Saturday, April 14, 2007

Full of Surprises

When a new animal arrives at Wild Spirit, we’re always excited to watch their personalities develop… It’s rewarding to watch an animal become more comfortable, interesting to watch how they adapt to their new surroundings, and inspiring when they make the first move toward interaction with one of us, if it is not immediate.
The five additions from the Oregon trip have been no exception. Axel remains the shyest, though he too, is beginning to be more curious – coming closer to people, sniffing with interest at tours and volunteer passers-by.
Sierra’s curiosity has begun pushing her further and further, and while at first, Yukon was getting breakfast-and-a-half each morning, I even saw Sierra stealing more than her fair share from her previously braver companion this morning.
Lani has already won the hearts of many of our volunteers, with her playfulness, her antics, and her pushy-way of asking for attention. She’s full of energy, yearning for scratches, and quite the trickster.
Yukon & Nakota, however, have by far given the most surprises. Nakota has taken to “nipping” volunteers on the way out of his enclosures. One morning, one of our volunteers came into the office and quite confusedly, but seriously said to me, “I’m not sure what to think of it, but I’m pretty sure Nakota just bit me.” Upon further investigation, I found that it was by no means an aggressive bite, but more of a “nip” for attention. Later in the week, two more volunteers were “bit” by this naughty fellow, and it’s become almost as regular of an occurrence as Mr. Shyloh’s morning nibbles. I mentioned this in a recent email to his previous owner, who informed me that this was a habit he developed toward people he enjoyed. It certainly seems to be an affectionate “taste,” and I myself am hoping to get a nip one of these days when I least expect it. I suppose it’s almost unfortunate that I’ve learned to be so cautious and observant – I’m missing out on the fun with Nakota!
Yukon, however, has not left me out of his antics. He’s a very brave boy these days, and perhaps was always the bravest. When Leyton and I were driving them from Oregon, I was amazed at how calm this boy was, even after he had destroyed the side of his kennel, and we began carefully reaching in to feed and water him. While we did so with great caution, Yukon seemed unaffected, and almost comforted by the short pets we offered him.
Now, while Yukon has not solicited for actually “scratches,” he has approached myself and his new caretaker, Allison, on several occasions-- some head-on… others, with an element of surprise.
It wasn’t more than a week ago that I was bent over in the enclosure, cleaning Yukon & Sierra’s water, that I felt something cold & wet on the small of my back. As I turned, I jumped what felt like a full foot in the air when I saw Mr. Yukon, a mischevious look on his face, staring back at me. On another occasion, I had brought some treats in for the “new kids” and while I didn’t hear or a see a thing, Yukon had somehow managed to steal the whole bag from directly beside me. Tonight, Allison relayed a story of Yukon deciding he wanted some excitement, play-bowing and running around her in circles.
In the beginning stages, the more sociable an animal becomes, the more cautious we must be when interacting with them. But it sure adds excitement to the “ride.” And as Yukon & Nakota begin testing the boundaries, experimenting with how far their mischievousness can take them, I can’t help but feel joy in their acceptance. To know, that just now, they are beginning what will hopefully be many years of naughtiness, trickery, mischief and experimentation, well, that’s where the real reward comes from… that’s what makes each day worth while – and full of surprises!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Toothy Grins & Gruesome Growths

I had heard Leyton once say how many times he regretted not becoming a vet when it briefly crossed his mind in his younger years. Of course, the six years of life spent in classrooms seemed itself a lifetime. Now, in even my young years, and even shorter time working here, I find myself, too, considering the idea of going to vet school. At best, I’ve merely entertained the idea. After all, while I can “get in there” with the blood, guts, and other messes, the moment I find myself in control of another beings’ life – I get shaky and nauseous. Still, over and over, I find myself wishing – dreaming – that there was someone here that could take care of issues when they arise.

On Sunday, Ghengiskhan gave his typical Loaf-day smile, growling over the loaf he was sure a volunteer would try to steal through his fence. During this particular snarl-session, however, Chris happened to notice a large growth seeming protruding around Ghengis’s canines. Upon closer inspection (of course only sparked by another through-the-fence- antagonized-Elvis-lip-curl) it seems as though one of the 11-year-old “babies” has grown a strangely shaped lump either from the gum line or roof of his mouth.

