Billie and Jocko - August, 1994
by Billie Marie Zal
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My handsome black male wolf, "El Jocko," died after a very brief illness, as did his mother, KiYah. It was a tremendous sorrow because Jock was my "baby." When he and his sister, "Aka Eena," were born in l994 I had to raise them myself. KiYah was too weak and could not nurse but two cubs. So I took care of them in my home and they never realized they were wolves. Jock was the less aggressive one; Aka Eena is bold, always making sure that she is "first."
It is hard to realize that he is gone. He was only six years old, and I remember holding him in the curve of my right thumb and index finger as I nursed him on a special formula, wondering if he would ever be very big.
He grew into a giant of a fluffy ball of fur. At his death he weighed close to two hundred pounds, but he was never aware of his great strength. Every day he would come to me, his mother, and have me rub his back and scratch his ears. It was a routine that we both enjoyed.
I knew that if I sedated him, he might not make it. Wolves are wild animals and seldom respond in the right way to sedation of any kind. But he was in very great pain, limping badly on his right hind leg, and I knew he would go down--and then what?
I gave him the pills to get him sedated enough to take him in to the vet. Rodney and Brian with Shirley and Margaret helping, got him on to our dog stretcher and into Shirley's van. The vet examined him and he had completely torn up the ligaments in his knee. His knee cap was out of place. So we knew he would have to have an operation; he would go down and never get up.
I really didn't feel he would die; Rodney and I committed him into the Lord's keeping, and we were so thankful when--the next day--the vet said the surgery went well and we would have to come and get him; they wouldn't be able to handle him, his being wild.
But when I got there, I had a sense of concern about the fact that he had never really awakened. We brought him home, got him into his and Aka's pen, and I supposed that he'd be awake by morning.
But he never really woke up; Shirley and Margaret had checked on him at 7:30 a.m. and said he was ok. But when I went down at 9:30 a.m., he was gone. I felt as though I had been hit hard in the chest and for a moment I felt like I would pass out. But I do not permit myself this luxury of sorrow for long. Although my heart is still broken, I knew that Jocko would never hurt again. He would also always be here, in my heart. The love and devotion he gave to me those six years cannot die. And knowing this, I am comforted.
Rodney was equally sorrowful; Jocko had begun to take food from him, and accept him, and now he was gone. We chose a grave site for him, right next to his daddy, "Spook," and his Mama,
KiYah. His brother Greyfox is also buried there. And Rodney dug him a wonderful grave, deep enough for us to lay him to rest with no fear of predators bothering the burial place. We put him back into the earth, and as we covered him, I said my last goodbye.
I asked the others here--Shirley, Margaret, and Brian to stay a moment and I prayed a special prayer to my Father in Heaven. I told Him that I thanked Him for this wonderful gift--this wolf who was indeed my "baby," and I was glad that even for six short years he was an integral part of my life. And I gave him back to the very One who created him. Gail felt so sad that she had to be at work, but her heart was with us.
It's been over a week now since he left me; Aka Eena took one look at him and walked away after he died. I wanted her to know that he was gone, and she did. I am so proud of her, my beautiful little girl with the slanting eyes and big smile. She looked for him out of habit for a few days--when Rodney gave them raw hide treats over their fence out back, she always pushed Jocko out of the way and I had to make her let him have his treats, too. So once in awhile she turns and looks. But she had accepted the loss. I believe it is because she is so close to me.
I thought of getting a tiny wolf cub for her, but I really don't know if she would accept it or not. She seems happy and satisfied and of course Rodney and I have shown her special attention. Maybe I was remembering the long years that I was alone, and thought perhaps she felt that way, too. But perhaps wolves and humans don't have the same emotions, who knows? The day after he died, though, I was watching her out of my office window.
She was lying on her deck, up by our back patio and walk, and suddenly she lifted her head with her nose pointed straight up into the sky and began the longest, most mournful howls I have ever heard. I know the sound of all of the wolves, but this one was new.
Within seconds, the other three wolves joined her and I believe it was a last goodbye to their brother, Jocko. And who knows---maybe he heard this song---and was glad that they remembered him.
He will always and forever live in my heart. And I am so very thankful that for six years I had a baby wolf who never really grew up.
