Monday, October 5, 2015

A Friend for Lakota: The Incredible True Story of a Wolf Who Braved Bullying

In support of October being Bullying Prevention Month and today being Bullying Awareness Day, A Geek Daddy is highlighting National Geographic Kids' A Friend for Lakota: The Incredible True Story of a Wolf Who Braved Bullying and giving away a copy of the book to one of our blog readers. Jim and Jamie Dutcher lived in a tented camp in Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains for six years among a pack of wolves, observing and documenting rarely seen social behaviors.  The Dutchers produced three documentary films from the experience which won three Emmy Awards and also published with National Geographic Kids the children's book A Friend for Lakota based upon one of the emotionally touching experiences during their observation of the wolf pack.

Lakota is a shy pup and as the wolves grow up the other members of the pack take advantage of his being timid.  The other wolves begin to bully the gentle-natured Lakota growling and snapping at him forcing the young wolf to be submissive to them as what the Dutchers term the "omega" of the group which is the bottom of the wolf pack. Eventually though, Matsi, the Beta which is the second wolf in the hierarchy of the pack, befriends Lakota defending him from the bullying.  Matsi's friendship neutralizes the bullying and builds up Lakota's confidence helping him to eventually become an equal member of the pack.

After reading this story with my children, I had a chance to chat one-on-one with Jim and Jamie Dutcher about their experiences with Lakota, Matsi and the rest of the Sawtooth wolf pack.  They explained to me that they had been visiting elementary schools around the country to discuss their experience living with the wolves and the story of Lakota always overwhelmingly resonated with the children they were talking with.  So the couple decided to team up with National Geographic Kids to share the story of the wolf who braved bullying.

"You would see these kids who from their demeanor probably were being bullied themselves raise their hands in the crowd of students and ask if Lakota was ok and everything turned out alright for him," said Jim Dutcher during our interview.  "These kids faces would brighten up so much when I explained that he eventually overcame the bullying and lived a very long healthy and happy life with the wolf pack.  It seemed to provide some reassurance that things would be alright for them too."

"Another important point to be taken from this story is just say no to bullying like Matsi did," added Jamie Dutcher.  "We are hoping that children who witness bullying will step in like Matsi did to stop that behavior and befriend the victim.  This story really shows how being a friend to someone else can make a huge positive impact on another life."

"We emphasize that the other wolves never were trying to kill or seriously hurt Lakota but rather the bullying was meant to put him in his place as an inferior "omega" member of the pack," Jim noted.  "Lakota was actually the biggest animal in the pack and was the best howler.  Often times bullying would begin after he out shined other members of the pack while howling and the other wolves wanted to make themselves feel better about themselves by picking on poor Lakota.  This really relates to human bullying and shows a similarity between wolves and people."

Jim and Jamie also mentioned that they hope this book will provide a better understanding of wolves with children that will help with future conservation efforts for the species.  "People think of wolves as these dangerous, fierce creatures, but if you ran into a wolf in the wild it would probably be scared of you and run away," Jim noted.  "Wolves are an endangered species because of humans hunting them and causing habitat loss," added Jamie. "Hopefully this book and Lakota's story will help change perceptions and help protect wolves in the wild."

During their study of the wolves Jim and Jamie camped out right in the woods with the wolves so that the pack eventually became accustomed to the humans being around them.  This allowed the Dutchers to observe and document experiences with the wolves that humans rarely see.  One example referred to by Jim during our discussion was how Jamie was allowed to climb into an underground den to see new born puppies and if the couple hadn't been adopted by the pack the wolves would have been protective against allowing that to happen.  This relationship allowed the Dutchers to take some remarkable photographs of Lakota and the wolf pack that are included in this book.

Jim and Jamie's experience with the Sawtooth wolf pack also led them to start a non-profit conservation organization called Living with Wolves. This non-profit group is dedicated to raising broad public awareness of the truth about wolves, their social nature, their importance to healthy ecosystems and the threats to their survival hoping to build acceptance that can lead to coexistence between people and wolves sharing the same land.  This group has sponsored a free online activity guide about grey wolves with National Geographic for children 4 to 10 years old plus provides a free downloadable coloring book to educate children about these animals.

Now to the giveaway! For a chance to win A Friend for Lakota you  must be a U.S. or Canadian resident over 18 years old and submit the following entry method prior to 11:59 pm EST on Sunday October 11, 2015.  All valid entries will be assigned a number in the order they are received and one number will be  selected to determine the winner using  E-mails will only be used to contact the winner and deleted following the selection of a winner.

UPDATECongratulations Nancy B from Fresno California on winning A FRIEND FOR LAKOTA book.

E-mail thegeekdaddy [at] yahoo [dot] com your name and mailing address.   Email subject line should be LAKOTA. 

A Friend for Lakota: The Incredible True Story of a Wolf Who Braved Bullying is a 32 page hardcover book meant for children 4 to 8 years old.  The book retails for $16.99 on the National Geographic online store.

DISCLAIMER:  A Geek Daddy Blog will be responsible for selecting the winner of this contest, but National Geographic is responsible for fulfillment and delivery of the prize.  By participating in this contest you waive any liability towards A Geek Daddy Blog or its publisher that may arise from your involvement with this promotion.  If you win this prize on another blog, you will not be eligible to win again.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification. Prize will be delivered by UPS or FedEx so no P.O. Boxes are allowed as mailing addresses. A Geek Daddy Blog did not receive any financial compensation but did receive a free featured product for the blog to review and the prize that is being awarded to one of our readers for this contest.  A Geek Daddy Blog is hosting this contest as a benefit to our readers. Any opinions in this post are my own.  #NGKINSIDER

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