We’ve seen growths such as this before. In some cases, (for example, Fenris’s some what unsightly lip presence) they have proven to be nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, we are also quite aware of the severity some such growths can develop into. It being cancerous is not out of the question, and the chances of the disease being elsewhere are by no means unlikely if that is the case. Since growths in the mouth can often grow rapidly, this is, of course, a serious concern.

In Fenris’s case, once again, it was an easy issue with which to deal. Fenris, a friendly, mellow boy, is easily leashed, easily examined, easily transported, and generally – easy to deal with in all cases. Ghengis, however, is one of our toughest characters. The idea of even examining this growth more carefully without him being sedated is beyond question. The closest we can get to a thorough investigation without drug assistance is purposefully sparking an infamous toothy grin. And thus, there can be no quick trip to the vet. There can be no on-site “fix-up.” We will need to have a vet come to the Sanctuary, equipped with anesthesia, prepared to do surgery on site.

In the past, we have been lucky enough to deal with a few vets willing to make the long drive to the Sanctuary for such issues. Unfortunately, currently we do not have someone willing & able, especially not in a rapid timeframe. And so, for the last week, we’ve been on a quest, soliciting to those vets we work with already, and even some that we haven’t worked with as of yet. So far, however, no luck, and Ghengis has not left my mind. We all hope that it will prove to be a non-issue. But, it of course, weighs on the mind, and I can’t help but worry that whatever is affecting him is growing with every moment a vet can’t come. And so, I find myself –once again—thinking that, if I started going to vet school, part-time even, at some point, perhaps, this wouldn’t be an issue… But then again, I suppose a better dream would be to find someone who already holds this occupation as their passion, and would be willing to help us in caring for ours.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

On Transporting Wolves

Transporting wolves is not an easy nor in any way glamorous task. I’m often shocked to hear people’s ideas of how it’s done.
When we were discussing Lani & Lakota being brought to us in Medford, for example, the owner’s original plan was to simply leash them and put them in the back of the car. What people often don’t realize, is that unless a wolf has been conditioned extraordinarily well to riding in vehicles, long-term transport is an extremely stressful experience. A wolf, no matter how sociable, let loose in the back seat of a car, will most-often begin to find any escape possible.
When we were doing the Oregon transport, we were dealing with Yukon & Sierra and their son, Axel, all of which had virtually no travel experience, and were not sociable with strangers at all. Nakota, while sociable with his owner, is a very shy, neo-phobic
boy himself. Lani, well, Lani probably would have had no problems at all riding in the back of a car, but, with five animals in tow, the safest situation was to have all five animals in large, 700 level kennels.
Short-distance transport is typically stressful, but a 20 hour ride with five animals becomes an even larger ordeal. Our trek began with the capture of Yukon, Sierra and Axel. None of the three are ve
ry sociable, none had kennel experience, however, their captures went smoothly and all three were kenneled in an unexpectedly short period of time. We loaded them into the back of our van, and continued into town where we met up with Lani & Nakota, who, upon our request, had been previously kenneled by the owner and were easily placed directly into the van as well. And thus, began our journey.
There are many things to take into account when doing this type of transport. While food is not too much of an issues since wolves are built for and used to fasting, we always attempt to keep our passengers comfortable by going through quite a bit of un-salted beef jerky. Of primary concern, though, is making certain that the animals remain hydrated. Unlike with most dogs, there is no option of removing the animal from the kennel for a drinking break, nor is it possible to open a door and insert a bowl of water. Water bottles similar to those used for rabbits and guinea pigs may work for a non-stressed animal, but those already agitated will simply pull them into the kennel, deta
ch them, or totally destroy them. The only way we have found to easily offer a wolf in transport water, is by feeding ice-cubes through the gates. This is a fairly simple task, but certainly adds frequent stopping times, and some curious passers-by. Fairly often during transport, I wonder what the other folks at the gas station or rest area are thinking when they see Leyton and myself stopped, van doors hanging open for air flow, and us feeding ice cubes through gates to thirsty wolves. Sometimes, it becomes an impromptu educational talk and explanation of our Sanctuary’s mission.
The other thing people perhaps forget is that wolves are pretty smelly creatures in confined spaces. Wolves certainly have a musk. In open, outdoor areas, it is rarely very noticeable. However
, in a confined area, especially when an animal is stressed, the musk becomes extremely apparent. Beyond this, while many animals will not urinate or defecate where uncomfortable, stress sometimes lends itself to an animal going to the bathroom in his or her kennel. Once again, when dealing with a fearful and potentially dangerous animal, leashed walks for potty-breaks are not an option. Instead, it is something that we and the wolves must simply deal with. We did end up lining the kennels with cedar chips which helped absorb and mask the smell somewhat, however, it was certainly entertaining when we returned to the Sanctuary and volunteers got a “whiff of wolf” when we opened the doors.
Yukon added some additional concerns to our trip. While we’ve often considered the possibility of it happening, Yukon became the first animal to begin tearing through his kennel. With him, he showed no apparent signs of stress, fear, or the like. However, he certainly was not happy with his confinement, and so, began pulling the metal bars of his kennel’s window inward, until he had completely opened the area. Luckily for us, he was completely non-aggressive, allowing us to reach into the kennel to feed and water him at times. Also, with the van being packed full of kennels, he was unable to get himself out of the kennel to free-range in the back which would have presented quite a problem. When we arrived at the vet’s office in Gallup, we had another volunteer meet us to reassemble the kennel complete with a steel plate to prevent it from happening again on the trip from the vet’s to the Sanctuary.
Thankfully, the transport went fairly smoothly. We arrived at the vet’s office on time for the boy’s surgery, and that evening made it back to the Sanctuary in time to release the animals into their new enclosures with still enough daylight to observe them in their new spaces for a while.

