Living Histories In The Contact Zone Wolf Tracks

Whom and what do I touch when I touch my dog? How is becoming with a practice of becoming worldly? When species meet, the question of how to inherit histories is pressing, and how to get on together is at stake. Because I become with dogs, I am drawn into the multispecies knots that they are tied into and that they retie by their reciprocal action.

My premise is that touch ramifies and shapes accountability. Accountability, caring for, being affected, and entering into responsibility are not ethical abstractions; these mundane, prosaic things are the result of having truck with each other.55 Touch does not make one small; it peppers its partners with attachment sites for world making. Touch, regard, looking back, becoming with—all these make us responsible in unpredictable ways for which worlds take shape. In touch and regard, partners willy nilly are in the miscegenous mud that infuses our bodies with all that brought that contact into being. Touch and regard have consequences. Thus, my introductions in this chapter end in three knots of entangled companion species—wolves, dogs, human beings, and more—in three places where an autre-mondialisation is at stake: South Africa, the Golan Heights in Syria, and the countryside of the French Alps.

At the off-leash dog park in Santa Cruz, California, which I frequent, people sometimes boast that their largish, prick-eared, shepherdlike mutts are "half wolf." Sometimes the humans claim that they know this for sure but more often rest content with an account that makes their dogs seem special, close to their storied wild selves. I find the genealogical speculations highly unlikely in most cases, partly because it is not easy to have at hand a breeding wolf with whom a willing dog might mate, and partly because of the same agnosticism with which I and most of my dogland informants greet identification of any largish black dog of uncertain provenance as a "half Labrador retriever." Still, I know wolf-dog hybrids do exist rather widely, and my dogs' playing with a few motley claimants tied me into a web of caring. Caring means becoming subject to the unsettling obligation of curiosity, which requires knowing more at the end of the day than at the beginning. Learning something of the behavioral biology of wolf-dog hybrids seemed the least that was required. One of the places that led me, via an article by Robyn Dixon in the Los Angeles Times on October 17, 2004,'Orphaned Wolves Face Grim Future," was to the Tsitsikamma Wolf Sanctuary on the southern coast of South Africa near the town of Storm River.56

During the apartheid era, in quasi-secret experiments, scientists in the service of the white state imported northern gray wolves from North America with the intent of breeding an attack dog with a wolf's smarts, stamina, and sense of smell to track down "insurgents" in the harsh border areas. But the security-apparatus scientists at Roodeplaat Breeding Enterprises found to their dismay that wolf-dog hybrids make particularly bad trained attack dogs, not because of aggressivity or unpredictability (both issues with many of the hybrids discussed in the general literature), but because, besides being hard to train, the wolf-dogs generally defer to their human pack leaders and fail to take the lead when ordered to do so on counterinsurgency or police patrols. Members of an endangered species in much of its former range in North America became failed mixed-blood immigrants in the apartheid state intent on enforcing racial purity.

After the end of apartheid, both the wolves and the hybrids became signifiers of security once again, as people terrified for their personal safety in the ripe, still racialized discourses of criminality rampant in South Africa engaged in a brisk newspaper- and Internet-mediated trade in the animals. The predictable result has been thousands of animals unable to be "repatriated" to their continent of origin. Both epidemiologically and genetically categorically "impure," these canids enter the cultural category of the disposable "homeless," or in ecological terms "nicheless." The new state could not care less what happens to these animate tools of a former racist regime. Running on private money from rich donors and middle-class, mostly white people, a rescue and sanctuary apparatus of a sort that is familiar globally to dog people does what it can. This is not an honored truth and reconciliation process trying to meet a socially recognized obligation to those nonhumans forced into "becoming with" a scientific racial state apparatus. The sanctuary practices are private charity directed to nonhumans whom many people would see as better killed (euthanized? Is there any'good death" here?) in a nation where unaddressed human economic misery remains immense. Further, the financially strapped sanctuaries accept only "pure wolves," though only about two hundred canids could probably have passed that test in 2004 in South Africa, and have no resources for the possibly tens of thousands of hybrids who face, as the newspaper article headlined, a "grim future."

