Man's best friend

Evelien Graat (intern)


If you read the entries of this diary, you will notice that many of them are about the lives of our wolves. But today, I would like to talk about some of the other animals here at the WSC. The unsung heroes, if you will: the dogs. Like the wolves, the dogs at the WSC live in packs and take part in all kinds of scientific tests. But while the wolves can be somewhat indifferent to the presence of humans, unless they believe those humans brought food, the dogs welcome every human with ecstatic tail wagging and enthusiastic barking. Lately, I have even gotten a few howls of joy (love you too, Panya).

There are four dog packs at the WSC, one of which is Layla’s pack. With her are her daughter Panya, her son Enzi, and the only unrelated member of the pack, Zuri. Looking at the appearance of the mother and her children, you wouldn’t immediately say that they are related, but their behaviour will soon convince you. They all seem to share a love for digging deep holes in the ground (lots of fun when you accidentally step in one during enclosure cleaning) and chewing sticks. When no suitable sticks are available, you will often find them working together to dismantle a poor young tree and relieve it of all its branches (and most of the trunk, to be honest). Even Zuri, who usually doesn’t care for all the craziness, likes to join in this fun family activity now and then.

Another WSC dog is Layla’s sister Bora, who shares a pack with Asali. The two sisters are quite alike in behaviour as well as appearance. They share their love for digging and sticks, and have the same annoyingly high bark. Luckily, Bora always shuts herself up after a minute or so by putting a big stick or a stone in her mouth, and then walks around with it as if she has found the greatest price. The little Bora and the much bigger Asali get along really well. They spend most of their time sleeping next to each other in their little doghouse, but as soon as they detect any human presence, they will jump on top of it and greet any visitor with unparalleled exuberance.

Then of course there is Meru's pack, which also includes brother and sister Hiari and Imara. These last two have a more difficult relationship than Layla’s family. Hiari is often the odd one out in this group. While Meru and Imara can often be seen running and barking along the fence together, possibly in an attempt to intimidate both seen and unseen enemies, Hiari is much calmer and often sits on his own. Sometimes, Imara can be a little mean to him, but I have also seen them being very cute while sleeping next to each other. Family is complicated, I guess.

And finally, there is Gombo and Haida. These two have very different personalities. Haida is our oldest dog, but at heart she is still a puppy, and she loves to play. Sadly for her, Gombo can be a bit of a grumpy pants and often ignores her attempts to play with him. Although Gombo is much younger than her, he seems to have an old soul and the spirit of an old man. But he loves her really. I once saw him being left behind while Haida was taken on a walk, and he whined softly until she came back.

So that brings me the end of this profile on our dogs. Next time you are at the WSC, don’t forget to bring them a visit!