animal warfare

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Intensity

When I walk Jude around in public, I hear a lot of people say, “WOW! He’s so beautiful! I want a dog just like that!”

My usual response is, “No. You probably do not,” and explain kindly that Jude has high prey drive, severe separation anxiety, uninhibited mouthiness, resource guarding habits, and is a major escape artist. Most folks are thankful for the information and quickly change their minds about getting a pup like Jude after that. It’s too much effort. 

But occasionally, I’ll hear someone boldly exclaim, “That’s okay! I had a dog that chased rabbits and he could escape from a six-foot-tall chain link dog kennel in our yard!” 

It’s difficult to explain it unless you have lived it, but the truth about wolfdogs is that they are not a forgiving breed. There are certain bad behaviors that they are naturally predisposed to, either through lack of proper training and socialization, or because of genetics, and it’s not just “high prey drive, severe separation anxiety, uninhibited mouthiness, etc.” - it’s INTENSE high prey drive, severe separation anxiety, uninhibited mouthiness, etc.

My own pup has behavior problems that I believe stem just as much from his unfortunate upbringing in an inexperienced home as they do from his wolf heritage. His prey drive is the worst. Every time Jude locks on to prey, everything else in the world goes blank for him. I no longer exist. Cabal no longer exists. Food that he is already in the process of eating no longer exists. All that does is his deep instinctive drive to chase and kill whatever unfortunate animal it was that drew his attention.

Jude once tried to bail out of the back of a moving truck in pursuit of a full-grown cow elk. He once charged the fence at an escaped chicken even though he was already gorging on an alpaca carcass. He took off after a rat one time while I was holding his leash, and smacked me into the side of a cave wall. Another time, he did the same thing in pursuit of a squirrel and pulled the ligaments in my arm out of place, nearly dislocating it. But I held on, and regained control of Jude, even though it hurt like hell. It’s my responsibility as a owner to do so.

His prey drive issues go above and beyond wanting to chase something because it’s fun; it’s much more intense than that, and, worse still, it’s not something that can be “trained out of” him as it can be in many domestic breeds. My diligence as an owner has to be piqued at all times, and I must be constantly ready to act - even if it hurts. Most dog owners aren’t capable of, let alone willing, to do the same - especially if their motivation for wanting a particular breed rests in the exclamation of “It’s so beautiful!” 

On the same note, Jude’s separation anxiety is also much more intense than what one would typically see in a poorly-trained domestic dog. He has continually amazed us with his destructiveness, and his tenacity in drawing our attention to him when he is left alone. He has literally barked for hours on end, nonstop, with the same obnoxious rhythmic moniker as a metronome, ignoring food and water and other canine company, knowing full-well that it causes us to suffer. This animal literally wages psychological warfare.

I think his longest streak is about six hours of nonstop rhythmic barking. Once he ceased, I went and gave him praise, then left again; his next barking streak was only about two hours after that. I gave him praise once more when this, too, had ended. And by that time, he was tired enough to sleep through the night alone. His barking resumed in the morning.

I was glad that we were out camping at the time, far from neighbors’ ears. I was thankful that we’d chosen a spot next to a roaring river, so that the barking was, to at least some extent, hushed by the roaring water. 

Slowly, we have reduced the barking habits. He knows by now that barking when we are not around to hear him is futile, but if he is crated and can hear our voices in the next room, it’s game on to see who breaks first. A no-shock vibrating e-collar has been employed to help resolve this with great success (and it also comes in handy when Jude’s prey drive kicks in). Once he knows that he cannot get away with barking, he will focus his attention instead on chew toys or sleeping the time away until he’s reunited with me. So things are certainly improving, but it’s a constant effort that requires extreme diligence on my part. It will never be over. 

Sometimes, Jude turns to destructive behaviors to cope with the separation anxiety. That also used to be a lot worse than it is now. He would chew up anything and everything he could that smelled like me the instant I left him unattended in a room alone. I learned quickly to abandon the idea of, “He hasn’t torn anything apart for three days in a row now, so it will be okay if I leave him unattended next to a sweatshirt for five minutes while I go pee!” Now, it’s either, “Jude’s coming with me,” or “I have to make certain EVERYTHING chew-worthy is out of reach before leaving him in here,” with the former being my usual option, given that Jude has knocked over bookshelves and jumped onto counters in his search for destructibles. 