Today, all five have settled happily and healthily into their new lives. Transport is always stressful, and in some cases, even scary. Whenever it goes smoothly, we are truly thankful and it is certainly comforting to watch new animals get over what must be an extraordinarily stressful experience. Most times, thankfully, when you look at our animals today, or even only a few weeks after, they seem as though it was never an issue. I wonder, if in retrospect they begin to think: “Hey that wasn’t so bad,” or, “It was all worth it, after all.” I hope that at least in most cases, this is true.
When Leyton, his wife Georgia and daughter Lakota went up to Oregon to pick up the arctic pups, their breeder told Leyton that he was done with the wolf-breeding business and that WSWS could have their parents as well. Obviously, the family trio and Subaru weren’t up for another two adult additions to the car ride, and so, for awhile, Yukon & Sierra remained in their original home. A few months ago, however, their owner called to ask us if we would come pick them up.
We’re always happy to get at least a couple of wolves off of the breeding market, and, it was an exciting idea to have an entire family group at our Sanctuary. So, we began making plans for a trek up to Oregon to pick up the parents, and their older, 3 year old son, Axel.
In the meantime, a woman named Missy began frantically (and persistently) calling us to see if we could perform a rescue. Lakota, a high-content wolf-dog that had at one point been in her care, had been through several home-changes, and ended up in Oregon in a county where he was illegal. With some problems bringing him to the attention of the local authorities, his current owner was given a week to either find him new placement or have him euthanized. Missy’s persistence, passion, and cooperativeness encouraged us, and the Sanctuary happened to have an open enclosure after the passing of a couple of animals. We agreed to pick up Lakota and his long-time companion, Kaelani, a low-content wolf-dog, if they were transported to the town where we were picking up the parents.
And so, a few weeks ago, Leyton and I hit the road for a 20 hour drive to Medford, Oregon. We left Oregon at 11 am on a Sunday morning, tag-team drove the way back with four wolves and a low-content wolf-dog in tow, and arrived at the vets office that Monday morning for the boys to be neutered. Kaelani (Lani) had already been spayed, and we chose not to have Sierra’s surgery due to some concerns about her current condition. The boys, however, went through surgery without any problems, and at the beginning of this month, five new residents joined our furry family.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Rain, a beautiful 2 year old, mid-content wolf-dog who’s been at our Sanctuary less than a year, now bares a pretty hefty battle wound. Our stunning “super-model” wolf-dog, lost a pretty large chunk of her ear to her new, quite feisty neighbors. Ear nips are a pretty common thing around here. Reinforcements are hung, great lengths are taken to find proper, safe “fight-wire,” and in some extreme cases, even plywood is placed between certain enclosures. We have great debates over how to position animals so that not only are they in compatible pairs, but in compatible “neighborhoods” as well. But, no matter what great lengths are taken, there’s always the occasional accident or unexpected incident.
This evening, as a bunch of the volunteers and staff members got together for a campfire, we got a bit silly and started discussing writing a local radio station who’s doing a $10,000 plastic surgery give-away, to plead Rain’s case. Of course, we wouldn’t mention the fact she’s a wolf-dog!