So, what have I and others who touch and are touched by this story inherited? Which histories must we live? A short list includes the racial discourses endemic to the history of both biology and the nation; the collision of endangered species worlds, with their conservation apparatuses, and security discourse worlds, with their criminality and terrorist apparatuses; the actual lives and deaths of differentially situated human beings and animals shaped by these knots; contending popular and professional narratives about wolves and dogs and their consequences for who lives and dies and how; the coshaped histories of human social welfare and animal welfare organizations; the class-saturated funding apparatuses of private and public animal-human worlds; the development of the categories to contain those, human and nonhuman, who are disposable and killable; the inextricable tie between North America and South Africa in all these matters; and the stories and actual practices that continue to produce wolf-dog hybrids in unlivable knots, even on a romping-dog beach in Santa Cruz, California. Curiosity gets one into thick mud, but I believe that is the kind of "looking back" and "becoming-with-companions" that might matter in making autres-mondialisations more possible.

Heading to the Golan Heights after running with the wolves in South Africa is hardly restful. Among the last companion-species knots in which I imagined living was one that in 2004 featured Israeli cowboys in occupied Syrian territory riding kibbutz horses to manage their European-style cattle among the ruins of Syrian villages and military bases. All I have is a snapshot, one newspaper article in the midst of an ongoing complex, bloody, and tragic history.57 That snapshot was enough to reshape my sense of touch while playing with my dogs. The first cattle-ranching kibbutz was founded shortly after 1967; by 2004 about seventeen thousand Israelis in thirty-three various sorts of settlements held the territory, pending removal by an ever-receding peace treaty with Syria. Learning their new skills on the job, the neophyte ranchers share the land with the Israeli military and their tanks. Mine fields still pose dangers for cattle, horses, and people, and firing-range practice vies with grazing for space. The cattle are guarded from the resourceful Syrian wolves, not to mention Syrian people periodically repatriating stock, by large white livestock guardian dogs (LGDs), namely, Turkish Akbash dogs. Turkey does play an odd role in the Middle East! With the dogs on duty, the ranchers do not shoot the wolves. Nothing was said in this Times article about whether they shoot the Syrian "rustlers." The cattle that the Israelis took over after the expulsion of the Syrian villagers were small, wiry, capable in the same kinds of ways as Rowell's nonsheepish sheep, and resistant to the local tick-borne diseases. The European cattle who were imported to replace the supposedly unmodern Syrian beasts are none of those things. The Israeli ranchers brought the guardian dogs into their operation in the 1990s in response to the large number of gray wolves, whose number on the Golan Heights grew significantly after the defeat of Syria in 1967 reduced the Arab villagers' hunting pressure on them.

The Akbash dogs were the prosaic touch that made the story in the newspaper of more than passing interest in the huge canvas of fraught naturecultures and war in the Middle East. I was a kind of "godhuman" to Willem, a Great Pyrenees livestock guardian dog who worked on land in California that my family owns with a friend. Willem, his human, Susan, and his breeder and her health and genetics activist peers in dogland have been major informants for this book. Willem's livestock guardian dog people are astute participants in the hotly contested dog-wolf-rancher-herbivore-environmentalist-hunter naturecultures of the contemporary U.S. northern Rocky Mountain region. Willem and my dog Cayenne played as puppies and added to the stock of the world's joy.58 This is all quite small and unexceptional—not much of a "line of flight" to delight Deleuze and Guattari here. But it was enough to hail me and maybe us into curiosity about the naturalcultural politics of wolves, dogs, cattle, ticks, pathogens, tanks, mine fields, soldiers, displaced villagers, cattle thieves, and settlers become cowboy-style ranchers on still another bit of earth made into a frontier by war, expulsion, occupation, the history of genocides, and ramifying insecurity all around. There is no happy ending to offer, no conclusion to this ongoing entanglement, only a sharp reminder that anywhere one really looks actual living wolves and dogs are waiting to guide humans into contested worldings. "We found her at the edge of the city; she was raised by wolves." Like her forest-immigrant cousin, this wolf wore a communications pack that was no stranger to the development of military technology for command, control, communication, and intelligence.

Of course, by the first decade of the new millennium, that kind of telecommunications pack could be ordinary equipment for day walkers in the mountains, and that is where these introductions will end, but with the printed word rather than a personal GPS system situating the hiker. In 2005 primatologist Allison Jolly, knowing my livestock-guardian-dog passions, sent me a brochure she had picked up on her walking tour through the French Alps that summer with her family. The brochure was in Italian, French, and English, already setting it offfrom unaccommodating monolingual U.S. aids to mountain outings. The transnational paths through the Alps and the urbane, leisured, international hikers expected on the paths were vividly present. On the cover was an alert, calm Great Pyrenees guardian dog, surrounded by text: "Important notice to walkers and hikers [or on the flip side, 'Promeneurs, Randonneurs,' etc.]: In the course of your walk, you may encounter the local guarding-dogs. These are large white dogs whose task is to guard the flocks."

