The first time I returned to Wolf House after Rocket’s death, it seemed an unknown place. My pictures were on the wall, my books on the shelves, but the heart was missing. The wolf was gone from Wolf House.
Twelve years earlier, as a new homeowner, I had walked the dirt road that loops near the property and realized that it was wrong to enjoy such a place without a canine companion. The joy that a dog would find racing along hidden woodland trails would eclipse even my own love for the house and its surroundings. Soon Rocket, a husky-lab shelter dog, was loping through his new domain.
Wolf House is ship-like in its efficiency, with a tight, spiral staircase that leads from a common room to matching sleeping lofts. Set into a steep hillside, its front door is just steps from the ground but the back deck sits high among the trees. The slightest breeze sets the oaks and elms rustling and moaning, like wind in the rigging.
Rocket and I woke each morning to walk our dirt road in darkness. I noted the changing position of the rising sun, and nature’s response. The redbud came, then the dogwood, then songbirds, humming birds, a rare pileated woodpecker and, finally, the bugs that drove me indoors.
I wrote during the day, as Rocket roamed the woods, chased small critters and came home to collapse at the corner of the deck where he could keep a weather eye to North and South. With the fading light came dinner, a little TV and an early bedtime.
It snowed the first time I returned to Wolf House alone. Rocket would have run from the car, his snout low and open, plowing the fresh flakes into his mouth. The memory is strong and sweet but it can’t compensate for the emptiness that now defines the place.
Time will pass. One day soon, a new dog will leap from the car and Wolf House will begin to be home again.