I’m not sure why it’s taken me almost a year to write this but timing seems right now. Last July I boarded a plane with 8 other individuals setting out on a journey that would open my eyes to so much that our country has to offer us in the way of beauty and nature. A mixed group of people I knew and had just met we flew from Boston to New Mexico where we were greeted by 2 friendly faces who would be our tour guides and mentors for the week. We drove 2 hours away from Albuquerque through what looked to this New England girl to be the surface of the moon! There were long expanses of land, little trees then out of nowhere you’d see a huge rock formation jut straight out of the earth. For those of us living in Massachusetts we’re used to hilly terrain, lush vegetation and mountains that form peaks. This was quite literally the opposite. We drove past old lava flows, trains that went on for miles and clouds that you could see “for days”. We entered the Navajo reservation in Ramah and out of nowhere there was a store, Candy Kitchen Trading Post just across the street was our destination, Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary. Words can’t describe the excitement and anticipation felt knowing that in just days you’d be up close and personal with wolves.
Our first wolf stop would be a tour and educational direction about them, their tendencies, how to act, what not to do and how they came to be where they are today. Your excitement starts as you walk by their enclosures and see them, some from afar and others that come right to the front to see what’s going on. You snap pictures of them behind the fencing and have no idea that the next time you see them will be in their space. Nothing can prepare you for walking into an animal’s enclosure. I thought I’d be nervous, they’re large animals, not pets but there was a calm. A peacefulness that surrounded us as we stepped inside of that first space. We started with dingos, very friendly and curious creatures. I had a hard time taking photos because a couple would quite literally get in your face. They sniff you from head to toe, lick salt from you and are extremely social. A good first start to our adventure and something I wasn’t expecting.
After the dingos came what would be my most epic story, my adventure. A split second of the most amazing thing I would encounter. His name is Dakota, he’s an arctic-timber wolf dog mix. We were told to enter in a straight line and he would come and sniff each person one by one. Once he was done we could go find a spot to sit and photograph him. We all walked in and he came right up the line person by person sniffing each one of us. When he got to me I didn’t even have a moment to think, he reared up on his hind legs and looked me straight in the eyes. Within a split second the handler grabbed him and gently pulled him down and it was over. There was not 1 iota of fear because he was in no way being aggressive. He just wanted to give me a quick kiss. It was right there that I fell in love. I’d always loved the idea of wolves but this was an actual wolf dog, the most beautiful animal standing eye to eye with me and nothing can compare to that. We sat and he roamed around, gave some of us love and opened all our eyes to just how big yet gentle these creatures can be. Now don’t get me wrong, I love them but they should not be crossed with dogs nor bred as pets. They are wild animals and deserve their freedom to roam. The only reason these animals are here is because they were rescued, they can no longer go back to the wild as they’ve lived with humans.
Photo courtesy of Firefly53 Studios
Later in that day, while inside the enclosure of another wolf something incredible happened, they began to sing. Their howl is so hauntingly beautiful and nothing is as moving as standing in the middle of a dozen or so wolves while they all start to howl around you. Tears came to my eyes as I realized I was experiencing something others may only dream of.
Lastly, there’s a group of wolves at the sanctuary who were all rescued together. George RR Martin and his wife are huge supporters of the sanctuary and when they learned of these wolves they asked to name them. 5 were names for the dire wolves in Game of Thrones and 5 for characters in the show. These animals were inbred, some with deformities, and kept in small cages. Their conditions have made rehabilitating them difficult and they’re kept away from the public and scared of humans. On my last trip inside the enclosures we got to go in and see Ghost, Brienne and Arya. Ghost was the only one who ventured down toward us, though he kept quite a distance. He has some raggedy fur and a loving sweet smile. I am a fan of the show and the books and seeing the wolf George RR Martin named after his most famous dire wolf was like meeting a celebrity. Even from a far I was enamored.
This week I learned that sweet Ghost passed away. I didn’t get to touch him, he didn’t greet me with a kiss but I feel such a loss for his pack mates and all who cared for him. I hope his time at the sanctuary, like all the animals time there, was far better than how their lives began being in captivity with people who were ill equipped to care for them and give them room to run.
So why is now timely? I am happy to say I am going again this July and you can too! That’s right, there’s a trip heading there July 13th – 18th and we have 2 spots available! This was the trip of a lifetime! Waking to the singing of wolves, having hummingbirds flutter round my face, watching the sunrise over a historic monument and snuggling with a glorious wolf. The trip is being run by my dear friends at Firely53 Studios in Pembroke, MA. Flight, travel in NM, meals and accommodations are included along with 2 opportunities to go inside animal enclosures, watch the sunrise, laugh uncontrollably with new friends and sitting on a porch enjoying a quiet like we don’t get anywhere around where we live. If you’re even a little interested contact them or me! I’d love for you to come along!!