Dice (South American Pygmy Wolf)
Dice is the lead guard dog of the office, which often times has five or more additional pooches calmly guarding the premises. Yes, sometimes there are more dogs at the office than people, but hey, this is Montana – everyone brings their dogs to work! Breeds range from a pug to a cerulean/border collie mix to black labs. But at the top of the heap is this little guy affectionately known as Dice. He may look a bit docile but his easy-going demeanor belies the fact genetically he’s a South American Pygmy Wolf. What? What the heck is a South American pygmy wolf? You wouldn’t be the first to ask and my answer to this puzzling question is always the same.
It all began on a hot, humid evening, deep in the jungles of Costa Rica. The moon was full, its brilliant light penetrating the forest canopy with muted beams and dancing shadows. My headlamp was on high as I scanned the forest floor searching for the elusive chocolate mint, poison arrow, dart-throwing frog. When I first heard the whimper my gut reaction was my godson Colter had found the frogs in mass. I whirled on my heels, doing a 180 to see the attack for myself. I was certain he would be standing there, on the dimly illuminated trail, miniature darts the size of toothpicks protruding from his legs. But alas, his legs extending from his short pants were bare and unbarbed. “Whew,” I said. “Did you hear that noise? I thought it was you.” His reply shot out, “Look, it’s a Pygmy Wolf” as he pointed to a pile of forest duff, 30 feet out at the edge of the light from his magical lantern.
There on the forest floor, next to a hole only six inches in diameter sat a tiny, black and white creature that resembled a puppy and more specifically a long-haired chihuahua. He was very curious and showed intense bravery by boldly dashing forward with a friendly body posture. His intent was obviously not aggressive and I bent down to give him a rub on the head. My lantern showed eyes like liquid ink. A bushy, flowing mane circled his neck like the lions I’ve photographed in Kenya. His two ears jutted up like pointy radar dishes, each one covered in black fur. Between his ears his face was white, creating the look of baldness with a black-tipped nose at the front of his tiny snout. He stood only four inches tall. I noticed several more patches of black covering the perfectly white coat of this rare and elusive miniature canine of the forest. In the fading light of our headlamps we turned to go, and though we tried to shake the little guy, he stayed hot on our trail all the way back to the lodge. All night he whimpered, lying calmly on the mat at the door’s entrance. The next morning as the sun rose over the ocean I made my way out to the little ball of fur that apparently wanted a home. I picked him up, he licked my face and his diminutive, curled tail began to wag. From that day on he’s been by my side as often as possible. Dice, the South American Pygmy Wolf.