You see, living in the middle of the woods, surround by wolves, anthropomorphizing is sometimes taken to the next level; We talk about Ghengis having a secret tunnel inside his cave house that leads to a huge “Player’s Suite” complete with heart-shaped bed. We discuss Raven being the “James Bond of Wolves” and imagine him in human form, wearing a tuxedo and talking in a British accent. In the early morning, while we drink our coffee at the picnic tables before beginning the work day, sometimes great debates are held over what Cove & Shakti are grumbling at one another about through the fence that day, and whether the girls will insist their respective partners stand up for their honor as well. Of course, it’s all in good fun.
What I do find myself seriously considering, however, is what exactly the pre-ear-nip, cheek-bite, etc. discussion is like. I can’t imagine it’s premeditated, and so, what kind of wolf-world conversation lends itself to ending in a small-body-part removal? And in retrospect, is Rain now self-conscious around her handsome pen-mate, Ashlar? When Ghengis removed the majority of Artemesia’s ear several years ago, was there a fatherly lesson being taught? Or does there relationship lend itself more to a marital spat?
I’ve worked with a lot of canines in my young life, and though I’ve always felt each and every animal has his or her own personality, the wolves & wolf-dogs seem to have even more going on – through the fences, in the “neighborhoods” amidst the Sanctuary… In some cases, it seems as though intricate social networks are formed even throughout the
If nothing else, I’m certain that when Nakona down front lets out a howl, she’s making sure Princess on the hill know’s exactly what’s going on in the parking lot. And soon, of course, the
chain reaction begins, and all the neighbors are gossiping…

