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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pack Dynamics


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...

13 comments:

Cherise Sinclair said...

My heart breaks for your missing Poppy. I'm praying she returns safe and full of tales of her adventures.

Cherise

Belinda McBride said...

Thanks Cherise, we certainly haven't given up hope!

Lena Austin said...

I won't give up hope for Poppy, but you're right Belinda. Perhaps we should reconsider always writing about the Alphas.

Suzanne Rock said...

Thanks Belinda. I'm so sorry about Poppy. I hope that she'll return to you safely.

Thanks for sharing your story. I think you're right in that stories tend to focus at the top of the pack - the alphas and sometimes betas. A story shifting focus to the bottom would definately be interesting...

Paris said...

I'm so sorry to hear about Poppy. I'm hoping Poppy is just having an adventure of her own and will return. She sounds like the stuff fascinating heroines are made of.

Jeanne Barrack said...

Oh, man Belinda, I am so sorry for your missing Poppy.
The only thing I can do is relate what happened to our breeder almost 25 years ago.
Tibetan Terriers also love to rove. Gavin was always getting into trouble. Somehow he got out of the kennel and for almost a month, they had no sightings.
They lived in a rural area of VA.
Finally, after giving up hope, who comes trotting up to the front door, matted to the bone, filthy and coat filled with thorns, twigs, etc. but Gavin!
So, I'm with you in not giving up hope.

Cynnara Tregarth said...

*hugs* I'll pray for Poppy to come home or to at least be found by a loving family and no harm comes to her.

You're right that changes do impact how people interact just as it does among the hierarchy of dogs. Hopefully things will settle down overall and be okay. *hugs*

Belinda McBride said...

Well, I've been up in the hills looking. Not a sign of Poppy, but several people up there swear that they've seen her. So tomorrow I'll go back with one of the other dogs and hopefully lure her out from hiding.

Fingers crossed!

Pat said...

I'm sure the others are missing her too.
The may have been a blended family, but
they were a family. Good luck tomorrow in your continued search. Will pray for Poppy.
Hugs.

Karin Shah said...

At least she's a husky and can handle cold weather. A friend of mine had a basenji lost in upstate NY for eight days over Christmas and New Years several years ago. He made it home, so I am praying for your girl.

Karin Shah
STARJACKED
In print now!
An undercover agent, a beautiful space pirate, with the fate of the galaxy at risk, love may not be enough...

Eliza Gayle said...

I loved reading your post. While I pray you find Poppy the post made me think of my own lone husky. Poor guy always seems like he needs more dogs but instead we serve as his pack and while he gives us girls a hard time by stealing our stuff, the moment DH comes in it's instantly clear who the alpha is. Mine often drives me a little bit crazy but his quirks provide a lot of entertainment.

Eliza

Bella said...

Belinda, I hope Poppy comes home safe and sound to you soon. Sending good thoughts your way.

Thanks for the interesting post.

Belinda McBride said...

Thank you for your kind words! Lots of people started calling over the past few days, saying that they were seeing her up in the mountains behind our place. Yesterday we got a call, we ran right up to where the caller had seen her, and after some calling and coaxing, Poppy finally spotted our car and jumped in...cold, wet and skinny, but otherwise healthy.

So River came home on Christmas, Poppy came home on New Year! LOL!