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The Wolfdogs

AN-WDleadHappy New Year! It’s 2016, which means much of this year will be spent celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Defense Command series. You can also expect more from Champions — I probably owe readers some author notes after the novellas of 1943.

But for my first note of the year, I have to talk about a different series — indeed, the first books I ever wrote: the Equations novels. Before the Belt Squadron, before the Saa, and before Alex, Stephanie and Strong, it was the Earthers who carried the banner for Iceberg’s fiction wing. Many of my early convention appearances were anchored by the latest Equations novel, and though the series wrapped up in 2009, its impact continues to be felt to this day.

I recall the Equations now because, over the holidays, I got to meet a bunch of Earthers. Well, not strictly speaking — if I literally met Earthers, there’d probably be headlines about it (giant spaceships and all).

However, I did get to meet wolfdogs at the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary, just outside Calgary. It was quite a place, and one I’ll gladly recommend everyone visit.

Wolfdogs are born when humans encourage wolves and dogs to mate. Despite what some people think, this sort of union doesn’t happen casually, and it certainly doesn’t occur as often as some breeders would like you to believe. Many dogs are called (and sold as) ‘wolfdogs’ because of the way they look; real wolfdogs are a very distinct and diverse group, who don’t behave at all like regular dogs.

At the Yamnuska Sanctuary, they rescue and teach about wolfdogs –– and they let you meet their pack up close. As you tour their grounds, you learn very quickly about the different kinds of wolfdogs you encounter.

The ‘low content’ wolfdogs (ones who exhibit greater dog traits) are generally affable and happy to socialize with you, particularly if you’re offering treats. However, they aren’t too keen on guard duty, staying within fenced areas, or not eating couches. That said, they’re quite a handsome bunch.

In low content wolfdogs, you can recognize many dog-like features… and they behave rather differently than their high content cousins.

The ‘high content’ wolfdogs –– who are in many respects almost indistinguishable from pure wolves –– are a much warier crew. Even though the members of the Sanctuary’s pack have been around humans all their lives, they tend to keep their distance, take their time, and never get too friendly with strangers.

They’ll also never stray indoors if they can help it –– possessing excellent situational awareness, they have no appetite for being trapped. When you sit in their territory, waiting with treats, they rather casually split up, and approach cautiously from all sides, almost appearing to move like a small, silent, tactical unit. Fortunately, humans aren’t on the menu.

Zeus is a high-content wolfdog, essentially indistinguishable from a wolf, and quite silent when appearing behind you (while you're watching his colleagues approach from the front).
Kaida is a high content wolfdog, essentially indistinguishable from a wolf… and quite silent when appearing behind you, while you’re watching his colleagues approach from the front.

Meeting these different types of wolfdogs was quite an education… and it was also a reminder of how much I miss writing for the Earthers.

For those unfamiliar with the Equations series, the Earthers were the product of genetic engineering — not by humans, but by a sentient bioweapon. Omega had been created to exterminate humanity, and it did so ravenously… but it also ate too fast. When it realized it had expended its food supply, it went in search of alternative hosts, and decided its best chance was to modify existing animals. On the verge of starvation, it started manipulating the DNA of wolves, cats and bears, aiming to make them more human.

Out of eight Equations novels (and one spinoff), canines nabbed five covers — though Fox Magnus obviously isn’t a wolf.

The plan worked, but evidently not fast enough –– Omega was gone by the time the first generation of highly-intelligent humanoid animals started appearing. Like wolfdogs, these Earthers represented the crossing of two different worlds. Unlike wolfdogs, they picked up English (and all the other languages, and sciences, and everything) quite quickly, and rapidly exceeded humanity on all fronts. They were too good to be true… as the human survivors who later returned to reclaim the planet discovered, much to their chagrin. That’s the point where the series began, with The Human Equation.

The Equations was the first series were ever worked on, and being new to writing (and let’s be honest: being sixteen years old when I started), I made decisions throughout the books that I would make differently now. Instead of chewing on the scenery (is that a pun, in the wolfdog context?) we plunged straight into epic space opera. Big space battles. The fate of the universe. Fortunately, the Earthers could handle all of that, because they’re better than humans…

But there are more ways to know Caine’s people than I left myself room to explore. Which means that one day, I’ll have to go back there –– tell more stories.

Revisiting the Earther universe has always been –– will always be –– the writing project I’m most passionate about. Our fine friend John Fioravanti is currently writing in that universe with the Genesis Saga (the second installment, Treachery and Triumph, is now available), though his focus remains on human affairs, not the Earthers.

I definitely plan to be back… but that won’t happen soon, as Champions and Black Sun are our priority for the next few years. In the meantime, I’ll keep visiting the Sanctuary, because staring contests with Nova and Kaida remind me that one day I’ll return to the beginning, and spend time with characters who are better than all the rest.

Nova and Zeus. At least, I think it's Zeus. High-content wolfdogs, nearly indistinguishable from wolves. Also: related to Ami Cairn and Zed Dune?
Nova and Kaida. At least, I think it’s Kaida. I need to visit more. Also, Nova might be related to Ami Cairn and Zed Dune?

To learn more about the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary, to donate in support of their pack, or to schedule a visit, check them out online.