I’m aware that there are dogs out there who share similar behavior problems. Shentea (my non-wolfdog foster) once scaled the six-foot cattle panels in the yard, so I had to modify her enclosure to feature lean-ins - something I didn’t even need to do for Jude-pup. Similarly, an ex-boyfriend of mine had a St. Bernard/bully-breed mix who’d killed several cats because of his high prey drive. My sister’s Brittany Spaniel, Beckett, had a habit of chewing my sister’s clothes if he was left alone for too long. Simple problems, really, and all quite easily managed, but in discussion, one could say, “That dog is an escape artist, that one has high prey drive, and that one is destructive!” But it wouldn’t be the same as what Jude experiences.

Some domestic dogs will exhibit wolfdog-like behaviors, yes, and some may even exhibit a wolfdog-like intensity. We’ve had domestic dogs at the rescue before with behavior problems that match or exceed issues seen in real wolfdogs (We knew they weren’t wolfdogs, though, because they lacked biological and physical attributes in a phenotype). In most cases, with a lot of work and dedication, the problems these animals displayed were slowly worked out and they were eventually placed in responsible homes. 

Likewise, I know of one or two mid and even high-content wolfdogs who behave better than Jude in certain aspects, though these are professionally-trained ambassador animals and are very uncommon in the wolfdog world. Without a doubt, these animals are escape artists (that’s prettymuch breed standard) but do not, for example, have such high prey drive as Jude does. On the same note, Jude may be better about meeting new people than these higher-content animals are.


Jude’s problem behaviors are multi-faceted and numerous, and cannot be ultimately fixed; only avoided through extreme diligence, or managed through constant/consistent training. There have been moments wherein I’ve had to sit back and cool my jets, slowly and patiently reminding myself that Jude is what he is by no fault of his own. I have to make up for that fact by understanding that I need to change my life to suit his, and accept the fact that he will not change his life to suit mine. 

Likewise, other people need to understand that wolfdogs, even low-content ones, can be problematic animals, and that the intensity of their undesirable behaviors is not to be underestimated.


Day 219: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Pretty much everyone is LOSING THEIR MINDS over Guardians of the Galaxy and, if I’m totally honest, they have every right to be. Guardians is a radically freewheeling sci-fi romp through a larger universe than Marvel has ever shown us before. The adventures of Peter Quill and his ragtag band of frenemies are tremendously far out. Like… literally on the other side of the galaxy; which in many ways is this films greatest strength and it’s greatest weakness.

My first thought when I heard that James Gunn was hired to make a $170 million cornerstone Marvel movie was “Someone is getting fired.” Seriously. This is a man most famous for his PG Porn web-series, the PATENTLY INSANSE live action Scoobie Doo flicks, and of course the intentionally but brilliantly awful Troma movies. What. The. Hell. How does this guy get enough money to make a SANDWHICH let alone one of the most important movies in Marvel’s framework for phase two and three? But once I heard that this movie was going to be the Guardians of the Galaxy the absolute genius of the decision almost killed me.

You see Guardians, as a book, is essentially a love affair with pulp science fiction. It’s insane. You’ve got a retro-pop obsessed semi-human leading man born in the 1980’s, a green ninja cyborg chick with GALACTIC daddy issues, a meat mountain with an inability to understand figurative speech, a nine foot house plant of death, and a foul mouth, fast talking robo-racoon from queens. It almost sounds like a parody of a sci-fi comic book but I assure you it isn’t. What Guardians of the Galaxy IS though (and now I’m speaking of both the book and the movie) is a tribute to the shameless, crazy, silly, awesome sci-fi dramas of past generations. James Gunn is EXACTLY the person to make a movie like that because that’s EXACTLY the type of movie he STARTED OUT making back at Troma. Guardians of the Galaxy returns us to the days before every comic book movie needed to have some form of gritty realism. It’s much more spiritually akin to Evil Dead 2 than it is Dark Knight and that’s a very good thing.

I’ve been hearing a TON of arguments about whether this is the best Marvel movie of all time or if it’s still beaten out by Winter Soldier or the Avengers and there’s really no good answer to this. Well, with the possible exception of the response posted by my friend Brian Prince over at Imitation Royalty. He said, “I don’t know why people keep comparing Guardians and Winter Soldier. They are completely DIFFERENT movies with no possible comparison. That’s like me comparing chicken tenders to chocolate cake, they’re different things. I honestly don’t understand out ridiculous need to say we like something better and why we can’t just like two things.” And that’s exactly the right point. 

