A Walk in Connection
By Tracy Ane Brooks
Balboa Press: Paper, 220 pp, $16.99
Reviewed by Annie Dawid
One of Mission: Wolf’s directors, Tracy Ane Brooks, has written a memoir of her decades-long journey into connection with animals, specifically wolves and horses. Her book is intended for those readers who believe animals are sentient, intelligent creatures like ourselves, worthy of knowing, loving, celebrating and mourning.
Much of her focus here centers on the intuitive abilities innate to human beings. “I believe that any human with the desire and intent to connect, in loving and positive ways, with troubled canines or horses was born with the tools to do so already within them.”
Indeed, Brooks illustrates multiple instances of such connection in her own life, and in the lives of volunteers at Custer County’s Mission: Wolf, a 30-year-old refuge for wolves and wolf-dog mixes. Students and others arrive at the 9,000 feet altitude sanctuary from all over the world to study the ways of the wolf, to interact with canis lupis with names like Nikkolah, Raven, Shaman, Zephyr, Crazy Horse, Whisper and many others.
Sometimes the wolves and their antics sound like the plotline from a soap opera. Brooks uses the term “Wolf TV” to emphasize the way the packs interact like humans on any telenovela. The wolves are both actors and spectators, intently watching the dramas occurring in nearby enclosures. “I could see their heads bobbing up and down like the most zealous television viewers.” Like the people on melodramatic soaps, their lives seem ruled by the passions of jealousy and envy.
“Whisper adored Zephyr; even so, for the most part, he continued to completely ignore her advances. It turned out that for Whisper, being ignored by Zephyr was like an aphrodisiac. It drove her to pursue him even more, which brought on even more fighting among Zephyr’s pack mates.”
Again and again, the behavior of wolves, and later, in part II, of horses, illuminates creatures with delicate psyches, powerful instincts, and profound loyalties – both to other creatures and to the humans who love them. Brooks recounts stories where Shaman the wolf tries to protect her from Kent Weber, Mission: Wolf’s founder and life partner to Brooks. Sometimes the wolves seem like zealous adolescents, other times like a jealous spouse intent on keeping Brooks for himself.
Through it all, Brooks maintains a Zen-like composure, even in dangerous situations, like when she is being pulled helter-skelter downhill through the forest by a 130-pound wolf intent on besting his male counterpart on the other side of the fence.
Mirroring animal behavior leads to intuitive connection with those creatures, many of them frightened, some abused. Her guide is intuition, though she cites a higher power in her opening acknowledgments: “Many of the experiences, understandings, and much of this text have come to me from what I believe to be divine guidance. I humbly acknowledge the tremendous support I have received from this guidance on all levels during the creation of this whole message.”
The reason she describes her book as a message becomes clear by the end of the memoir, when she encourages readers to use what she has learned and communicated toward further work with animals. “I felt it was my duty to write about my experiences so others can pick up where I left off and take animal communication to the next level.”
For those inspired to seek hands-on learning, the refuge is seeking volunteers for the upcoming summer. See www.missionwolf.org for more information.