Sunday, March 22, 2015

Michael Morse's "Mr. Wilson Makes it Home"

Michael Morse is a retired firefighter who received the Robert and Margaret MacColl Johnson Fellowship from the Rhode Island Foundation this past year. He is the author of Rescuing Providence and Responding as well as numerous essays. He is a monthly columnist on the websites Fire Engineering and EMS World. He resides in Warwick, Rhode Island.

Morse applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Mr. Wilson Makes It Home: How One Little Dog Brought Us Hope, Happiness, and Closure, and reported the following:
From page 99:
…Fred’s mission is to create one-acre pens in which to introduce wolf-dogs and let them form their own packs, and establish their own order within the pack. These dogs all came from people who had no use for them and who had abandoned them. A wolf pack is a strong family unit, with an alpha male and alpha female in charge. The rest of the wolves are members of the pack. If they are not accepted by the pack for whatever reason, the rest of the wolves ostracize the one that doesn’t fit until he slinks off and becomes a lone wolf or finds a different pack to be a part of. It’s a tough world, but it works, and wolves have survived some of the world’s harshest environments for thousands of years.

Zimba was the alpha male in our house, or at least he thought he was. I thought I was too, but it was really Cheryl. It made for a difficult hierarchy. When we arrived at the Wolf Refuge it was clear that it was neither Zimba, me, nor even Cheryl was the alpha anything. Fred was the head honcho, and that was that. We city folk, as he liked to call us, had brought poor Zimba to the hairdressers before his journey-Cheryl and Danielle’s idea, not mine-and he sure did look pretty when we arrived. No wolves were in sight, and nobody howled, but I could sense wildness in the air. Fred and his partner, Amy lived in a mobile home on the outskirts of his land and had all the necessities and a little more. It was comfortable.

We tied Zimba to a tree outside and went in, all six of us, and told Fred our story. He didn’t say much, listened well and made his decision quickly. He agreed to take Zimba and thought he knew the perfect pack to introduce him to. We went outside, and Fred approached Zimba, who rolled onto his back in the submissive pose, just like the books said he would, though this was something he never even considered doing at home. Fred looked at his teeth, felt the top of his head, and shook his own head when he smelled the lovely perfumed soap the groomer had used, but ultimately gave Zimba permission to stand, not by saying so, but…
I had no idea what I would find on Page 99. When I first read it I was disappointed, certain that it would fail the Page 99 test. Then I thought about the words, and the meaning behind them, and how in their own way they convey the sense of family, and order, love and trust that is the heart of the book. Page 99 details the inner workings of a wolf pack. It hints at the close resemblance to the pack that a house full of humans has taken on. Our home was no different than a pack of wolves, each of us finding our place in the unit, contributing our strengths and letting those with different strengths find their place.

Everybody can’t be in charge. It is okay to not be. But even in the most well-run packs, or homes, problems develop, and somebody has to go. Or come. Mr. Wilson came just at the right time, and his presence in our “pack” was just the ingredient that was missing.

Zimba was a wolf-dog. He was a great wolf, but a pretty bad dog. Our time at the Loki Clan Wolf Refuge taught us that even the most different kinds of people can find their place, and when proper pack order is in place, harmony at home need not be a distant dream, but a reality. Mr. Wilson is a dog. He is a great dog. All dogs are potentially great, the same as all humans. It is up to us humans to see just how great, and nurture that innate ability in all living beings to heal, teach, love and enhance each other’s lives.
Visit the Mr. Wilson Makes it Home blog.

Coffee with a Canine: Michael Morse & Mr. Wilson.

My Book, The Movie: Mr. Wilson Makes It Home.

--Marshal Zeringue