The galaxy (harr harr) that Guardians exists in is the most completely remote setting we’ve ever been given in a Marvel film to date. If you think about it all of the Avengers movies and standalones have occurred largely on earth. The movies are more inherently realistic and somber and therefor relatable because they happen in OUR cities on OUR planet. Guardians is completely foreign to us, jam-packed with orange and blue aliens, crazy hairstyles, weapons and cultures we’ve never seen. The production design is perfect and the characters are incredibly well built and presented but the entire universe here is just so cosmically strange and so little time is spent in background or character development for anyone but the main cast that at times it’s hard to relate and invest in the worlds and people that are in danger in the film because they are simply Varelse, just too alien. 

But the real key to any movie is to invest you in the main characters and make you feel, care, worry, and (g)root for them and this movie does that IN SPADES. The first five minutes of the movie basically pulls an UP on you and from that second on the perpetual youth and spirit that comes to define Peter Quill becomes both totally understandable and massively important to the character. Gamora and Drax are a little bit less accessible but that actually works for their characters. Zoe Saldana takes Gamora’s straightforward aggression and personal distance and spins it into a totally underappreciated straight-woman for the films more humorous characters. Dave Bautista has only acted in the professional wrestling sense but uses that amateurism and awkwardness to drive home a character that literally does cannot understand figurative speech or thought.

Rocket Raccoon feels like your typical trigger-happy New York bounty hunter until Bradley Cooper really lets it rip on a particular scene about how the names people are called affect them. After all, he never asked to be made. Groot (and by extension his relationship with Rocket) is the real surprise of the film. Vin Diesel and the screenwriting team manage to take just three words of dialogue from a massive tree person and make him one of the most loveable, impressive, and badass characters in Marvel history. Seriously, Groot is a total bro in the best possible way.

And then of course we have Star Lord, the (hopefully) infamous Peter Quill. Born on Earth to a human mother and mysterious alien father, raised in space by a band of galactic outlaws, and known to rock some sweet jams, he’s played pitch perfectly by Chris Pratt. Chris Pratt was made for this role, just as much as RDJ for Iron Man or Ryan Reynolds for Deadpool. Pratt carries the dramatic portions just as well as any of the comedic sections while being a constant reminder that at it’s heart Guardians is solidly a comedy movie.

There’s also FINALLY some serious plot exposition for just what this whole Marvel Cinematic Universe is about. The collector lays down some serious knowledge about the various Infinity Stones, their origins, and what the mysterious Thanos wants with them. For many people this will be the first time that the threads of the Tessaract, the Aether, and the other objects of power that have been seeded throughout the other Marvel movies will start to form a web of understanding whats really going on here. NOW people are starting to see what is really so exciting and ambitious about the MCU project! Woo!

Anyways, Guardians of the Galaxy is at once a radical departure from and a critical piece of the Marvel Universe we’ve seen so far. It’s a devilishly funny, brilliantly conceived, and absurdly well made film that hits so many perfect notes it might as well be a Mozart symphony. I can tell you right now and for certain it’s not a better movie than Avengers or the Winter Soldier. I can’t also tell you its not one bit worse. Guardians of the Galaxy is a masterpiece of adventurism in filmmaking, storytelling, comedy, action, art direction, animal warfare, and freaking BOTANY! It is as good as any movie I’ve ever seen and it is not one anyone should miss. So go right now and buy your tickets because if you don’t you run the risk of me buying up every single one.

-Andrew

Okay, so. I’ve officially decided that I have a stalker. Let me tell you, I’ve seen enough Criminal Minds to know when someone’s being stalked. I’m not talking about the paparazzi or anything, this is something different. First off, I was walking outside the other day to see my trash just tipped over and spread all over my yard and yes, — I know what you’re thinking, it could be a raccoon. But, there really aren’t any in my neighborhood.. let’s be real. Like, how in the blue sky would they get over a fence this high? I’m not a raccoon expert, so forgive me if I’m wrong, but I’m sure they don’t do anything besides.. look cute. I didn’t think much of it the first time until I walked outside the next day and boom, it happened again. I mean, it could be Sofia and her friends messing with me, but this is freaking me the hell out. I would honestly pay someone in six Skittles and a Milky Way to sleep on my couch, and possibly engage in animal warfare. Whoops, I’m Camila, and you just might save my life.