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Yesterday, Allison and I took Forest to Cherry Hills Library in Albuquerque. It was the first of the library presentations either I or Forest had done, and so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but as it turned out, there was a great group of kids (and adults) that seemed very interested in learning as much as they could about wolves. Forest, also, did a fantastic job.
When you go to an outreach event, you never really know what to expect. Certain tablings you’re lucky if you see a few people all day long; others, it feels like there’s never a break from offering our rhetoric. When it comes to presentations at schools & libraries, for example, it’s always a guessing game as to how the people are going to respond, and with the pups, how the ambassador wolf is going to feel.
Forest amazes me almost every time we go out into the public. At the Sanctuary, and as far as we’ve seen, he’s almost always a “happy-go-lucky” kid. At this particular library, Forest spent the entire time I was talking sleeping on the floor in front of me. More malleable than ever, he let me lift his paws to show the webbing between his toes, stretch out his tail to exhibit its lack of curl, fur pattern, and precaudal spot, and even mangle his fur about to show the two layers and the length of the guard hairs. It wasn’t until the first group of children came up to pet him that Forest finally woke up.
When he first woke up, I must admit a small part of me wondered what his reaction was going to be. While I know Forest to be a very understanding wolf pup, waking up to 6-7 little people petting you and another twenty or thirty crowded behind you can be a stressful situation for even the most well-adjusted of dogs, let alone a wolf. Forest, however, woke up just as pleased with all of the attention he was receiving as ever, and even though I asked the crowd to stand back, he didn’t seem very concerned.
As I walked him around the room then, meeting different people, mostly children, Forest gave kisses – perhaps tongue baths – to almost every small child he came in contact with. One little girl was so appealing, that Forest crawled into her lap and decided he was going to stay there for a bit. It amazes me how at ease this little boy is in such scary, scary situations. We try to explain to our audiences how miraculous it is for a wolf to do a program such as this. After all, here is this naturally shy creature, surrounded on all sides by his only predator; fearing (and thus avoiding) humans is the strongest instinct a wolf holds.
I compare Forest to the other puppies. All of the arctics, who we’ve spent much more time hand-rearing and socializing, are much more fearful of humans. Even Storm, who also acts as an “ambassador in training” shows fear at new things, new atmospheres, and is visibly less excited to meet people. Forest’s brother’s and sisters all have fears of various things. So far, with Forest, the only fear I’ve seen exhibited is toward heights. Strange, but definitely preferable in most situations!
I compare Forest to some of the socialized adults at our Sanctuary. I think about the previous “babies,” who were the only other litter of pups ever to be at our Sanctuary. While they all went through the same socialization process, 11 years later, Ghengis, for example, is one of our toughest characters. I wonder, will there be a changing point where Forest decides he must exhibit his dominance toward humans instead of his affection?
We hope and pray everyday that these beautiful, sociable pups will remain this way forever. We work diligently to keep them socialized, to make sure they are enjoying their ambassador programs, to “condition” them as best as we can. And most of the time, it’s easy to fall into thinking: “They’ll always be so sweet, so cuddly.” Unfortunately, we need to remember that that was the thought behind each and every animal now in our care. The same thought that all new wolf & wolf-dog owners have with their newly purchased pups.
The likelihood that Forest, or any of the pups, will remain quite this brave, sociable and malleable is slim to none. He certainly has something special about him, however, and perhaps, Forest, Storm, or one of the other pups will beat the odds and surprise us all. We can only hope, and continue our efforts.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Yesterday afternoon, we lost Vangogh. Vangogh was an old wolf-dog. During his long life at our Sanctuary, he’s had many health problems, including obesity. Many diets were tried in an effort to help him lose weight, but unfortunately, nothing seemed to help.
He, however, did seem to be a fairly chipper fellow, and was a well-known character around the Sanctuary and among our members. Named for his one floppy ear, and combined with his plump “tub on legs” appearance, he was an easily recognized face. His antics, such as chasing (think: waddling) his caretakers around his enclosure each morning, kept everyone entertained, and gave volunteers something to look forward to in the morning.
It was only the day before his passing that Vangogh showed signs that he was not feeling well. Unfortunately, with some of our animals, it seems the dying process can take days, weeks, even months in some cases. If nothing else, it was certainly relieving to know that Vangogh when peacefully and quickly.

