left bruised with 3 punctures.

I realise no matter how many generations of domestication, no matter how well treated, no matter how well trained, deep down he is still a wild animal. He is a hunter, a carnivore and with a jaw designed for biting.

It initially felt as though he had betrayed our trust. But it is us who have perverted the natural order of things by taking him in to our home for our amusement, entertainment and company. In one way it is us who have betrayed him.

Who’s To Blame

We were lucky.

While the shock was huge, the injuries were mild. She didn’t even seem to be emotionally traumatised as the first thing she wanted to do, once she’d recovered from the pain, was play with the dogs.

Other children are not so fortunate and stories of mauling and deaths by pet dogs are reasonably common.

Animals are not meant to be used. Our ancestors upset the natural ecology of the world and we played along with it and accepted it as ‘normal’. But keeping animals for pets is common but not ‘normal’.

Our ancestors did what they did with positive intentions. As do we when we take from the world.

I certainly don’t blame Athos. He was simply being a dog.

I don’t blame us. We maybe fell into the trap of treating Athos as something other than a dog but we always looked after him with care and love.

Actually I don’t look to apportion blame anywhere.

It is as it is.

What I do want to do is be more conscious of my relationship with Mother Nature and stop taking her for granted. I want to treat her with the respect she deserves.

The Wild Within

Surprisingly though, it was not Athos biting our baby that really shook me.

It was my own reaction.

I’m not proud of what I did but the moment I realised what was happening something snapped in me and I rushed over and hit him. Hard.

I was scared and angry and from that energy of fear and rage I lashed out.

As far as I can tell, with the benefit of hindsight, all my focus was on protecting Sara by getting him away from her. In the moment, I lost all conscious control over what I was doing and something else took over.

I believe we are not wantonly violent by nature. This is still my truth.

But I also believed I would never raise my hand to hurt another creature. I saw a side of me I’d not seen before. In the face of a threat I found the capacity to do whatever it takes to protect my family. Hidden in a dark recess I have a deep, deep connection to some primal instinct.

Until last night I had somehow considered myself to be above the wildness of the natural world. Evolved above the ‘mere’ creatures I share the Earth with. But last night all my own domestication and training disappeared for a split second and I came face to face with the wild animal inside me.

And, though I hate what I did and though it disturbs me to my core, it felt great.

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