Candid Canind

It’s probably indicative of my nature to ruminate over something random, but the whole “lone wolf” phrase just doesn’t sit right in my head given my basic understanding of the wolf (which is just that of someone who happens to be slightly obsessed with canines and animals in general). A lone wolf would be a lonely wolf. Wolves are social mammals, just like us, and this likely helped to facilitate the domestication of the dog. Hunting in a pack is much more productive than hunting solo, and while your average wolf would resort to scavenging and hunting smaller game if it had to, I’m fairly certain if asked it would want to be part of a pack for food and security reasons. Which is why the idiom “A dog with two masters will starve” and the parable of the dog at a crossroads* also irk me, because your average dog will only starve to death if there is a dearth of food. In my experience with dogs, they will eat anything and everything when they’re hungry, and maybe even more so when they’re not. A dog with two masters would likely be quite fat, because it’d be eating two meals instead of just one. Any dog stuck at a crossroads with two slabs of meat would go and gobble down one and then wander back for the other one.

If we must talk about mammals that for the most part lead solitary lives, let’s look at our feline friends. True, lions tend to be found in prides, but I want to say that’s the exception that proves the rule. Tigers? Definitely not pack hunters (although can you imagine how terrifying that would be to be hunted down by a whole pack of tigers?). Alas, our diction fails to properly capture the realities of the animal kingdom. This can only mean we ought to change the way we think to change the way we speak, because how a subject is framed totally shapes our interpretation of it.

*The parable of the dog at a crossroads goes like this: A dog was walking along when it came to a fork in the road. To its left in the middle of the road was a juicy slab of steak. To its right in the middle of that road was another juicy chunk of steak. The dog was unable to decide which path to go down, and in the end died of starvation.

2 Comments

  1. I agree with you about the two saying about dogs: Neither of those make very much sense – unless maybe if you describe a situation where the two masters can't agree what kind of food to get the dog and then it does starve, or the dog at the crossroads has a psychological meltdown because, although it can smell the two steaks, it can't see them and honestly can't make up his mind on which way to go.. but even with that one, I think at some point the dog would become so hungry its brain decides that it must have food and which ever path he is smelling at the time is a solution to that problem, regardless of the problem that there is food down the other path.

    That being said, I'm not exactly sure where you were going with the “Lone Wolf” phrase? Are you saying that there are no such things as lone wolves?

  2. Hey Matt, thanks for reading! What I'm essentially trying to say about the “lone wolf” phrase is not that lone wolves don't exist, because they do, but rather that they don't exist as quite a successful lone hunter. The dichotomy I was trying to draw attention to is that the “lone wolf” mentality seems to be lauded by some humans as a positive trait or way to operate, but in nature lone wolves are much less successful as predators when they operate on their own because it takes coordinated pack effort to bring down large prey.

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