Left behind, however, is Waya. Waya & Vangogh had each had one previous mate prior to one another, however, the two had been together for many years. While there’s was never an extremely affectionate relationship, after his passing, Waya is certainly showing signs of stress.
It is difficult to say, a lot of the time, especially with shyer animals such as Waya, what it is they may be feeling. With her, I feel as though she is mostly concerned as to what happens to her now. I can only imagine the stress, confusion & concern of an animal who has been here as many years as Waya and never felt comfortable with humans. She has seen a previous mate and other animals pass away around her many times. She has moved enclosures, been introduced to a new fellow, and watched all kinds of changes happen throughout her years with us.
I wonder, is she concerned that she, too will pass away shortly? Is she afraid that we will move her to a place she is not as comfortable? Does she fear an introduction to an animal that she doesn’t want to spend the rest of her days with? Or, perhaps, she is truly in mourning for Vangogh.
Waya has always been a mystery animal to me. She is quite shy, and when many people are around, she spends most of her time pacing the enclosure boundaries. When a person is alone with her, however, she will stealthily sneak up and scent roll on their back side as long as they hold still – sometimes so fiercely a person feels as though they may fall over! Is she so intensely curious that it overrides her fear?
With such curiosity in little things, I imagine her curiosity in the absence of her mate and her own future must be overwhelming.
I don’t know what Waya’s future is, at this point. She, herself, is an older wolf-dog, and to place her with another animal would be difficult at best. She may spend the rest of her days alone. On one hand, I think this may be just as she wishes it. On the other, my own curiosity overwhelms me.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Nikki, one of our newest residents, entertains me in a way that perhaps he shouldn’t. Nikki came to us perhaps six months ago. He’s an extremely high-content wolf-dog with a pretty typical past. A woman raised him from the time he was a pup, but at one point had to move unexpectedly. While Nikki spent time in a friend’s yard, the situation certainly wasn’t a possibility for permanence. He also, as he matured, had become more and more difficult to work with. The woman who took care of him found the only way she could safely enter the enclosure was to wear the exact same clothes every time she went in with him. If she wore anything else, he would nip at her, tearing her clothing and sometimes breaking skin.
When Nikki first came to us, many of our volunteers interacted with him frequently for the first couple of weeks. As time went on, however, Nikki proved to be more and more difficult, and is now placed on our high-maintenance list. Currently, Leyton is the only person to enter into his enclosure regularly. I’ve kept a relationship up with him, however, going in rarely, but mostly, through the fence. Nikki cracks me up, because at one moment, he is rubbing his body seductively up against the fence, soliciting for attention; the next moment, he is pouncing against it, barring his teeth, and growling what appears quite viciously.
The thing is, the more time I spend with him, the more I feel he’s like a teenage boy; he’s trying to seem all tough and macho, but in truth, he’s a big “scaredy-cat” who wants some attention but is timid at the same time. It’s as though he’s protecting himself by sporadically surprising the person offering him attention.
In any event, Nikki and I have a new through-the-fence routine. Each afternoon, and sometimes in the mornings, I go up to Nikki’s fence-line and he begins our interactions. Sometimes, he starts by rolling against the fence, and I offer him all of the scratches and pets he can take. Other times, he begins by pounding the fence, and I stand, inches away (of course there’s a fence in between), lecturing him on proper social behavior.
I make no claims that Nikki understands the words I am using. But, amusingly enough, if I lecture him consistently and don’t show any intimidation, Nikki will eventually stop, look at me somewhat confused, and then begin rolling on the fence, asking for attention.
Nikki reminds me a lot of Luna, one of our other notoriously bi-polar residents. Luna’s eccentricity, however, is more of a product of abuse. Nikki, well, Nikki is just a wolf. He’s a fairly typical young, socialized male wolf just reaching maturity. But, what I learned with Luna, was if I could ignore the growling and snarling-- if I could take some bites (no matter how painful and even if some did break skin and leave permanent scarring) that after it was all said and done, I could build a relationship with that animal and give them exactly what they needed: Understanding, patience, affection, and the ability to be who they are while receiving all of it.
I by no means advocate this to the other volunteers. I may be totally off base. But, I think Nikki is deep down inside, a pretty lovable, friendly, and timid kind of guy. And one of these days, I’ll try the same routine without the fence line. We’ll see where it takes us from there.

Monday, March 19, 2007

During a rescue not too long ago, Leyton and I visited another wolf & wolf-dog facility. Always curious to learn ways to better our Sanctuary, as well as make contacts with other people in the same business, we like to visit different animal facilities, especially other wolf Sanctuaries. The sad thing is, that in my experience, its often times as heart-breaking as going to the scene of a rescue.
All too often, it seems that a wolf & wolf-dog rescue is started just from someone’s compassion with nothing else. A wonderful, kind, good-intentioned person begins taking in animals that need a place to go, and have no other choice than euthanasia. Unfortunately, with so little funding available and so much misinformation in the wolf-dog world, the rescued animals are placed into a situation that does them not much good. Simply a, prolonged imprisonment and not a true Sanctuary… Miscellaneous fencing is used anywhere from barbwire to chicken fencing to electric fencing. Too many animals are placed into too small of enclosures. Funding prohibits a proper diet, and so animals are fed whatever leftover kibble comes there way. Misinformed people educate others with the same misinformation…
It saddens me to see this type of facility even when I know, that at heart, it is good-intentioned. It scares me to think that the education that is being derived from a “sanctuary” is driving more popular beliefs that will lead to more victims.
What it reminds me of, though, is how grateful we all are for the lives we are able to provide our animals. It strengthens my belief that we can’t simply rescue animal after animal. We need to set limits so that we can continue providing our animals with proper Sanctuary. It compels me to continue educating. It inspires me to reach out further and stronger and educate more people – as many people as possible. It perhaps, most importantly, dedicates me to what I am doing: It fuels my dedication to this life, to this Sanctuary, to these animals.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

