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Koda and the Wolves. Evolution of a Children’s Book

Koda and the wolves

The first time I saw a wolf, I was one and a half years old.

Six years ago, I had the idea that my dog Koda could speak, in his own words, about his wildlife adventures. At the time, Koda was almost seven years old and lived most of his life in the mountains adjacent to Yellowstone National Park. He’d had encounters with wolves and grizzlies, but also watched elk give birth, been caught in a trap, lived with a pika, and many more experiences rare for most domestic dogs. I thought telling stories about wildlife through the eyes of a dog would excite children. Yet as I worked on the manuscript, the essence of Koda’s nature just wasn’t coming through. I put the book aside, unable to figure out how best to let Koda tell his story.

Koda runs after a bear

In October of last year, Koda took his last breath and the unfinished manuscript began to gnaw at me. The book wasn’t right, yet I didn’t have any idea how to change it. I decided to put pen to paper so to speak and begin again. This time the story flowed. Instead of a series of chapters with different animals, Koda’s real tale was represented through his smells and encounters with the valley’s  wolves. At the heart of every dog sleeps a wolf, echoes from deep within their genetic past.

Koda watches 06 swim the Lamar River

When I moved with Koda to my home east of Yellowstone, wolves were still protected and close encounters were not uncommon. Several wolf packs vied for dominance in the valley every winter, and the drama played out before our eyes. Koda and the Wolves tells the story of a dog’s attraction to wild nature embodied in his kin, the wolf; but also how a dog’s naivete of the wolf’s intense territoriality can be his downfall.

Every story in the book, told in Koda’s voice, really happened. My hope is that Koda’s story will bring us all to a better understanding and kinship with his brother, the wolf.

To support that vision, I am pledging 100% of the profits from the book beginning May 2020* through July 2020 to support wolves. In order to maximize donation dollars (due to the tiered, very tight, structural profit distribution in the publishing industry) only books that are bought directly through my website (lesliepattenbooks.com) will be able to provide donations. Donations will go to Wolves of the Rockies.

UPDATE:  With the donation campaign over, I’m happy to announce we raised over $1000 for Wolves of the Rockies.   If there is interest, WofR and I might repeat this campaign after the holidays in 2021. Thanks to all who participated. Koda and the Wolves can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local bookstore. If you want a signed copy, please order directly through my website and click on the PayPal link.



Koda confronts Death

Hi Folks,  Koda has been writing up a storm as he is now 8 years old and in middle age.  I think he must be going through his mid-life crisis.  Here is another piece of his memoirs.  I think this one is quite interesting and gives us a window into a dog’s psyche.

What I know about death

The first time I knew death was when Soona died. I wasn’t really there, but I knew afterwards. Soona was old, and sick. I knew that. And for two weeks Leslie gave her all the attention, and I let her. I was only a year old then, but I knew I had to be quiet now and let Soona and Leslie have their moments together. One day Dennis brought my leash and took me for a walk. That night Soona wasn’t at home and things felt strange.

Koda and Soona just before she died

Koda and Soona just before she died

The next morning, I stood by the sliding glass door. I felt compelled to go outside. Something was shimmering on the patio. Leslie let me out and I went to that spot where the shimmering was and sniffed and sniffed. I smelled Soona there. Leslie said that was where Soona had died yesterday. They had taken her body away before I came home, yet I could still see her there as if she was saying goodbye to me. It might seem like I annoyed her when she was alive, but she really loved me and here she was telling me in spirit.

After Soona died, we moved to Wyoming where we live all the time now.

Koda compares his foot to a wolf track

Koda compares his foot to a wolf track

Winters are the best and I really like the snow and the cold. During my first winter, when I was just at little more than one year old, we spent a lot of time walking in the meadows where all the elk like to graze in the evenings. One afternoon I found a dead coyote. A young man, like me, he’d gotten too bold and had mingled among the elk herd, looking for a meal perhaps. He was kicked in the ribs right there and died. I still didn’t know much about death, but this coyote looked like me and was a lot like me. I sniffed and sniffed him, but really I didn’t want anything to do with that coyote. I like deer and elk when they are dead and I like to chew on their bones, but this dead coyote I didn’t like.

Koda enjoys an elk carcass killed by wolves

Koda enjoys an elk carcass killed by wolves

Many times I’ve run after coyotes. I’m a lot bigger than any coyote. They are wild like wolves, so running after them makes me feel wild and free. Yet this dead coyote reminded me of something I didn’t want to be reminded of. So every time that winter when Leslie came close to his body in the dry grass and snow, I stayed far away.

Living in Wyoming, I’ve seen lots of death, everything from deer, elk, marmots and squirrels (like!), to cougars, wolves, and coyotes (don’t like!), but when I was 5 years old, I had an experience of death that was mighty different. Leslie took me to the desert where we stayed with some friends. I liked Steve and Vicky and they also had a big dog named Maggie. Every day Leslie and I hiked around this desert called Sedona which was sandy and red like me.

