Howling. A versatile communication tool. It is what we are called to do when circumstances drop boulders on our heads, wrench our broken hearts from our chests and drop our precious love to the hard ground. It is also what we do when we are triumphant, crushing our opponents (perhaps in a game of backgammon which has gone all road warrior) or beating circumstances when the odds were stacked against us. These are the lone howls - solitary voices expressing pain, rage, triumph or blessed survival.
There are also group howls. Now perhaps you think I've gone off the deep end this morning, but we've taken to group howling at our house. At first, it was to encourage our very quiet dog to feel free to express himself. And, with a bit of help from his housemates, he will now do this. But after a time, I came to discover how alive I felt when our voices rose together, vibrating loudly in a primitive chorus, Pongo's head raised high to the ceiling, lips pursed in his best wolf imitation. The chorus of voices together feels like drum beats, thrumming, wobbling strands of sound. My entire being zings when we howl together.
We don't actually need a reason to howl. Sometimes we randomly howl in the middle of the afternoon while looking for a snack. It changes the very vibration of the house and its inhabitants. Like sound smudging. It is also quite impossible to not be present when howling. It chases all the worries away.
Funny, I've never seen group howling listed as one of the benefits of dog ownership. Perhaps it is time to revise the brochures?
In case you are new to howling, here are a few beginning howlers to help you get started: