Howling of the Wolves
His long and slim legs, a solid and sturdy body, and a straight neck make me mistake him for a decent canine with a superb pedigree. The pink-colored tongue sticking out of his firm mouth looks beautiful, and his sharp and dignified ears make him look more like a well-sculptured purebred dog. Particularly, the short black fur around his eyes catches my attention because the black fur contrasted with his light gray-colored eyes makes me feel that he has kind of a melancholy and gloomy mood, unlike other dogs I see around my neighborhood. Usually the dogs in my village start howling at the time when I make dinner in my kitchen. I always thought dogs cry like wolves, but as I hear the wail of the dogs more frequently, I come to believe more and more that they might be real wolves in dogs’ clothing. Who knows, they might be enchanted wolves that fell under a spell. When the dogs wail as though they are sending some kind of enigmatic signals to each other, I feel a tight and weird tension from their mysterious way of communication.
Ironically, although my neighbor’s dog is a male, he has a female name, Sooki, which is the same name of his owner’s estranged wife who left over ten years ago. Sooki’s owner usually works at the market from early in the morning until very late at night. He really hates the hunger and poverty that have been torturing him almost for his entire life. It makes him become a workaholic, who obsessively believes that only constant work can help him escape from the vicious cycle of poverty that has agonized his life. Through his incessant work and personal integrity as a conscientious and skillful merchant, he has accumulated a large fortune to satisfy his hunger for money and has built his own beautiful house that he has dreamt of for a long time for his wife and himself. However, his excessive work has caused his wife to feel lonely and stressed and ended up making her leave without saying good-bye to him because she couldn’t overcome the solitude caused by the absence of a normal, affectionate relationship between a husband and a wife. He still can’t thoroughly understand what brought about their separation, but he desperately yearns for her return. Out of his deep-seeded longing for his wife, he has named the dog after her. Whenever he takes a walk with the dog, I hear his warm and loving voice calling his dog like calling his wife, Sooki.
Every day, Sooki’s owner routinely goes to work at dawn and comes back very late though he has become a big merchant at the marketplace (not for individual customers, but for other smaller and bigger vendors). However, he no longer hungers for money; now, his daily work is just a distraction from his suffering while he waits and hopes for his wife’s return. Until Sooki’s owner comes back at night, Sooki has to stay all alone at home.
My own daily work is not much different from Sooki’s activities. I sit at my desk and write stories almost all day long while Sooki wanders around his yard all day long waiting for his owner to come back. During the day, he just watches cars and strangers passing through the neighborhood and barks wildly at them through the low fence made of shrubs. Likewise, I keep writing and looking for mistakes in my writing. Once I find them, I start to bark at and get rid of them like Sooki does at home. The clever dog, with his animal instinct, senses immediately his owner’s arrival even before he comes back home. He barks differently when he spots strangers than when he greets his owner. He even can differentiate his owner’s car from others’ only by the sound. Like Sooki, I quickly come out of my house into the front yard to greet my husband when he arrives home, exhausted from work. Of course, I can distinguish between my husband’s shabby car and my neighbor’s brand-new one by their different engine sounds, like Sooki does.
My husband prohibits me from having a dog since he has severe allergies. However, Sooki knows how much I care for dogs, especially him. We both know some kind of special bond has already formed between us, even though he isn’t mine at all. He acts as though he regards my house as his own territory. He barks fiercely at the strangers who drop by my house, showing a sharp antagonism towards them. Sometimes, if he roams freely because his owner forgets to leash him when he leaves for work in the morning, he jumps over his low fence and into my yard. Then, he starts to mark his territory by urinating here and there. He gently approaches me, swaying his tail and thinking of me as his owner or close friend. The intangible but definitely special bond between us started from my generous treatment of him in his owner’s absence all day. At first, Sooki was wary of my kindness towards him. Over time, my sincere, unconditional hospitality, and affection towards him seemed to slowly create an undeniable connection. Now, I really enjoy the warm and affectionate friendship with him, which is like that between humans, so I keep tossing a roasted fatty strip of pork into his mouth, although I know his owner hates such kindness from others towards his dog for some reason. However, I don’t really care about what his owner thinks about my relationship with Sooki because I feel a much stronger bond with Sooki as time goes by, even without any verbal communication with him.
