2004 Tour Report- Wild, Wolly and Wonderful

by Kitty Burns ('Mina Harker')

     I recently had the most amazing experience of my life. I was one of a group of 20 who were on a guided tour of Romania, spending most of the time in Transylvania, which was organized by a tour company from Connecticut called, 'Tours of Terror.' Although this is an appropriate name for the company that organizes these fun tours, we experienced anything but terror. Wonder, amazement, and countless pleasures treated all five senses throughout the trip. The spectacular countryside we rode by as we made our way to Dracula's Castle was one of the highlights of the trip. But a very private moment with an unexpected guest was without a doubt the most unforgettable meeting I have ever had.

     On July 16, 2004, we arrived at the Dracula Castle, which is in the process of being restored and is used as a hotel. The castle overlooks the splendor of Transylvania's mountain ranges covered with countless trees. The evening began with a masquerade ball, accompanied by a marvelous dinner. Hors d'oeuvres were served in front of a raging bonfire outside the castle in a rustic setting, a short rocky walk below the castle's courtyard. We were each given a 4-foot long skewer with 3 prongs on the end of it. Each prong held 2 pieces of marinated pork. We roasted the pork in the enormous fire that soared high above our heads, and then feasted on the tender, mouth-watering meat.

     I cooked my hors d'oeuvres and then, accompanied by one of the other women on the tour, I wandered back up the hill to a bench in the courtyard outside the castle, holding the warm meat in my hand. I sat on the bench and watched the other guests below still admiring the fire. I looked up, and noticed a dog standing about four feet away from me. Earlier in the day, we were commenting on the fact that we had only seen three cats on the streets so far, but had seen several stray dogs. I looked at this dog and felt very drawn to her. I wanted so badly to give her a bath and brush her brown and grey fur, which obviously needed attention. She looked like a female, about a year old. I knew she was hungry, and without hesitation I held out a piece of meat, inviting her to join me for hors d'oeuvres. I could tell by the look on her face that she wanted to accept my invitation, but was hesitant. I was enamored by her shyness, and tossed the meat to her. She picked it up off the ground and ate it. Then she looked at me again as if to say, 'I'd like some more, please.' I held out another piece of meat and asked her to come and get it. She just couldn't do it, so again I tossed the meat to her, and she ate it off the ground. I had 2 pieces of meat left. I held one out to her and asked her to please come to me. She looked at me carefully for about 5 seconds, and then she slowly walked over to me. I held up the meat with my fingertips, and she very gently took it from me, barely touching the tips of my fingers with her mouth. I thought to myself that I have never had an animal take food from me with such grace and in such a gentle manner. I had one piece of meat left, but it was too big for her to eat. I bit the roasted pork in half, and I ate half, and then I held out the rest to her with my fingers. Again, she took the meat, ever so gently. She looked at me with obvious appreciation. I was sorry that I had no more meat to give her. I held out my hands to show her that it was all gone. She looked at me as if to say, 'That's okay. Thanks.' I extended my hand that had held our hors d'oeuvres in it, and asked her if she wanted to lick the juice and remnants that were left on my hand and fingers. She slowly and sweetly licked my hand clean. Then she sat down in front of me and lifted her paw for me to shake. I was filled with a warm and deep affection as I shook her hand. I knew there was something very special about this little girl, and I felt a very strong bond with her in my heart. Obviously, the feeling was mutual, as she walked closer and sat down right next to me, allowing me to pet her. After a couple of minutes, she slowly walked away into the darkness of the Transylvanian night.

     As I watched her disappear into the wilderness, I knew that I had made a very special connection that night.

     The next morning, as I was walking through the castle grounds, I passed the woman who had accompanied me back up the hill the night before. She said that she had something to tell me. She had just come from the marketplace below the castle, and two of the Romanian women who sell their goods at the market told her that they were watching me last night and laughing. She asked them why they were laughing, and they said it was because they were wondering if I had any idea that I was feeding and playing with a wolf. It was not a dog. It was a wolf! The wolves come down from the mountains when they smell the bonfire and the meat cooking outside. The majority of the wolves stay a safe distance away from the fire and the people, waiting for the people to leave. Then they explore the grounds around the bonfire, looking for spare pieces of meat to satisfy their hunger. The women said that once in a great while one of the younger wolves will come down further, and will stand close enough for the people to see. But in all their years, they have never seen a wolf allow a person to hand feed her and pet her, as my friend did for me the night before.

     Wolves are under a very strict law of protection in Romania, and although there are some groups in the United States that are trying to establish this protection here as well, we still have a long way to go before these wonderful animals are treated with the same respect here as they are in Romania. I urge everyone to support any of the following groups, or any other groups they know of, in their endeavor to help save the wolves who share our world.

Defenders of Wildlife (http://www.defenders.org/wildlife/new/wolves.html)
North American Wolf Association (http://www.nawa.org/)
DraculaTour: The Vampire Vacation to Transylvania (http://www.toursandevents.com)

© July 23, 2004 Kathleen Therese Burns

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