A Sanctuary among the Wolves
I have found a beautiful sanctuary with the wolves. . .
In March, I began working as a volunteer at the Wolf Sanctuary of PA and discovered the magic that exists here… I expressed to a fellow volunteer the other week, it feels like a sanctuary for us too✨.
The quiet. The wild. The beauty.
This is now such a happy place for me to find my center. 🐺🌲
I applied two years ago to volunteer after my hubby brought me for a private tour in May 2020... to look back at the woman I was only starting to become then makes me full of gratitude.
It was a treat from Scott to cheer me out of a dark place I had entered (tho I would still have darker places to travel before I found my way home)... I didn’t see much point back then in life; I had stopped writing. I wanted to die. 💔
Seeing the wolves sparked me back to life. I howled with Maka and Akela on that tour and went away with my heart full, my flame for life reignited, and my pockets full of tufts of wolf fur. They were shedding their winter coats as spring blossomed across the property, purple flowers and green everywhere, the sunlight filtering through the canopy overhead.
To admire the wolves, their pack mates and pairs; the way they move through the trees and are aware of every being who enters their territory… it is entering a new world, where I lose myself and my worries.
This experience of being so close to the wolves has added another level to my poetry as well… the Wolves of Speedwell are in my acknowledgements / inspirations section of 'Singing through my Wolf Bones' & I’ll be donating some proceeds from the book to the Sanctuary, which has been a vital part of my own healing. ❤️
Many of the wolves and wolf-dogs at the Sanctuary are rescues - from owners who could not care for them properly, zoos where the conditions were awful, and more... Some of them came from loving homes (Spirit, for instance, was spoilt throughout her life and hand-fed before coming here). Loci is a full wolf, 11 years old, who was fed bad formula by a breeder which made him blind as a pup.
The very essence of the Sanctuary is safety and love, protection and peace. I am proud to be part of the work there, and look forward to all that I will continue to learn, both about the wolves… and myself.
Yesterday, after my usual volunteer duties and the tours had left for the day, I went on a walk around the perimeter for a 'Wolf Behavior Session' as part of my training. We learned more about the body/tail postures and cues from wolves - including huffing, barking and howling. What to watch for to tell if a wolf is uncomfortable or anxious, and when to move a tour along to keep the wolves as comfortable as possible. This is their home. I've often heard guests/visitors asking why they didn't get to see more wolves or why they were so quiet... this is where they live, and they are not here for humans, they are here for peace. Of course, the Sanctuary exists based off donations and visitors, so it is a difficult balance to keep, in order to have the Sanctuary continue to function and flourish. There are currently 54 wolves at the Sanctuary, with one new intake in quarantine.
I am constantly in awe of the work the staff and volunteers do here. It is a staff-run, volunteer-supported nonprofit offering a safe home for displaced wolves, and those who need special care. Many of them are in need of special veterinary treatment, and every wolf has a story. Nova, who has three legs after a bad injury; Achilles who has one eye after bad cataracts made him lose the other; Little Joe who just had a (successful!) MRI check-up after inflammation was removed from his spine a year or so ago... all of them are so special and precious to this Sanctuary, just as wolves in general are precious to the ecosystem.
(For further watching pleasure, please check out this video recommended to me by my volunteer coordinator Hanna... it shows just how much wolves have an affect on the ecosystem, as seen in Yellowstone when wolves were reintroduced: 'How Wolves Change Rivers', which also inspired a poem in my upcoming collection, publishing this month! Happy May!)
Some wolf facts I've learned since working at the Sanctuary I feel called to share:
- The 'alpha' pack dynamic is not true, and has been debunked by the man who originally coined the term. Wolves have social structures similar to humans, with parents as dominant and offspring as a bit lower on the "totem pole" but there is no one single "Alpha" in a pack, and we are working to get rid of this harmful belief.
- Wolves don't actually howl *at* the moon, but because of the moon... when the moon is full, it sheds greater light on the night, allowing them to hunt better (their eyesight is similar to that of humans in the dark), and when they howl, they are alerting the pack to a fresh kill.
- The bite pressure of a wolf is about 15000 pounds.
- A wolf yawning often means they are uncomfortable, or on alert.
And many more! I am sure I will continue to learn more, and share what I learn. It has been such a fulfilling thing to work with the wolves and be at the sanctuary. I am grateful and blessed beyond belief.
Awooo!!! Happy Howls! If you have any questions, feel free to comment below.