Koda in Sedona

Koda in Sedona

One morning, I followed Leslie into a little room Steve used as an office.   I was bored while Leslie and Steve talked. Then I noticed that shimmering again and the special smell–a smell that reminded me of Soona’s death. It was coming from a small table where a man’s wallet sat. The wallet needed something from me. I went over and put my nose on top of the wallet so I could smell what it needed. My mind went still and through my noise I was traveling. The shimmering scent led me to an old man by a bridge on a road of stars. This man told me he didn’t want to cross the bridge. “I’m scared and alone” he told me. He was so nice and I didn’t want to see him afraid. After all, I am a protector. So I went to him, stood by his side, and walked him to the other side of the bridge. It was an easy thing to do, and especially since the bridge appeared like a rainbow in the stars. I liked this place and wanted to explore more, but I knew I couldn’t. The old man turned around, patted me on the head and smiled, then disappeared, just like that. Suddenly I was back in that little room with Steve and Leslie staring at me. They too sensed something had happened. But you know, humans can’t smell like I can, so they had no idea what happened. Apparently I’d been still for many minutes with my nose on that wallet. Then Steve told Leslie ‘That’s my father’s wallet. He died 6 months ago in this house, and had a difficult death.” I guess I helped him cross that bridge and that felt good.

Koda enjoys a view

Koda enjoys a view


What Kind of Dogs are Wolves by Koda

Hi folks.  I’m going to try something different on my blog.  From time to time, I’ll post reminiscences from Koda, the dog who grew up in the Wyoming wilds.  Here’s the first one.  The stories below took place when Koda was about 7 months old.  We were still living in California and traveling by car back and forth to Wyoming.  After Soona died when Koda was about 1 1/2 years old, we moved to our cabin in Wyoming full time.

This is me.  And this is my first blog post

This is me. And this is my first blog post

After a long drive, Leslie (she’s my person), Soona (she’s my grandma) and I were at our new home, a place not at all like the city we came from. This place was vast—just mountains, trees, and more smells than I ever could have imagined.

A Glorious spring day.  Koda and I hike up Elk Creek Meadows.

A Glorious spring day.  Here I am on the trail in the mountains

One morning we were all up in the flats above the house. Leslie was piling little rocks. Soona and I were sniffing and watching. Without warning, Soona made a beeline for the woods. I was still little, only 9 months old, and didn’t know one smell from another, but I knew she smelled something that I didn’t, so I followed her. Leslie was worried for the old lady. The woods, she said, could be dangerous, especially for old dogs. So she followed us. And what do you know, Soona had a great find: a turkey partially eaten by a coyote! We munched on the bird for a while. I know turkeys because they live in California. But I didn’t know they were here in Wyoming too. From that time on I’ve watched them and got to know them. Leslie taught me to let them be. In the winter they come to our yard where I sit outside on the porch while they peck and pick for seeds and corn we sometimes lay out for them. Mostly they amuse me and, as long as don’t run after them, they pay me no mind.

Wild turkeys, not native

The flock of turkeys I’ve come to know. And they know me.

One day just Leslie and I went for a hike up a stream, leaving Soona at home. We returned a different way, a route through sparse meadows peppered with small trees and gullies. I stayed just a bit ahead, yet kept close to Leslie. We were on the side of a small arroyo when I smelled something watching us from behind a tree. I turned to look, and saw the most beautiful girl I’d ever laid my eyes on. She appeared to be a dog, yet she had a different aura about her. My heart jumped and an irresistible urge took over my entire body. It was if this black dog were a magnet drawing me towards her. I’d already met and played with many dogs in my life at that point. I was only 7 months old, but I already knew to ‘ask’ before I could go play. But this dog…she was like no other, and I just had to know what, and who, she was. She seemed to be the essence of what a dog is; a wildness that was wilder than I ever could be. Really, I just lost my head. And so I ran after her, silently.

What a beauty she was

What a beauty she was

I heard Leslie screaming for me, calling my name. But Leslie’s voice was like a dream in the background. That black dog was so fast that I finally gave up trying to catch her. But, I’ve got to tell you, that was the most exciting moment in my life!

I ran back to the little arroyo where I’d left Leslie. She hugged me and seemed so relieved to see me. She told me that I’d seen a wolf and I was lucky that there weren’t other wolves waiting for me there. That wolves weren’t like dogs and they didn’t want other wolves, or dogs, in their territory. But all I know was that was one truly wild and free ‘dog’.

This is a wikiup

This is a wikiup

We rested in a nearby wikiup in the meadows. Leslie petted me, then scolded me for running away. After a time, we headed back in the direction where I’d run after that wolf, till we came to a trail. And what do you think I found at the trail? That wolf got so excited she’d thrown up her lunch! I guess I made an impression on her too.