Last night, Sooki’s owner came over to my house without any notice and sadly told us that Sooki’s previous owner wanted to take him back because she didn’t realize that Sooki was a purebred Siberian Husky when she sold him almost for nothing. Even until now, my neighbor has been ignoring Sooki’s previous owner’s insistent request, but the situation has turned much worse than he expected because she has filed a lawsuit against him. My drunken neighbor shouted, “I can’t lose him. Nobody can take Sooki away from me. It’s mine!” And he began to pound harshly on his chest like a furious animal out of his uncontrollable anger and pain. He already lost his wife, Sooki. Now, he was about to lose another Sooki in his life. I didn’t say anything, but I could understand how much Sooki meant to him for overcoming his emptiness and desperation caused by his wife’s long absence.
Even before Sooki’s owner revealed the legal complaint to me about the ownership of Sooki, Sooki felt something strange in his owner and started to act weirdly. Whenever he saw any passers-by, he began roaring and barking insanely through his low fence, as though he really wanted to hurt them. He even tried to threaten others when unleashed outside his house. Now I understand why Sooki had to act that way. Actually, he doesn’t really want to threaten or bite anybody. Rather, his abnormal behavior seems to express his mental anxiety or disturbance against anyone approaching. However, the situation grows worse and worse each day. All the village people have begun to fear Sooki’s menacing behavior because they feel threatened by his sudden wild reaction towards them. Now, his owner makes sure that Sooki is tied up in his own yard and can’t move around freely as he did before.
About a month later, when the sun is slowly setting behind the mountain in the village, Sooki suddenly bursts out howling more like a huge, wild wolf in the wilderness. I am not an animal expert, but his long, loud emotional howling seems totally different from those of other ordinary dogs around us. There is something magnificently solemn in his howling, as if he were worshiping his holy heaven out of his inner desperation or deep sorrow. Without warning, all the dogs tied up at every door in the village join in the howling after Sooki. It assures me that dogs definitely have something we can call emotions in them, like we humans have. Sooki’s emotional turbulence and loneliness seem to be transferred into every single heart of other neighbors’ dogs. So, they are responding to Sooki as if showing that they understand how he feels in his confined, small world facing an uncertain, but clearly approaching misfortune. It isn’t his usual howling, but rather it is a painful and emotional screaming out of his complicated inner anxiety that seems to be afraid of an unwanted and forced separation, being cut from his familiar surroundings and above all things, the heartwarming and tight relationship with others around himself, especially me.
When the sun has already set behind the mountains, I am slowly steaming eggplants in my small kitchen. Suddenly I feel as if I were enchanted by something indescribable and catch a glimpse of the Bible that has been sitting on the kitchen table all day long. I start singing a hymn that pops into my mind. Of course, I know there are no such songs like hymns when we worship God out of our absolute solitude and agony, seeking relief and comfort. Right after I begin singing the hymn, I hear Sooki making a long, loud cry as if he were in grief or sorrow. The other dogs in the village follow him by bellowing a long, heartbreaking wail almost at the same time. Now my village is completely wrapped with the howling of wolves in the evening sunset.
Writer: Hailey Woo has recently graduated from Fullerton College as an English major student and has planned on transferring to a four-year university in the near future. She is travelling and visiting her home country to have fun and get some literary inspiration. During her leisure time, she loves reading realistic adventure books based on life experiences.
Artist: Sue Hwang is a photographer and visual artist who tends to notice the stranger things in life. She enrolled in the professional photography program at Fullerton College last fall and receives her certificate at the end of this year.