I live in a 5th wheel trailer at the edge of the Sanctuary’s campground. It might not seem like much to many people, but as far as life is concerned here, it’s the luxury suite of volunteer housing. What’s made the trailer even more entertaining, is the constant animal presence.
I’m an animal lover. I’m a critter fanatic. I want warm, furry creatures to surround me at all hours of the day. I love the fact that I wake up each morning to the sound of wolves howling, I walk my dog to the office, I spend the first part of my day caring for wolves, and the latter, working toward funding their care. I love that after work, I visit with the residents, and come home to a house full of critters.
On a normal evening these days, the trailer is pretty quiet. It’s me, a Saint Bernard, and two lovable black cats. But the change over has been amazing, and at some points, you’d have a hard time believing there’s room for humans in this house.

Last summer, a friend of mine, Mary, came to volunteer at our Sanctuary for four months. She ended up sharing the trailer with myself, and at that time, a small dog named Nakita, as well as her dog, Sierra, a husky-shepherd cross. For a while, I was living in the Animal Care office with the puppies, and so, it was just Mary & the dogs. When the pups moved into an enclosure, however, I came back and started bringing with me two wolf-pups each night.
Even though the pups had moved outdoors, we still felt it extremely important for them to stay bonded with humans overnight, to spend time indoors in different situations, and to be around dogs. Each evening, I would bring home two of the pups, and sleep on the couch while they examined how to get around all of the puppy-proofing I had attempted. My bookshelves, counter tops, tables, etc. were all clear – anything on them would be tossed to the floor. Any food items were secure placed in a cabinet, or the refrigerator – nothing could be safely kept out. All electrical wires were taped securely. My floor was lined with cardboard so when the pups had to go to the bathroom, it was an easy clean up; you can’t house train a wolf!
They of course still found all kinds of mischief to get into. Parts of my carpet have been removed. The furniture all has “nibble marks.” That “secure tape” didn’t last long, and soon, the pups watched me open the cabinet & refrigerator doors and began doing so themselves. My curtains became shredded, the blinds mangled, and certain cabinet handles are now missing. But, of course, such can be expected with a trailer full of critters, especially wolf pups who are just exploring their abilities.
My favorite day, was after we had picked up Savannah, the Saint Bernard, who helps socialize the animals, and Mary had adopted Malik, a low to no-content wolf-dog who mistakenly came through the Sanctuary. Mary’s parents happened to be visiting, and they were baffled to walk into a trailer with two people, four dogs, and two wolf puppies.
What was more entertaining is when Mary’s mother commented: “I can’t believe you sit on the floor so the animal’s can have the couch!” Mary and I smiled at one another as we looked behind us. As we leaned against the couch, on it, chewing on rawhide, was Thunder the wolf pup, Malik & Sierra.
The thing about working with wolves is, you work with them on their terms. They will never learn things like dogs do: don’t get on the furniture, don’t chew things up, human food is not for you. They have no capacity to want to please humans, and thus, ideas like that never register with them. The thing about dogs that get to play with wolves is that they quickly learn they get to get away with a lot more when the wolves are around!
The pups are between 80 and 100 lbs now… While they still come to visit the trailer, typically I don’t let them spend the night. There’s too much of a danger of them figuring out an escape route or something physically harmful to get into while I’m asleep. Mary is back in Ohio with Malik & Sierra, and Nakita has moved in with another volunteer. It’s almost lonely only having one dog & two cats to keep you company. But, then again, it’s a lot cleaner and the trailer is in much better shape!