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Tuesday, December 29, 2009
We've had a shift in our dog yard this month.
For those who don't know, I breed Siberian Huskies, which are considered a primitive breed. By that, we mean that physically, the Siberian hasn't evolved far from it's early wild dog origins. The Siberian is similar in appearance and behavior to their wild cousins, the wolves. No, they are not wolves, there are some distinct differences. For example, a wolf would never, ever pull a dogsled. They are xenophobic, meaning they are afraid of that which is strange or different. But the Siberian Husky's social behavior is so similar to wolf packs, that I do use them as reference when I write shifter books. Belle Starr, Toxic, and LCE: Siberian Husky were all based on the behaviors and personalities of my dogs. (Someday I'll post photos of the dogs and run a contest on what dog influenced what character!)
On December 22, my 4 girls slipped out of the yard when a visiting handyman left the gate open. When Siberians get loose, their number 1 priority is to run fast, run hard, and wreak as much havoc as possible along the way. Thankfully, Missy and Pai Mei were located the next morning. They are retired show dogs and unafraid of friendly humans. The problem was with River and Poppy.
River and Poppy are from imported bloodlines. Their father is a well-known lead dog, he's run the Iditarod several times. Unlike my show dogs, these two are very shy and fearful of strangers, plus they can run like the wind. After 6 days, River found her way home. Now we're on day 11 with no sign of Poppy. Given the efforts we've made, it doesn't look good for her.
Like a wolf pack, our dogs have a clear social structure. Levi is my male alpha, and Missy is the female alpha. I have only two boys, so there isn't a lot of conflict there, but among the 4 girls, they square off all the time. Missy and her daughter Pai Mei stand against River and her sister Poppy. And it must be noted that Poppy was our omega girl, the very bottom dog.
You wouldn't think that the loss of an omega would impact things greatly, but since Poppy's been gone, River has gracefully submitted to Missy, and there is peace among the three girls. There is no more pre-dawn barking and the spontaneous group howling has stopped. Meal time is almost easy now. Levi is continually anxious, wandering around searching for the lost girl, and River is extremely needy. She wants to be in the house all the time. There have been other changes, some good and some bad. So far, a new omega hasn't emerged, but I imagine it will be River.
I suppose that the lesson I've taken from this is that the most insignificant-seeming member of society has a role to play. Poppy was the clown, the pleaser, and oddly enough, the instigator. I don't think she meant to keep things stirred up, but that's what she did. And while I appreciate the relative peace that's come with her absence, I do miss her. She is a bright little girl who has a heart of gold.
My love in writing is strong heroines, and in her way, Poppy is a strong personality. This gives me a new way of looking at my characters. Since I'm doing a lot of shape-shifter stories, I'll be looking closer at the lesser members of the pack, rather than just the alpha and betas. And in some way, River and Poppy will put their imprint on the characters...even if they do it by stepping on the keyboard when I'm writing...