For starting off a Monday morning, nothing beats cuteness overload. It’s better than coffee, especially when it’s genuinely adorable, and not the synthetic kind regularly pumped out by greeting card manufacturers.
The video below clearly falls into the genuinely adorable category, enough so that it can melt even my grinchy heart. It shows Belka, a 20-day-old Alaskan Malamute/Siberian Husky mix, learning how to howl with a little help and encouragement from one of his humans.
One of the things that makes it so inescapably endearing is that a lone dog howling against the icy northern wilderness is such an iconic image. Even if we haven’t read The Call of the Wild, a lot of the imagery that Jack London used has been scrawled deeply into our cultural language. You never think about the dogs learning to howl, in the same way that humans learn to sing or talk by mimicking mom or dad or whatever’s on the television.
And in the short space of a few seconds, it also evokes how closely humans and dogs have bonded. The howl has come to symbolize a very solitary wildness. Humans mimic it when they want to show that they can’t be tamed, or that they’re feeling wild and want to break free from the bonds of everyday life. Usually when I see images of human boys howling, it’s in a story about a feral child like Mowgli in The Jungle Book. It’s a sign of how much the child has left his humanity behind.
But when you watch the pup learning how to howl with a boy, it feels more like the pup is embracing humanity. It’s adorable not because it’s another rendition of clichés about a boy and his dog, but because anyone who’s owned a dog can feel the sense of companionship here, and knows that it goes a lot deeper than mere cuteness.