Introducing “That Wolfdog Lifestyle”
It was -26 degrees Celsius the first time we visited the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary, though at that temperature it might as well have been Fahrenheit.
It was a couple of days after Christmas, we’d all been living in Alberta, Canada for just over a year, and Kenneth –– who’s been so fascinated by wolves since he was little that his first science fiction novels feature a race of humanoid wolves, the Earthers –– had discovered the facility online.
Located outside of Cochrane, Yamnuska is about a three-hour drive from where we live in Edmonton –– approximately an hour from Banff and less than an hour from Calgary. Alberta’s highways can be quite dicey that time of year, but the lack of new snow meant they were in decent condition, so we bundled up and headed out.
At that point we still hadn’t gathered all the cold weather gear you need when you live in a place where winters last at least six months and temperatures regularly settle into the -20, -30, and -40 range.
I remember freezing as we waited to enter the wolfdog enclosure with sanctuary staff and a handful of other people, our hands held out over the fire in the very welcome firepit located next to the Yamnuska reception building.
I remember freezing as we stood listening to the instructions for the first enclosure, where the high content wolfdogs lived. It went something like this: Once I open the gate, go straight to the chairs and sit down. I’ll give all of you some treats that you can toss to the wolfdogs, but don’t expect them to come to you and eat them out of your hand. Taking photos is okay… they can be pretty good models when they want to be… but don’t get up out of your chair because that will spook them and they’ll disappear back into the woods…
We met Yamnuska’s alpha female, Kuna, and alpha male, Zeus, that day as well as Nova and Kaida –– all high content wolfdogs. Later we met Rocky, Loki, Rue and Nikki –– all low content wolfdogs.
We learned about terms like high content, low content, and upper mid content; we learned facts to counter the myths most people believe about wolves; we heard stories –– funny and heartbreaking at the same time; we learned that wolves don’t bark. And I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say we fell in love with the animals and were more than a little awestruck by the dedication of the people who cared for them.
We’ve been back to Yamnuska many times since, in every season, sometimes to just walk around, sometimes to repeat the Interactive or Introductory tours. The number of wolfdogs at the Sanctuary has grown, so there are new enclosures, new packs, and even a sleek white wolfdog who came all the way from my home province of Newfoundland, on the other side of Canada. Ruby is her name, and she has some really interesting yoga moves.
The story of Yamnuska is a story of courage, and love, and fierce determination. It started with a young 19-year-old woman who brought a wolfdog pup named Kuna home as a pet, and grew into one of the few facilities in North America to offer sanctuary to animals who, through no fault of their own, are caught between two worlds –– too wild to be pets, ill-equipped to survive in the wild.
A short time before the impact of the current COVID-19 pandemic really began to manifest in Canada, we visited Yamnuska to kick-off work on a book called Wolves Don’t Bark, which will tell the story of the Sanctuary and offer a window into the complex wolfdog world. That project is still underway, and the book –– both print and eBook –– is scheduled for release in spring 2021.
But when COVID hit, and Yamnuska had to close its doors to visitors, it lost access to one of the most significant sources of its funding. People can’t visit Yamnuska right now, but the 25 wolfdogs still need to be fed and cared for –– a costly proposition that visitor fees have always helped cover. Because of the pandemic, no one knows how long it’ll be before that can start happening again.
So we came up with another idea.
Today, That Wolfdog Lifestyle: at Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary, has arrived in Amazon’s bookstore –– an e-picture book that showcases the personalities of Yamnuska’s wolfdog residents, taking you closer to the animals than would even be possible in normal times.
Readers will meet Kuna, Zeus and Nova, of course. They’ll also meet the newest resident and most adorable troublemaker, Ylva, the shy lovable and distinctive looking Horton, high-content Lichen, and his unlikely low-content girlfriend, Mawko, plus 18 more.
And most importantly, a portion of the proceeds for every book sold will go to support the Sanctuary.
Visiting the Sanctuary isn’t possible at the moment. But you can definitely settle into your favorite chair with your Kindle reader or the Kindle app on your iPad or other favorite device, and enjoy a virtual visit.
Over and over again.
I hope it puts a smile on your face, in a time when we all surely need one.