Hartley: Genetically, it’s the same thing as a Chihuahua | AspenTimes.com

Hartley: Genetically, it’s the same thing as a Chihuahua

Looking for that perfect last-minute holiday gift? Have you considered a wolf cub? No, seriously. They’re a little pricey at about $500, but that’s way cheaper than your average, run-of-the-mill whatever-poo.

You may scoff, but if you know any wealthy landowners in Kazakhstan, you would totally make their Rozhdestvo (pronounced: ruhzh-dees-TVOH) by buying them a wolf cub. Apparently, they’re all the rage among the elite in the Almaty region this holiday season.

Well, OK, maybe they’re not all the rage, but Almas Zhaparov, a Kazakh wolf expert interviewed for a KTK television channel report, had this to say about the practice of buying wolves to keep as pets and guard dogs, “If nothing is done, the fashion could spread to wealthy Kazakhs.”

That quote might make it sound as if Zhaparov thinks keeping wolves is a bad idea, but I’m not entirely convinced that’s the case. I mean, sure, he did call them “ticking time bombs” that “can go off at any minute,” but I don’t think you can read too much into that. And that’s certainly not a reason for a wealthy Kazakh not to buy a wolf.

Personally, I think a wolf would make a great pet, and lest you think I’m just speaking theoretically, you should know that my uncle used to have a wolf as a pet. And he wasn’t like some hermit or guy living on a huge ranch; he lived in Marin County at the time.

I was told the creature, whose name I can’t recall, was 95 percent wolf, but as that seems virtually impossible, I’m going to assume it was just a lie my uncle made up to get past California’s prohibition on keeping wolves and first-generation wolf-dog hybrids as pets.

Regardless, in my experience, she was a wonderful pet — affectionate, gentle, obedient — but she did have one troubling quirk. If you snuck up behind her and spooked her, she would pee all over herself. But that was more like a fun party trick than a reason to be concerned. I’m sure it wasn’t a sign that the wolf was still mostly wild.

There’s a reason wolves play a role in so many of our most cherished fairy tales, dance with Kevin Costner and play bad basketball in Minnesota. It’s because they’re cute, sweet and cuddly, and if you let them eat your grandma, they can even talk. What grandparent wouldn’t want to go out like that and do something nice for their grandkids?

If you need further testimony as to how awesome pet wolves are, take it from the aptly named Nurseit Zhylkyshybay, the wolf owner featured in the report: “Our family and neighbors aren’t scared of him at all. If the wolf is well fed and cared for, he won’t attack you, although he does eat a lot more than a dog.”

On that note, if you are thinking about getting a wolf and you have children, you might want to make sure the wolf gets enough to eat. I’m not saying your beloved pet might eat your children; I’m just saying it’s not a great idea to have a hungry wolf around a baby.

Some Kazakhs think the growing trend of keeping wolves as pets is a result of the government failing to cull wolves in the first place. As one online commenter noted, “You can’t blame villagers for using wolves to fend off wolves.”

That’s entirely correct, but I think it overlooks the fact that pet wolves are good for so much more than just fending off other wolves. Even if you live in a relatively wolf-free place like, for instance, Marin County, a wolf makes a wonderful companion right up until the moment it tries to bite your face off when you give it a kiss.

So go buy some wolf cubs and give them to all your friends and family this Christmas, even if they’re not wealthy Kazakhs. I know lots of folks right here in America who would appreciate a good wolf.

Incidentally, if you’re wondering why you’ve heard the name Almaty before, it may be because the city of Almaty — where there are apparently so many wolves that people are buying wolves to protect themselves from wolves — has a 50/50 chance of hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics (the only other bid is from Beijing).

God, I hope Almaty gets those games. It would make all the non-biathlon cross-country skiing events really interesting if all but the top finishers ran the risk of being hunted down and devoured.

Todd Hartley promises he only made his uncle’s wolf pee once. To read more or leave a comment, please visit http://zerobudget.net.

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