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Shen Life Pack China Portrait by Karen Jackson

Sweet China Bear

We have news.


China playing ambassador at our last ShenDig, October 5, 2018.

It’s raw, tender, and achey, but so sweet, grateful, and blessed. Our new normal as a pack is four strong. Our sweet China Bear phase-shifted into a different dimension on October 20, 2018, just one month before her 10th birthday.


No, Stephen and I did not expect this cliff dive event. Yes, the pack had slowed down to accommodate her pace. She’d stopped jumping onto our bed because of her hips, she’d down-shifted from 4-6 miles a day to 1-3, but she never stopped smiling and singing our pack song!


This experience of living with a wolfdog pack for the last 10 years has transformed us. Yet, it wasn’t until China’s last week did we reflect and absorb the magnitude of our journey. Here are a few such realizations:




China never tolerated assholes of any species. Her routine is to first sniff someone, biped or quadruped, to approve of them even though the alpha is supposed to be first. Though kind, once assessed, she’d turn away from jack asses as a way to shun them and let them know they were NOT welcome in the pack. If the message wasn’t clear and a dog persisted to get in her business, she’d drop a shoulder into them…and to be super clear, she gave a nip.


For the longest time, we tried to train that behavior out of her based on the teachings of many trainers. We tried to impose our sense of ‘right’ onto her. But, we were wrong; she got it right.


Not everyone is good. Not everyone respects the precious gift of our time. All are not complementary to our vibe. Not everyone deserves pack privileges.


Tolerance should not translate as an acceptance of idiocracy.




China, Bella, and Atlas emanate a primal majesty. It’s clear that they are divine creatures. And, so are we.


Until we personally embrace our divine nature, we cannot and will not act accordingly. To do so, we must sit, smile, and love hard like our sweet China Bear. She never got worked up or in a hurry to go do something frivolous. She relished in her present mode be it doing nothing or everything because she understood she was Spirit in the flesh…as we all are. She just brought the joy with her everywhere!


We need to value that divinity, protect it and respect it!




Our last ride together.

Never afraid to ask for what she needed, China let us know everything. Though her sissy (sister, Bella) was alpha of the quadrupeds, China would bark if she was hungry, thirsty or needed to go outside to potty just like she did on her last morning so papa, Stephen, would carry her out to avoid making a mess inside.


She showed us how important it is to use our voice to be completely honest with ourselves, our pack, and the world, even if that means calling out bullshit. Sharing our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs with passion is what it looks like to use our voice.


In her final hours that did not diminish. Barely able to lift her head up, she showed her joy for life with a final, faint howl. She’s forever our soprano.


Pack Power


Pack harmony means so much to China Bear. It reflects cohesion, symbiosis, and power. She continues to show us what a pack should look like and how it needs to function.


A reality of life is that not everyone cares. It’s a waste of time to hang with people who don’t have our backs or best interests at heart. The people who do care matter…and when they are gone, they are gone.


In life, we get zero guarantees. Best cherish the invaluable few who are part of our packs. They are the ones who you can turn to for support, care and protection. They will empower you to accomplish more than you expect.


Be You


You are who you are, so enjoy it!


Wallace Wattles puts it as, “more than filling your present place.” China demonstrates how to do so with grace and joy. She thoroughly enjoyed being second in charge to Bella.


The road to that satisfaction took some teeth. When the girls were under two years, they started to test each other for the top position. Randomly, they’d tussle and pop holes in one another. It was so fast: growl, 1, 2, and blood squirt.


Stephen got tired of breaking up the fights. With a can of bear spray, he put a stop to it. On a grey Montana winter morning, he interrupted a scuffle in the kitchen with two shots. As soon as the pepper cloud rose up, the fighting stopped for good…and all four of us were bathing in the Bitterroot River in our skivvies.


Though capable, she acquiesced. In doing so, she demonstrated how to be powerful, though not ‘in power.’ Since that chilly bath, China gave Bella the alpha position by being the best number 2 ever.


She happily filled her role in the pack as the glue or mortar; the security guard; the singer; and the happy-go-lucky girl next door.


Use Your Teeth


With her pristine white lashes, perfectly pink belly, and scentless presence, she’s a beautiful, majestic creature; never a tick or flea. Everyone who’s had the pleasure of spending time with our babies comments so. Yet, nothing can top her smile.


Yes, she smiled. Every time we came back together, she was the first to the door with a body wag, head bow, and a big smile. She loves her pack and proudly shows each of us at any opportunity…with teeth!


We all can do so much more for each other and ourselves by showing our joy. Just smile. It uplifts everyone, including ourselves. Try it. It feels good.


A New Normal


Cruising around the Rockies we were stopped by a photographer. Carbondale, Co – August 2018.

When Stephen and I left California in 2008, we ran to the Rockies. Defeated and deflated, we were wounded and lost our voices. The wild, magnetic part of us had been beaten down in the politically-correct, bullshit culture of Los Angeles. As if sent to rescue us, these incredible wolf dogs have helped us regain our feral nature. They’ve taught us how to fight, how to respect life, and how to be a pack. We are definitely better people for it.


The devastation has receded, but there’s a big hole left. Her energy is missing. Sad, but grateful for the time shared, our pack is adapting to a new normal.


In China’s honor, please smile and hug someone…and if you are bold enough, howl it out!


Erica Rogers