When I was twenty-seven, I did something really rather stupid

Actually, I almost certainly did many stupid things that year – I was, after all, twenty-seven – but this is the only one I remember because it went on to indelibly shape the future course of my life. When I first met Brenin, I was a young assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Alabama, and he was six-weeks old, a cuddly little teddy bear of a wolf cub. At least, he was sold to me as a wolf, but it is very likely that he was wolf-dog mix. Whatever he was, he grew up.


Brenin had certain – let us call them – idiosyncrasies. If I left him unattended for more than a few minutes, he would destroy anything he could lay his jaws on – which, given that he grew to be thirty-five inches at the withers, included pretty much everything that wasn’t screwed to the ceiling. I don’t know if he was easily bored, had separation anxiety, or claustrophobia, or some combination of all of these things. But the result was that Brenin had to go everywhere I did. I took him to lectures with me at the University. He would lie down and sleep in the corner of the lecture room: most of the time anyway – when he didn’t things would get interesting. For example you can probably imagine the circumstances that caused me to append this little cautionary note to my syllabus:

Note: Please do not pay any attention to the wolf. He will not hurt you. However, if you do have any food in your bags, please ensure that those bags are securely fastened shut.

I can’t be certain of this, of course, but I strongly suspect that this was the first time these three sentences had ever appeared on a philosophy syllabus.

Any socializing I did – bars, parties, and I did a lot of that stuff when I was in Alabama – Brenin had to come too. If I went on a date, he would play the lupine gooseberry. For more than a decade Brenin and I lived our lives in each other’s pockets.

Allied to his destructive proclivities was his boundless energy. When Brenin was a cub, and then a young wolf, he liked to play a game: he would grab a cushion off the sofa or armchair on which I was sitting, and tear off out the garden, with me in hot pursuit. It was a game of chase, and he loved it. But when he started getting big, he decided to modify the game. One day, sitting in my study – no doubt thinking about something very boring – my reflections were interrupted by a sequence of loud thuds coming from the room that led out to the back yard. Instead of taking a cushion from the armchair and going out the garden, Brenin had decided that it would be far more rewarding to take the rest of armchair too. The thuds were made by the chair, locked firmly in Brenin’s jaws, being repeatedly slammed against the doorframe. I think it was at precisely this moment I decided that, all things considered, it would be a really, really good thing if Brenin were constantly exhausted. And so our daily walks together became daily runs. That thud-thud-thud of an armchair against a doorframe marked the beginning of a life of almost daily running.

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