If I had to pick my favorite species of canine I would go with an African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus) or a coyote (Canis latrans). Despite this there’s no denying that wolves are pretty damn cool. While I would die of joy to spend a day around AWDs, spending a day around wolves and wolf hybrids is an incredible thing. I had the opportunity to do just that when a rescue group I’ve worked with a time or two was invited on a special tour of a wolf-dog rescue. We got a behind the scenes look and, best of all, some hands-on with the animals.
All of the animals at the rescue are just that- rescues. They mostly come from people who got them as puppies and realized they were too much to handle once the animal started to reach maturity, so they were quick to dump them off or chain them up outside and forget about them. Considering their pasts, it’s understandable that most of the hybrids are very skittish of people. A group of strangers wasn’t particularly welcome for most, though they readily came up to greet their caretaker and even allow her to pet them without protest. Several of them were quite friendly though, and accepted us gently petting them through the pens of their enclosures. We played a sort of game where the wonderful woman running the place would ask us to guess how much wolf vs. dog was in each hybrid, and for the most part it was impossible for a novice, such as myself, to tell. Many of the animals I thought for sure were high-content (mostly wolf), but some of them were actually 100% domestic dog (husky or malamute, mostly) but had been treated so poorly in their previous homes that they actually acted just like the wolf-dogs.
The rescue is also home to a very small collection of pure wolves, all of them with similar pasts to the wolf-dogs (rescues). What’s very perplexing is that the wolves were significantly more friendly than the wolf-dogs, in fact one of them was friendly enough that we were actually allowed to interact with her beyond the barrier of the pen. I am very proud to say that my glasses were 100% smeared across by a wolf tongue! The largest wolf I saw (the 2nd largest they have) is a beautiful male weighing about 120 pounds, and while he wanted to eat some of our group for lunch, he was very content to let me rub his ears and pet him through the pen.
The final thing we did before leaving was, to everyone’s total delight, meet some 6 week old wolf pups. Since the pups cannot ever be released into the wild, the rescue works with raising them to be people-friendly so that they can be used in educational settings. So, guess what that means? We got to hold wolf puppies! They were warm and fuzzy and one napped in my arms for a short time, and it was an incredible experience that, for some odd reason, just made me want Marlon to be weaned even more! Seeing the natural ancestors of our modern dogs up close and personal was an incredible experience and almost alien because they have such a familiar form, and yet such an unknown and somewhat terrifying difference about them. It was an experience I hope I never forget.