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Change of Heart
By Billie Marie Zal
It had been a hard day at the office. The boss had yelled at me and everything else had gone all wrong.
I started home, feeling sorry for myself.
It was ten above zero and my breath formed a foggy screen before me. Snow fell wet and sticky across my face. There wasn't a bus in sight.
Ten minutes crawled by, and still no bus.
My knees were stinging unbearably from the icy winds and when I had decided that I couldn't wait for another moment on that snow bound corner, the bus suddenly loomed up out of the swirling snow.
I waited my turn to board the bus. Men pushed and shoved ahead of me and I thought, "The South was never like this."
I must have said it aloud because I heard a gruff voice directly behind me snarl, "Well, girlie, go on back down south--there ain't nobody twistin' your arm to stay."
The driver called out, "Step to the rear of the bus, please."
"Are you kidding, Mister?" yelled a sarcastic passenger.
I thrust my fare toward the drive through a tangle of arms, and then I stood there with bodies packed tight around me, breath to breath.
Then a silence engulfed the bus load of miserable humanity.
I lurched backward and forward and didn't bother to say, "Excuse me," when I stepped on somebody's toes. I didn't even know whose toes they belonged to.
When I reached my stop, I disentangled myself and stepped out into the frigid, sharp air. I made a wild dash for the elevated train, hoping I'd made it on time.
I hadn't. And as I stood there on the high, freezing platform watching the lights on the last car I had just missed, I began counting the minutes.
"Five . . . ten . . . twelve. . ."
At last a train rumbled to a stop; the frosted doors slid open and as I stepped into the half warm interior, the conductor sang out, "Step to the rear of the car, please!"
I could barely move, but I found a strap to hang onto and began to meditate.
"Same old thing. Get up, go to work, come home, eat, go to bed.
"Life is just a horrible, miserable rat race.
"Why doesn't anything nice ever happen to me?"
My thoughts were interrupted by the conductor's nasal, "Hamlin Park, nexxxxxxxt stop!"
I was almost home nonw. Another day had gone by and I didn't have one thing to look forward to.
The two-flat apartment buildings looked dingy and neglected in the snow dimmed light of the street lamps.
The sky was grey and threatening with yet another blizzard in the weather forecast.
The snow would be dirty soon, covered with the grey filth of the city.
Then, out of the falling snow, a woman came toward me, pulling a darling little girl on a sled.
The child was scooping up fistfuls of the fluffy flackes. Her laughter rang out over the muffled sounds of the evening. I smiled to myself. What a beautiful sound!
"Kids are so lucky, I thought. "They don't have a thing to worry about--no wonder they can laugh like that."
By now, I was alongside the mother and child. I smiled at them; then I felt the woman touch my arm.
I stopped and glanced down at the little girl. Through the mist of the flakes two bright, happy eyes looked deeply into mine.
The woman was speaking while pulling a blanket away from the child's legs. A shiny brace was clamped about each foot.
"If you don't mind, Miss," the mother said to me, "Could you please help me get her into our house? It was such a beautiful snowstorm that we just couldn't stay inside."
The words wouldn't come but I quickly nodded my head and knelt beside the little girl while the mother spoke once more.
"Here, darling," she said, "Hold tight to mommy and the nice lady."
We managed to get her halfway to her feet, losing our balance in the slippery snow and the child tumbled awkwardly on to the sled.
While we got her to her feet again, the mother diverted her attention from the mishap. "Just see what the snbow has done while we were away, honey. It's made our old house into a fairy castle."
"Isn't it a beautiful night, Mommy?" exclaimed the child. This is the very most fun I ever had!"
The steel braces cut a jagged pattern into the smooth blanket of newly fallen snow. We got her into her home and I blew kisses to her as I left.
In a matter of seconds life was all new.
I looked upward as I continued walking toward home. Nature had used the sky as a soft, grey blackground for Her etching of the stark white flakes which took turns bumbling toward the earth.
I looked at the houses and in my mind's eye I could see them now as they had seemed to me as a child. The snow had turned a row of dirty, sooty houses into a magic fairyland. And now, indeed, they did look like castles with every cornice capped by a topping of sparkling white snow.
It was then that the realization came to me.
"It really IS a beautiful night.
"The houses ARE beautiful.
"LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL."
May I always see life, then, through the eyes of a child.
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