I thought it time I updated you on Ness, my wolf dog’s, progress. After Jilly’s death she was slightly at a loss and began to return to her wilder roots. Jilly, as you probably gathered, was, after me, top bitch in the pack and my right hand man in all things farm; she made sure that the other dogs knew, without doubt, she came first. Ness respected this and tagged along watching Jill with eagle eye – strong pack members gave her the security she needed to feel comfortable and more at ease.
Gradually, though, over the months she adapted to the new situation. She is bright and acutely sensitive. Quick to learn she now understands that a lot of her instinctual behaviour is not acceptable and tries her hardest to keep it under control – sometimes with heartbreaking effort.
All regular friends and visitors to the farm have a strict Ness code they’ve had to adhere to. They must not look her in the eyes; they must ignore her; and they mustn’t touch her (she will not tolerate being touched by anyone who is not part of the family or pack). This along with firm and frequently repeated instructions has made her an almost socially accepted dog and if some parts of the code are occasionally overlooked by visitors she’s able, for a short while, to contain her natural instincts.
The other day we had a visitor. Having been inside chatting we were all going out for a walk around the farm. Ness was waiting for me at the back door (she’s taken over Jilly’s sleeping spot by my boots). Greg, our visitor, stepped out to put on his boots and noticed Ness’s happy expectant face. Mistakenly thinking it was directed at him he began to stroke her head…Ness froze, her eyes looking for mine beseechingly; I put up a warning finger and silently shook my head mouthing ‘No’. I held my breath. I could physically feel the tension she was under, but she kept control. As he finished and was moving away to talk to Robert I watched horrified as she opened her mouth wide and proceeded with hugely controlled deliberation to enclose it around his leg! So very gentle was it – thank god – he had no idea.
She won’t, unfortunately, ever be a working dog as it’s this part of her instinct I’ve had to curtail. But seeing her bound across field and moor with the grace of a deer and the speed of light I know, at heart, she will always be wild and free.