The Weekly Wolf
I spent six years living with the wolves of
Each Monday, this page will feature a new photograph and story of these wolves.
June 28, 2010
While I strive to only include the highest quality photos in the Weekly Wolf, this was the only semi-decent picture I ever got of Yaqui and I just couldn’t bring myself to leave him out.
Yaqui was a wolf-dog cross born in a private breeding facility in 1989 near Boulder, CO. This particular facility is infamous for its horrid living conditions – with little food or water available, small and unsanitary pens, and too many horror stories to tell. Thankfully a couple of friends of Mission:Wolf rescued Yaqui from this life when he was seven months old and he soon came to live at the refuge.
As a hot-headed youngster, Yaqui quickly took over leadership of the refuge’s wolf-dog pack and managed to bully everyone else despite his small stature. Once he bonded with a female wolf-dog named Raku, the pair’s reign over the other wolf-dogs went unchallenged for years. It wasn’t until 1996 that a new wolf-dog named Rogue moved into the pack and decided he wanted to be in charge. The much larger Rogue chased little Yaqui out of the enclosure. However, Raku followed Yaqui of the gate and Rogue ended up living alone. Yaqui got to spend the next three years stalking along the fence-line, taunting Rogue and showing off that he’d gotten the girl.
When Raku passed away, Yaqui soon discovered the loneliness Rogue had been dealing with. At the same time, another hot-headed wolf-dog named Ghost Dancer found herself without a companion. We decided to try introducing Ghosty and Yaqui to each other… figuring they were so much alike that they might keep each other busy. It didn’t take long for us to realize our mistake: Yaqui and Ghost didn’t want to have anything to do with each other. They constantly howled, barked and bickered with each other at the smallest provocation. We had been right about one thing - both Ghost and Yaqui were so strong-willed and testy that they did keep each other busy - just not in quite the way we had hoped.
By this time, Yaqui had matured into an old codger. We took pity on Yaqui and separated him from Ghost. He was then placed with Nali, a white German shepherd/ collie cross that needed a bit of guidance. Nali turned out to be the perfect companion for ancient Yaqui. She bounced around the enclosure, barking in his ear and racing in circles. He would grumble at her if she barked too loudly, but seemed to enjoy her gentler side. These two became great Ambassadors for wolves and wolf-dogs. Visitors to the refuge could see the distinct differences between dogs (Nali), wolf-dog crosses (Yaqui) and wolves (the other residents of the refuge). Sadly, shortly after Yaqui found the mission and peace that he had been looking for, his age began to take over.
In September of 2003, Yaqui’s back legs began to fail and he became more uncomfortable by the day. After a trip to the vet, we learned that Yaqui had degenerative mylopothy. This painful condition causes a breakdown of the protective sheath that covers nerves, producing loose signals that travel throughout the body causing loss of mobility and organ function. There is nothing that can treat degenerative mylopothy, and we finally made the hard decision to euthanize Yaqui on October 2, 2003.
June 21, 2010
Ghost Dancer, (a.k.a. Ghosty or Ghostess), was born in the first week of July in 1990. Her parents came from 12 years of selective breeding to try to create the perfect wolf-dog cross: an animal that looks like a wolf and acts like a dog. Ghosty was the perfect example of this not being the case. Even being only 25% wolf (75% malamute), Ghosty could never have lived in a house. Ghosty was a very confused animal for most of her life – not knowing whether to be a wolf or a dog. Even with people who knew and raised her, she bit half of the time and licked half of the time.
Ghosty and her sister, Dancing Bear, were known as the “cackle sisters” because of their constant bickering with each other. Ghosty and Bear both wanted to be the alpha female, but they never could figure out who the winner was. When Dancing Bear moved to the Mission:Wolf farm in 2003 to be a companion for an ailing wolf named Shaman, Ghosty was left alone back at the refuge. To sooth her loneliness, we introduced Ghosty to a male wolf-dog named Yaqui. Much to our surprise the two wolf-dogs didn’t get along well, constantly howling and barking at each other. Even a year later, they continued to bicker and fight at the smallest provocation. Ghosty’s favorite game became stealing all of Yaqui’s food and growling at him if he complained.
To preserve the peace around the refuge we separated Ghosty from Yaqui and tried to introduce her to a male wolf named Sabretooth. She seemed to enjoy the months she spent living near the staff kitchen – Ghosty came inside every morning for a warm breakfast and a massage, and she spent her days flirting with Sabretooth through the fence. The only problem was Sabretooth. He had just lost his life-long mate, Peaches, and was not impressed with little Ghost. For every wag of her tail, he would growl and stalk off.
