Sunday, November 7, 2010

Romeo, Romeo, Where Art Thou...

A couple days ago a Juneau man was sentenced for killing the most iconic living symbol of Juneau since Patsy Ann graced the streets in the early 1940's.   (  Romeo was a black wolf whose mother had died when he was about a year old, their pack had all perished at the hands of trappers.  His mother was hit by a car on the Back Loop Road.  Romeo subsquently spent six winters around the Dredge Lake and Mendenhall Glacier area hunting for beavers, voles, deer and the occasional mountain goat and scavaging whatever he could find.  For companionship and a "pack" he adopted the dogs that frequented that recreational area with their owners.  He loved to play...he would spot a dog and no matter how aggressive the dog was initially, he could almost always engage it in play.  There was one story of some little yapping dog that approached Romeo and bit him on the nose, hanging on.  Romeo simply threw the little pooch on his back and put his foot on him as if to say "enough."  He would often whine and cry when the dogs and their owners departed for their cars.  He simply enjoyed the interaction with the dogs and playing with them. 

There was another story that made the headlines of our local paper when it was reported he grabbed a pug and started to make off with him and then let him go.  According to John Hyde, local photographer and author of a new book on Romeo, who actually witnessed the incident, it was all part of play as well. (I don't know who to credit these pictures to, I just found them online.)  Romeo could have killed that pug with one bite had he wanted but you can see how it may have given the pug's owners a scare.  No matter how many signs and warnings were posted asking pet owners to keep their dogs on a leash people still allowed the interaction.

The hours of enjoyment Romeo provided to Juneau residents and resident dogs are endless. He was our ambassador to wildness and he enriched the lives of many.  He was able to galvanize this town in a way not many things can. He bridged our differences. Every fall people waited to see their first siting.  In the book it described F&G's efforts to discourage Romeo from mingling with people by shooting him with pellets.  After that happened a couple times Romeo simply recognized and avoided the F&G people.  Mr. Hyde describes one day watching Romeo spot an approaching officer and hide until the man passed.  It makes his death at the hands of a hunter even more tragic.  Actually "hunter" is giving him way too much credit, it wasn't in season and the wolf was an easy kill because it simply approached their dogs.  The man and his codefendent were charged with several other misdemeanor F&G offenses as well.  There just are not words in the English language to describe the contempt I have for them and people that desire to kill just because they can. RIP Romeo.

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