The philosopher and the wolf

Mark Rowlands in The Telegraph:

Screenhunter_04_nov_14_1313When Brenin was a young wolf, his favourite game was to steal cushions off the sofa or the armchair. If I was in another room, perhaps working in my study, he would appear at the door, cushion in mouth, and, when he knew I had seen him, he would tear off through the house, through the living-room, the kitchen and then out into the garden, with me in hot pursuit. The game was one of chase and could go on for quite a while. I had already trained him to drop things – so I could have ordered him to drop the cushion at any time. But I didn’t have the heart; and, anyway, the game was much more fun. And so he would charge around the garden, ears back, tail tucked low and eyes shining with excitement, while I thundered around ineffectively behind him. Until he was about three months old, Brenin was quite easy to catch – and so I just pretended he was too quick for me. But the pretence gradually shaded into reality. Soon he was throwing me little shimmies – feinting to go one way while actually going the other. When I caught on to this trick, the shimmies would become double shimmies. Eventually the game was played in a confused blur of feint, double feint and triple feint – feints nested within feints. Of course, this sidestepping practice worked wonders for my rugby skills. I had always based my game on the idea of running over people rather than around them. This worked well in Britain, where I grew up, but not as well in the US, where the people are generally much bigger and have been raised playing American football, where the tackling is ferocious. They are, however, much easier to confuse and, with all this instruction from Brenin, I became a twinkle-toed, sidestepping demon of the south-eastern United States.

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