As Ghosty got more and more stiff with age, we decided to take her over the Mission:Wolf farm for some extra attention. She spent each morning stretched out on the sofa getting a deep-muscle massage, gobbled down dishes of cooked chicken and turkey, and quarreled with Luna (another wolf-dog cross) through the fence. When Leo (a wolf-dog with a broken leg) moved in, Ghosty flirted with him just to annoy Luna. Ghosty couldn’t have been happier. Then, in July 2008, Ghosty passed away while surrounded by her human family at the amazing age of 18 ½. We will forever miss the fiery little hot-head who brought so much excitement to our lives.
June 14, 2010
Peaches was a sweet, outgoing, independent female wolf born in 1991. Her litter was bred for a movie project but the producer soon realized he had too many pups to handle. Even as a tiny puppy Peaches routinely beat up her litter mates and was quickly labeled a troublemaker. The producer asked Mission:Wolf if we could take this fiery little girl off his hands and give her a home.
At five weeks old, Peaches came to live at the Mission:Wolf. Observing her attitude and her chocolate brown coat, the movie crew had nicknamed her the “Tasmanian Devil.” Knowing how animals can grow into their names, the staff decided to change hers to “Yellowstone Peaches” hoping she'd grow up to be sweet. Within a year her coat developed a peachy color and her loving attitude made her one of the most friendly and expressive wolves we’ve ever known.
Peaches traveled as an Ambassador Wolf for three years, meeting thousands of people. She appeared in numerous TV programs, newspapers and magazines and was featured in the Smithsonian. Even though she loved people, as Peaches grew she became more and more wary of unfamiliar places and showed anxiety while traveling. So, Peaches retired from the Ambassador program but continued to meet visitors at the refuge.
Peaches and her lifelong mate and companion, Sabretooth, spent their days in the large enclosure next to the kitchen. They became famous for climbing up on the kitchen roof to howl and survey the rest of the refuge. Peaches and Sabretooth were one of the happiest and most devoted couples I’ve ever met, wolf or human. They could always be found laying close together, keeping an eye on all of the activities around Misision:Wolf. You could always count on them to be the first ones to howl when something unusual was going on.
As the years passed Peaches didn’t seem to age… she got more lean but her fiery nature kept her going at full speed. Then, finally, when nearly 14 years old, Peaches began to experience stiffness in her legs and back. As her years began to catch up with her and she couldn’t climb the roof of the kitchen anymore, Sabretooth and the staff became increasingly concerned. On the morning of March 28, 2005 we awoke to find Peaches peacefully curled up in the shade, having passed away during the night.
I will always miss Peaches. She was one of the most self-possessed and confident creatures I’ve ever met. She always offered honest affection as long as you respected her boundaries. I have always felt honored and touched that she accepted me as her friend.
June 9, 2010
Sorry the weekly wolf is a little late this week... I've been battling a head cold. The good news is that I just learned Mission:Wolf took in two new wolf puppies yesterday. They're only eight weeks old, still have their blue baby eyes and are too cute for words. The little girl is named Farah (Arabic for "joy") and her brother is Zeab (Arabic for "wolf"). I wish I was in Colorado to help welcome these little guys to the refuge... and as soon as I can get down there (whenever the travel gods smile on me) I'll post some pictures of the tykes.
In the mean time I'll have to be content with remembering the first pair of wolf pups I got to help raise. The picture above is of Raven and Maggie on their first day at Mission:Wolf. They had been bred to be a part of a movie project but were ultimately passed over in favor of their brothers. This left the two sisters living in a small pen in the woods of Colorado, left alone for days at a time. Thankfully their owner realized that he couldn't care for two growing wolves on his own and asked Mission:Wolf for help. We agreed give the little girls a home and the refuge directors, Kent and Tracy, picked them up the next day.
By all accounts, it was a long journey for the wolf pups and the humans on their way back to Mission:Wolf. Maggie and Raven had never spent much time in a car before and had just been gorged on raw chicken that morning. Add Colorado's winding mountain roads to the equation and you can imagine the ensuing car sickness. By the time Kent, Tracy and the sisters made it home, everyone was exhausted. They carried the pups into the community kitchen to meet the rest of the eagerly waiting staff. Within moments Raven and Maggie were curled up together and sound asleep at our feet (in the picture Maggie's laying on top of Raven).
After some well deserved rest, the wolf pups were moved into an enclosure with an adult wolf named Rami and a wolf-dog puppy named Luna. Rami adopted all of the pups, raised them as her own and taught them how to be Ambassador Wolves. Now, eight years later, Maggie still travels across the country each year meeting thousands of people and teaching them not to be afraid of wolves. In all likelyhood little Farah and Zeab will soon move in with Maggie and hopefully she will teach them to be outgoing around people, just like Rami did for her.
For more of Raven and Maggie's story, please visit the November 2009 weekly wolf posts.