Trixie's Happy Tail

By Jay Stoeckl, Chief Assistant to the Assistant, Assistant Breeder, Dec. 11, 2023
Trixie from Jay's email.jpg
Trixie travelling with Jay

The Christmas season is a beautiful time for telling a heartwarming tale. Trixie's may be among the best I have to tell. Her story begins and ends with a happy wagging of a tail.

As many of you know, Trixie is the twin sister to Jesse, our current mother of seven. Dark, sleek coat with golden highlights, Jesse and Trixie did not look like dire wolves at all. From afar one would never be able to tell them apart. Two differences had always stood out. Jesse has both ears up. Trixie has only one ear up. Jesse had bonded with us from puppyhood. Trixie always remained aloof.

She was always the one who required little to no attention. This can happen most often when a large litter occurs or when multiple litters occur around the same time. The puppies who are most outgoing end up with most of the attention. Others have yet to discover the magic of human companionship.

With Trixie being much more independent, both dogs grew to their adult years with very different personalities. During the daily feedings, Jesse would press her body against my legs wanting me to love on her more than she wanted the food. Trixie was into the food. During walks, Jesse would be close to me, stopping on occasion for a gentle hug. Trixie was up with the head of the pack taking in the forest sights and scents.

Over a year ago (maybe two), a family with children expressed interest in owning Trixie. Jennifer and I both agreed the family attention would take her out of her independent modus operandi. Within a month or two, she would become an amazing family dog, loving on the kids, protecting them from the stranger knocking on their door. We imagined camping trips, walks in the neighborhood, and people food from the table.

But such was not to be the case. Within those few months, Jennifer received a call from the Arkansas family letting her know that Trixie was not working out for them. All she wanted to do was remain in her crate and mourn the loss or her Washington home. She would have nothing to do with them.

And this is the ironic side of things. When I arrived at their home to exchange Trixie for a puppy I had brought, the family mourned Trixie’s departure. I don’t mean a few tears. The school aged children wailed, each of them crying out “Goodbye, Trixie!”

I too was in tears! So were the parents.

It broke my heart to see her taken back to life on our farm with no more family seeing her for the amazing dog she truly is. It was during what remained of that trip that I learned a really great lesson.

Every adult dog goes through a grieving period when in a new home. This upsets their new owners as they do not know what to make of it. But the secret I learned is that somewhere inside this impressionable dog, was a heart yearning to be loved… a heart yearning to be told it was worth more than gold.

On the trip home, Trixie would look at me with her pinwheel ears and inquisitive eyes. She did not understand why she had found a family and then turned away again. She did not understand their cries and tears.

Then the miracle occurred.

Because the trip was in the winter, sleeping inside the van was to become a freezing experience for both Trixie and me. Whenever I camp out inside the DireWolf Express, I warm up the vehicle as much as I can before parking. Then I climb onto the cot and into the sleeping bag before it gets cold. It usually takes up to an hour before I really notice the temperature change.

My sleeping bag is rated to zero degrees Fahrenheit. That does not mean that when the temperature plummeted to nine degrees that night, I wasn’t going to feel it. And neither would Trixie. Well I knew it too. So the moment I noticed it getting cold, I invited Trixie up on the cot with me.

This, of course, was my plan all along. Here was a dog who had desired little human affection being invited to spend the night next to me. I did not know if her independent nature would suddenly kick in. Her inquisitive look and pinwheel ears gave me every indication she was open to anything. So, when I invited her up on the cot, she made it easy for me to lift her up.

She made no objection. She did not just turn around and return to the dog bed awaiting her beside the cot. I opened up the sleeping bag flap and invited her to lie beside my chest. She did.

I knew that if I had enclosed her in the thick sleeping bag, Trixie would have been too hot. Lying on her side, her back rested against me, her tummy, legs and face were still exposed to the outside air. It was a perfect warm/cold balance for a dog with malamute blood in her ancestry.

She rested her head on my right shoulder. My arm was just long enough for my hand to pet her ribcage and her soft belly.

Trixie, for the first time in her life, experienced the heavenly affection of a human being. She had received head pets and the like during her lifetime many, many times—but nothing like this. I could tell she was in doggy ecstasy just by her breathing. She remained there next to me the entire night and the next night too.

The symbiotic relationship Trixie and I shared was that neither of us would have slept that night without each other’s warmth. In fact, I don’t recall ever sleeping so well camping out in the back of the Pacifica minivan. Having a warm puppy next to me was the perfect sedative.

The real miracle was that Trixie was never the same after that. She had discovered something new that trip. Ever since, each time I called her to me, she wanted to come. She wanted to experience that affection again. Trixie had broken out of her independency and was now hooked on people.

Even during the drive, Trixie rode the rest of that trip home up on the cot, behind the driver’s seat, with her head close to mine. She was now fully domesticated.

Yesterday morning, Trixie arrived at her second home family now living in Florida. Nothing makes me happier. This is Trixie’s happy tale (and happy tail) coming true.

I know it rarely ever gets down to nine degrees in Florida. I also know that she’ll be staying in an air conditioned house, not on a cot inside a car. Still, if her new family is partaking in this story, I encourage them to give her just enough space to get used to the new environment while insisting on some affection. But the moment they make strides and Trixie begins to show some love, find a way to give her the experience Trixie and I shared those two nights in the van. Let her experience that even for just a little while.

I say with tears in my eyes (happy ones this time), “goodbye, Trixie! I wish you every happiness and health the rest of your years.”

And if you’re thinking about adopting an adult dog from us, we still have a number of females available who will give you similar, heartwarming experiences just like Trixie. You will find them on our Dire Wolf Dogs website:

Jennifer Stoeckl is the co-founder of the Dire Wolf Project, founder of the DireWolf Guardians American Dirus Dog Training Program, and owner/operator of DireWolf Dogs of Vallecito. She lives in the beautiful inland northwest among the Ponderosa pine forests with her pack of American Dirus dogs.