Sunday at the Sanctuary

By MAC Member Sarah

An 8:45 Sunday morning might be an early tour start for some, but it was certainly worth the early wakeup. Heading from Lehigh to Naples, I was giddy with anticipation at the thought of my first visit to Shy Wolf Sanctuary, a charity organization that takes in various exotic animals that people couldn’t care for as pets, and gives them a forever home in the Florida habitat, with much care and tenderness. Despite the name, their first animal rescued was actually a panther, however, their fame came from the majestic wolves that they have on the natural Florida acreage. The rescued creatures do require containment in a fenced habitat, but they have no lack of attention, treats, play, and love.

The owners of the rescue live on the property, but the volunteers come and go, paid in plenty of quality time with the animals that grow to adore them. Our group was treated to an amazing, fact-distilling tour guide who encouraged questions and curiosity throughout the walk. He regaled us with an entertaining tidbit of how he can recognize each individual wolf’s howl, as well as each volunteer’s! Except for one, of course, who has an uncanny talent for sounding like a real wolf. It just so happened, that, on our tour, the wolves sang us a chorus not once, but three times, which we were told was not common. We were also very lucky to have cool weather on our side, which all the animals prefer over the sweltering heat.

On our walk, we had the privilege of seeing some cute raccoons with their precious grabby hands and adorable bandit masks, a coyote (one of my favorites, however, the coyote wasn’t quite a fan of our guide), many varieties of wolfdog mixes and a couple full-blooded wolves, a gopher tortoise, a beautiful, sleek panther, and some foxes at the end (another absolute favorite of mine). I would have to say that the most breathtaking experience for us members may have been when we were allowed within the enclosure of two of the wolfdogs, which were considered the ambassadors of the entire organization due to their love of people and their patient temperament. We were allowed to give them chin scritches and side scritches, which the wolfdogs loved. A very lucky few were blessed with wolfdog kisses! Admittedly, I wasn’t one of them, but it was such a joy to witness it for others. All of the animals were very much like people – some had their favorite humans, some were indifferent, and others had their disliked humans. Just like life for us two-legged, everyone has their own chemistry.

While I didn’t have a wolf-blessing, so to speak, I had a special moment at the end of the tour, standing next to the fox cages. I was admiring the melanistic (black-pigmented) foxes, which tend to be quite shy, but one curious fellow came up to the fencing to check me out. I felt so lucky!

The organization was, overall, an amazing place to visit, and even gifted us with a bag of favors and a calendar – a sweet and memorable gesture, with the invitation for members to apply to volunteer and spend special time with the animals doing tasks that help the charity out, which also nourishes the soul. I can’t wait to go back again!

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