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“Canine Columnist”: “What the Leader of the Pack Reveals About the Pack”

By Santino Corleone Berkwitt

Bella and I were reminiscing about her time on the streets of Muskogee and how she survived in an environment that was uncertain and unsettling. She was in a group of five other pups, and she had been on the streets the longest. Bella had been taught the lay of the land by a very shrewd poodle named Polly. Polly had been on the streets for years and she had managed to survive tornados, droughts, starvation, and other challenges. Polly developed skills that enabled her to keep herself safe, and soon the other pups relied on her knowledge and expertise to keep safe too. She lived a long life, and although it was on the streets, she managed to live a full life, succumbing to old age.

Polly’s death left Bella as the natural successor of the pack. Bella was smart, resourceful, and she had been through much of the same adversity that made Polly such a good leader. However, new to the pack was Chi-Chi the Chihuahua. Chi-Chi had recently run away from a home where she was pampered. She had every convenience that a pup could want. Her water was always iced and came directly from a dispenser. She wore a diamond studded collar and had the best puppy perfumes. She even had lavish houses, even having a resort estate in Florida. Everyone knew that Chi-Chi wouldn’t be on the streets for very long. She was micro-chipped and her tags had the names and addresses of her parents. Chi-Chi could have been reunited with her family instantly as many people tried to approach her. The problem is that she did not want to be caught. Whenever someone called her, she quickly ran away.

Chi-Chi was arrogant and lacked modesty. Her wealth clouded her reasoning. She thought that she was entitled to do whatever it was that she wanted to do, and her running away was merely an exercise in her stubborn independence. She was handed everything on a silver platter, and this life of excess clouded her judgement. Because she barked incessantly and her bark was high pitched, it resonated with pups who didn’t have the ability to see through the façade. Chi-Chi was divisive and rude, often resorting to insults to people or pups who didn’t see things in the same light in which she did. Some pups mistook her abrasive speech as strength, and they aligned with her because she howled the things that they felt but lacked the courage to say. She was an elitist, and she believed that she and her breed was superior to the other breeds.

So it was interesting when the next leader of the pack was to be established. Bella was the heir apparent, but boisterous Chi-Chi attempted to undermine Bella’s credibility every step of the way. Bella and Polly developed an action plan to recognize and respond to inclimate weather and that plan saved the pups from harm. Bella worked with Polly to identify sources of clean water and healthy food. Bella and Chi-Chi managed to keep the pack safe and out of harms way. The pack thrived under their leadership, yet Chi-Chi managed to influence some of the pack to support her.

Nevermind that Chi-Chi had never experienced adversity or that she had never successfully managed any challenges or hardships. Her divisive rhetoric struck a chord with a few of the pups.
Bella reflected on how she was able to persuade the majority of the pack to follow her leadership. She told me that it took time and patience to rebuild the distrust and division that Chi-Chi and her minions sewed. Bella spoke decisively and factually. She continued to focus on solving the issues that the pack faced and ignored the meaningless yapping of Chi-Chi and her cohorts. She recalled that it seemed like so many people were being misled by Chi-Chi but when the final tally was counted, Bella was elected the pack leader. Her leadership proved vital as the pack was facing a deadly strand of the mange, and Bella’s experience enabled her to get the pandemic under control. Other pups remarked that Chi-Chi was ill equipped to deal with anything but room temperature water hitting her fur as she preferred her baths of warm milk and oatmeal, followed by paw treatments. Chi-Chi’s life of luxury made her ill-equipped to deal with the issues that the common pup faced.

The point of our reflection wasn’t to gloat in Bella’s victory. The point was to reestablish faith in our fellow pups. The pups got the leadership that befitted them. Sure, many of them succumbed to the noise of Chi-Chi and her cult, but as Bella so eloquently states “an empty wagon makes a lot of noise”. Without a doubt, had Chi-Chi been elected the leader of the pack, the entire pack would have suffered. Recognizing leadership, honesty, and competence shows a lot about the individual who does so.

If a pack, a group, a congregation, or any gathering of individuals choses a leader, that leader reflects their value system. If that leader is not befitting to lead then perhaps they should reexamine their values.

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