I want to introduce you to my newest totem animal. Over the last few years, I have felt more and more drawn to wild animals. Not in a daredevil way. I have no plans to live with gorillas or sneak into zoos and set the tigers free. It’s a spiritual thing. I feel connected to something inside wild animals.
Most of you know I feel this way about owls. Meeting Homer the Barred Owl face to face a few summers ago literally changed me. Homer aimed me like a missile, sending me straight to a message God wanted me to receive. I read Wesley the Owl and saw myself in Wesley. I gained a more solid footing in who I am by studying what owls are, how they are, why they are that way. It’s hard to put this into words without posting an entire essay on the subject (which I have actually written and hope to publish one day). Suffice it to say, I love owls deeply.
Next came the polar bear. On the same trip to Cincinnati, I stood beside the polar bear’s enclosure and pressed my hand to the glass. As the beautiful animal swam past, only an inch separated my skin and her fur. It was surreal and stuck with me long after we left the zoo. Later that year, we took a family trip to the Memphis Zoo, and I was excited to see the polar bear. You see, as a kid, I often sat watching a polar bear swim at Riverbanks Zoo in SC, where I grew up. On my first return visit to that zoo, as an adult, I found the polar bear exhibit empty. No, it wasn’t just empty; it didn’t even exist. I circled and found no sign of my favorite childhood animal. I called my dad and had this conversation.
Me: Where is my polar bear?
Dad: Your what?
Me: My polar bear. I’m at the zoo, and there is no polar bear.
Dad: Oh, yeah, he died a while back.
Me: My polar bear DIED?!
Me: But, why didn’t they get a new one?
Dad: Well, sweetie, you can’t just run down the block to the polar bear store and pick up a new model.
So, I had a previous attachment to polar bears. I was excited to find one in Memphis, but then felt sad when I saw her. The Memphis polar bear was pregnant. They moved her to the black bear enclosure for the duration of her pregnancy. There were no icy pools to swim in, just rocks and grass. She looked out of place there, her coat yellowed and her head hanging low. I wanted to sit down and cry for her. I feel like that polar bear a lot, out of place, ripped from my own environment and shoved into some humid wasteland I don’t understand. I don’t think I’ll ever feel otherwise; not this side of the Jordan.
Chito and her sister ousted their mother from her position as Alpha Female in their pack. Then, because Chito is just awesome, she ousted the Alpha Male and took over as Alpha Wolf. This is my kind of woman, y’all. Actually, it’s funny that she was my favorite wolf. I usually root for the underdog (no pun intended). My husband laughed at the idea of me overtaking anyone and becoming Alpha in a pack. That’s just not my personality. But, something about Chito spoke to me. Maybe it is this: Her pack lives in an enclosure and under the ultimate authority of the amazing couple who own and care for her and her pack mates. Chito isn’t trying to rule the world and she didn’t take over because she is mean and didn’t like the previous Alpha. No, Chito did what was best for her pack. She saw the age and weakness of their current leadership and said, “Heck no, they are in no shape to lead the hunt and protect our family.” She saw a problem and, instead of whining about it or posting her political dissatisfaction on Facebook, Chito stepped up and fixed the problem.
She saw a need, and she met the need.
I brought home a photo magnet of Chito. She’s on my fridge now (a joking reminder that I’m the Alpha in this kitchen, thankyouverymuch). When I look at her, I am reminded that I need to do my part, even if it is hard, even if it is unpleasant. I don’t need my kids to like me, I need to protect them and feed them and teach them how to be responsible and self-disciplined. Ultimately, they are taken care of by God. Our whole family is his, and he has never let us down before. But that doesn’t give me the right to sit on my tail and ignore what’s going on around me.
Thanks, Chito. I owe you one.
(((((Go HERE to meet the wolves I met yesterday. Buy some goodies to help pay for their food and well-being. You can’t save all the wolves, but you can help care for these seven)))))