My first foray into a wolf pack was courtesy of Jack London. His tales of Buck in The Call of the Wild, and White Fang himself in White Fang captivated me. My dad continued to remind me that wolves were not German Shepherds, as our family owned one lovely German Shepherd, aptly named Dickens. She was a dreamboat of a dog.
When I was eleven, Dickens and I went to obedience school every Tuesday night in Palo Alto, California. As we heeled around the ring, I pretended that at the end of that black leather leash was a wolf, a salivating and dominant beast, whose madness and insanity could be released at any moment by me—Alpha Girl.
At home, when no one was looking, I would curl her soft leathery black lips into a sneer and, like the ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, I would emit a deep alpha-like guttural growl. Only the hamster, Butch, seemed concerned.
The years tumbled by and before long, I was a young teacher of 21 years old, standing in front of my first English class, some members of whom, looked older than I. As I walked (slunk) to the front of the classroom (mouth of the cave), I introduced myself (growled) and announced that I, Mrs. Sabraw (White Fangette), would be their English teacher (Alpha Wolf) for the year. The bluff worked.
Now don’t misunderstand me.
I didn’t scrap for food or hit anyone. Being Alpha in a classroom, family, or prison yard is an art. I must admit, that for the next thirty years of teaching, most of my students thrived in my pack.
I wasn’t ready for Udo.
Udo is now deceased although his ashes sit like the Bust of Pallas in a cedar box on my library shelf wedged between Freud and Frankenstein. He was our family Rottweiler, and as my son Ben christened him, The Best Worst Dog we ever had.
I sobbed a bucket when he died on an operating table several Junes ago. Yes, he was quirky. Yes, he had issues (don’t we all?). Yes, he was a wannabe Alpha. Yes, I am glad I now have a Labrador retriever.
Like Udo, all of us need to know our limits. Constitutional scholars call this The Rule of Law.
Chaos in the classroom stifles learning.
Inconsistency in the household hatches manipulation.
It’s OK to be an Alpha.
Photo by Cheri Block Sabraw 2007 Northern California ” Udo’s Last Look” Note: I took this photo before Udo went down for surgery for a cancerous tumor. He died on the operating table. This was his last view of his property (and boy was he concerned about his property)