We are in the midst of reinvented pastoral-tourist economies linking foot-traveling humans, meat and fiber niche markets that are complexly both local and global, restoration ecology and heritage culture projects of the European Union, shepherds, flocks, dogs, wolves, bears, and lynxes. The return of previously extirpated predators to parts of their old ranges is a major story of transnational environmental politics and biology. Some of the animals have been deliberately reintroduced after intense captive breeding programs or with transplants from less-developed countries in the previous Soviet sphere, where progress-indicating extinctions sometimes have not gone as far as in western Europe. Some predators reestablished populations on their own when people began trapping and shooting returnees less often. The wolves newly welcome in the French Alps seem to be offspring of opportunistic canids sidling over from unreliably progressive Italy, which never completely wiped out its wolves. The wolves gave the LGDs a job deterring lupine (and tourist) depredations on the shepherds' flocks. After the near destruction of the Great Pyrenees during the two world wars and the pastoral economic collapse in the Basque regions, the breed came to the Alps from the mountains for which they are named, by way of their rescue by the purebred dog fancy, especially through the collecting practices of wealthy women in England and the eastern United States. French dog fanciers learned some of what they needed to know about reintroducing their dogs to guarding work from U.S. LGD people, who had placed dogs on ranches in western states in recent decades and communicated with their European peers.

The knots of technocultural, reinvented pastoral-tourist economies and ecologies are all over North America too, raising the most basic questions of who belongs where and what flourishing means for whom. Following the dogs and their herbivores and people in order to respond to those questions attaches me again and again to ranching, farming, and eating. In principle if not always in personal and collective action, it is easy to know that factory farming and its sciences and politics must be undone. But what then? How can food security for everybody (not just for the rich, who can forget how important cheap and abundant food is) and multi-species' coflourishing be linked in practice? How can remembering the conquest of the western states by Anglo settlers and their plants and animals become part of the solution and not another occasion for the pleasurable and individualizing frisson of guilt? Much collaborative and inventive work is under way on these matters, if only we take touch seriously. Both vegan and nonvegan community food projects with a local and translocal analysis have made clear the links among safe and fair working conditions for people, physically and behaviorally healthy agricultural animals, genetic and other research directed to health and diversity, urban and rural food security, and enhanced wildlife habitat.59 No easy unity is to be found on these matters, and no answers will make one feel good for long. But those are not the goals of companion species. Rather, there are vastly more attachment sites for participating in the search for more livable "other worlds" (autres-mondialisations) inside earthly complexity than one could ever have imagined when first reaching out to pet one's dog.

The kinds of relatings that these introductions perform entangle a motley crowd of differentially situated species, including landscapes, animals, plants, microorganisms, people, and technologies. Sometimes a polite introduction brings together two quasi-individuated beings, maybe even with personal names printed in major newspapers, whose histories can recall comfortable narratives of subjects in encounter, two by two. More often, the configurations of critters have other patterns more reminiscent of a cat's cradle game of the sort taken for granted by good ecologists, military strategists, political economists, and ethnographers. Whether grasped two-by-two or tangle-by-tangle, attachment sites needed for meeting species redo everything they touch. The point is not to celebrate complexity but to become worldly and to respond. Considering still live metaphors for this work, John Law and Annemarie Mol help me think: "Multiplicity, oscillation, mediation, material heterogeneity, performativity, interference . . . there is no resting place in a multiple and partially connected world."60

My point is simple: Once again we are in a knot of species coshap-ing one another in layers of reciprocating complexity all the way down. Response and respect are possible only in those knots, with actual animals and people looking back at each other, sticky with all their muddled histories. Appreciation of the complexity is, of course, invited. But more is required too. Figuring what that more might be is the work of situated companion species. It is a question of cosmopolitics, of learning to be "polite" in responsible relation to always asymmetrical living and dying, and nurturing and killing. And so I end with the alpine tourist brochure's severe injunction to the hiker to "be on your best countryside behavior," or "sorveguate il vostro comportamento," followed by specific instructions about what polite behavior toward the working dogs and flocks entails. A prosaic detail: The exercise of good manners makes the competent working animals those whom the people need to learn to recognize.61 The ones with face were not all human.

And say the philosopher responded?

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Mike Peters, Mother Goose and Grimm, copyright 2004 Grimmy, Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission of Grimmy, Inc., in conjunction with the Cartoonist Group.

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