I’m going to guess you’ve probably never given much thought to meeting a wolf, let alone getting a kiss from one. I hadn’t. But when I heard about Wolfwood Refuge from a friend my curiosity was peaked.
Located in the rolling hills of Ignacio, Colorado about 30 minutes southeast of Durango, Wolfwood is home to more than 60 animals ranging from 100% straight-up wolves to wolf-dogs to full dogs and (most recently) a coyote toddler named “Wile E.”— who thinks he’s a wolf. (Seriously. I even had the chance to hear him try to howl like a wolf when the main pack started howling on the morning I visited.)
Paula runs the show here. Basically, she’s the wolf whisperer. And a highly entertaining teacher. Dre and I visited on a Wednesday morning and joined in her 2-hour tour.
I’ll admit, I was a little skeptical about whether the tour would hold my attention that long, but I was motivated by the opportunity to meet a 150-pound alpha wolf face to face… and maybe even get a kiss! That said, the time we spent on the tour absolutely flew by and every moment was fascinating. Paula is super spunky and she blends interesting facts with touching stories about the animals on the tour and how each one plays a special role at the refuge.
The star of the show is undoubtedly Oakley. He’s 6 years old and leader of the largest wolf pack at Wolfwood. He and eight of his siblings were flown to the refuge from Alaska as pups. They arrived neurotic and malnourished. Today they are healthy and playful. Of course, to achieve this goal, Paula and her team have put in countless hours and superhuman patience. They have also learned a lot— just as we did during our visit!
Paula tells us that she is often asked, “Are the wolves rehabilitated in order to be released into the wilds?”
The answer in this case is no. Everyone at Wolfwood is a “lifer.” For one reason or another, none of the animals who currently live at Paula’s refuge would be able to survive in the wild. She will explain all of that when you visit…
But back to Oakley and my wolf romance. When the moment comes to get face to face with Oakley, the experience is pretty tough to explain. The mix of emotions will be different for each person, but I guarantee it is a really powerful experience. I mean he is a 150-pound alpha wolf, after all. Paula and one of her team members are right at your side as you respectfully crouch down and allow Oakley to get to know you… by sniffing of course. That’s when you get the chance to run your hands through his super soft coat and marvel at his sea foam green eyes. Oh, those eyes! They are lifechanging. (In fact, Paula will tell you a story about that too.)
Before you know it, you receive the most memorable kiss of your life, and it makes you smile from ear to ear because (if nothing else) it occurs to you how cool your life is at that moment.
I’ll leave you with that thought. Oh wait, one last thing. I definitely need to point out that Wolfwood Refuge is a non-profit organization and they rely 100% on private donations. You might be thinking “Oh, so I bet their 2-hour tour is pricey.” Nope. It’s FREE. Really. No joke. It’s FREE.
So, if you’re going to visit please be sure to make a donation (every bit counts), and obviously you’ll want to bring your phone along because there are some pretty epic photo opportunities… so the pics you snap will ensure that all of your friends on Facebook and Instagram are blown away.
Want to plan a visit?
There are typically tours every week and you can find the schedule online at www.wolfwoodrefuge.org (click Visit the Refuge). All of the details you’ll need are there, including Paula’s email address in case you have more questions.
What to wear?
Obviously it depends upon the weather, but I definitely suggest that you wear sturdy closed-toe shoes for walking around the hilly, rocky terrain. At the link above Paula provides more helpful tips on what to wear and what to bring (and what to leave at home).
Want to help Paula and her wolves?
You can donate easily and quickly using Paypal and your bank card or credit card online at www.wolfwoodrefuge.org.