Running With Wolves

I’ve run with a wolf pack. I’ve even been caught.

Forrest: Pup Grown Up

In 2006, my friend (and fellow writer) Pati Nagle arranged a field trip out to Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary in Ramah, New Mexico. I was reminded of that trip when a few weeks ago when I saw some of the folks (and Forrest the wolf) from Wild Spirit doing public outreach at a gem and mineral show at the Fairgrounds in Albuquerque.

I’m a long-time supporter of Wild Spirit, dating back to at least 2001, when they were still known as Candy Kitchen Wolf Rescue Ranch. That name came from their location – Candy Kitchen Road in Ramah, New Mexico.

The two pictures of me with wolves that have graced my book jackets and website are courtesy of Wild Spirit. The older picture is with Raven, who died last spring. The new picture (which is still on my home page) is with a young (only eighteen weeks old) Dakota. He’s gotten a whole lot bigger since then.

Anyhow… I was going to tell you about running with a wolf pack. Although we’d visited with Wild Spirit’s ambassadors at events in Albuquerque – Pati and I had even shared book signings with them – we’d never been out to their facility.

At Pati’s instigation, a group of us drove out to Ramah for a tour. As we were dining on the picnic lunch we’d brought along, Leyton Cougar, one of the directors, came out and greeted us warmly, asking if we’d had our tour yet. We said, “Not yet,” and Leyton gave us a cheerful grin. “If you’re done, come on. I’ll show you around.”

We’d already signed our paperwork (there are various releases required before touring the facility) and so without delay we headed out to the grounds. First stop was a large pen that swarmed with young wolves. They were wonderful, just moving out of the fat roundness of puppyhood into the leggy adolescent stage.

As we admired them, Leyton explained how Wild Spirit had been contacted twice in close succession by facilities that had raised wolves for the pet trade. (This is illegal in many states). These facilities were closing down and inquired if Wild Spirit could stretch to take in the pups.

Wild Spirit agreed and here were the results: eleven young wolves from two different families. One litter represented the grey and brown timber wolf. The other litter represented the white Arctic wolf.

After we’d admired the enthusiastic pack, many of whom came wiggling and cavorting up to the fence, Leyton said, “Want to go in with them?”

At first we couldn’t believe our luck, but we readily agreed. We were warned to take off anything that might get pulled off – cameras, hair ties, loose jewelry. To keep the pups in, Leyton explained, they had a dual door system, sort of like an airlock.

“I’m going to open the first door,” he said, “then, Jane, I want you to go in and run. They’ll chase you and I’ll be able to get the other folks through while they’re distracted.”

I agreed. A moment later, there I was, running for dear life, a bunch of eager wolf pups nipping at my heels, bouncing up and down, and generally having a great time with their new toy. As the rest of our group came through, they went over to bounce them and I got to catch my breath.

I’m not going to sugarcoat here. Even at eighteen weeks or so, these were not little puppies. They were about the size of German Shepard dogs, although less massive through the body. We all picked up our share of bumps and bruises.

Pati (knowing how camera shy I can be) had decided to risk her camera and brought it in with her. That’s where the wonderful picture of me and Dakota comes from. It’s the only picture of myself I have in my office – a memento of a very happy experience.

Bumps and bruises included, I don’t think any of us regretted our choice. The rest of the tour, although not as “hands-on,” was wonderful. We were told the life stories of many of the wolves and wolf-dogs who live at Wild Spirit. In many cases, the rescued animals had escaped being destroyed by mere hours.

We also learned a lot about wolves both in captivity and in the wild, including the tendency toward “neophobia” (fear of something new) that contributes strongly to making wolves and wolf-dogs unsatisfactory pets. We also saw how the humans at Wild Spirit make an ongoing effort to give each and every animal under their care the best possible living situation.

I highly recommend a tour. If you can’t make it to New Mexico, then at least visit Wild Spirit’s website. You can sign up for their newsletter and hear stories about both the wolves and the people who have given over a big chunk of their lives to make sure these otherwise homeless animals have the best home possible.

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11 Responses to “Running With Wolves”

  1. Dominique Says:

    Perhaps the most fitting mental picture I have ever had of Jane, running with the pack. LOL. I am surprised the wolves didn’t make her an honorary member of the group…

  2. Hilary Says:

    I like the image of Jane running from giant puppies. 😀

    And I know what you mean about not coming out unscathed. I used to rough-house with some of the dogs at the vet clinic and I’d end up with a couple of bruises and a scrape or two at least every time. And dogs (as far as I can tell) have a sense of how fragile humans are and hold back quite a bit.

  3. Susan Says:

    Jane, you are so BRAVE and it is so awesome as to what you are doing with wolves–they are so beautiful–you are truly a very spiritual lady with probably the “sixth sense” when it comes to working with wolves and dogs. Please my kind regards to your mother, Barbara as I am the lady she taught back in the 50’s at Riverside School in Toledo, OH. I asked to be her friend on Facebook but she has not replied yet.

    Thank you for writing to me and I feel so happy to know you! Blessings!

  4. Jane Lindskold Says:

    Susan,

    To the best of my knowledge, my mother doesn’t do Facebook.

    So she’s not keeping you out of her pack!

    • Susan Says:

      Thanks Jane for replying to my blog to you–maybe she could e-mail me or look up my picture on Facebook and then e-mail me–it would be wonderful to hear from her.

      Good luck on the publication of your new book coming out in May. Take care and keep the faith.

  5. Alan Robson Says:

    I’ve never met a wolf, but judging by the ecstatic expression on your face in the photographs it must be a wonderful experience. Both you and Dakota are obviously having a great time. I must confess, I’m jealous.

  6. Tori Says:

    That is so cool!! I’d like to visit Wild Spirit someday. I’m fascinated by how starkly different wolves are in behavior from dogs, even when they aren’t raised in a pack!

  7. Eric Says:

    I’m with Alan on this one, very jealous. I’ve always wanted that kind of opportunity, but such are rare in southern Georgia…

  8. janelindskold Says:

    Eric,

    Try a visit to “The Land of Enchantment” — that’s what the Tourist folks have dubbed New Mexico.

    Actually, it is a great place. Even now when the wind is keeping me from planting…

  9. RV Parks | Rv Camping Itinerary – America’s Southwest National Parks | Prevost Motorhomes Says:

    […] Running With Wolves « Jane Lindskold: Wednesday Wanderings […]

  10. Susan Says:

    Thanks Jane–I heard from your mother by e-mail–she sounds happy, relaxed, and a free spirit–what a gift to know you both!!Will be writing back to her–am fighting allergies right now, so will write to her as soon as I can sit down and compose a letter. Sending light to you and your hubby!

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