Waltz for the Wolves

Last Saturday night was the Waltz for the Wolves, the annual major fundraiser for W.O.L.F. Sanctuary, a rescue and education organization working with wolves and wolf-dogs, which recently has been hit by the High Park Fire, although all the wolves were—over a number of days and by a number of means—relocated to appropriate alternative locations outside the fire area. (I hesitated over adding the word "local" on that description of the fundraiser, but left it off because people attend from quite far away.)

Here's the room where the Waltz was held; I'd guess there were between 300 and 400 people there. 

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The slide show primarily documented the relocation process. The wolves normally live in large, customized habitats, a number of which now contain specially constructed fire dens—recent additions that likely made a big difference in the survival of the less socialized wolves who had to be evacuated later, rather than sooner. 

The balloons were part of a raffle for special, donated prizes, one of which will appear later in this post.

Here's this year's program for the event, with the special bookmark featuring Whisper:


Some of the wolves and wolf-dogs serve as ambassadors, because they are able to handle, more comfortably than the others, (1) travel by van, (2) being around people, especially ones they don't know, and (3) unexpected events. These animals are key to the sanctuary's educational programs. I have always seen them taken out together (that is, at least two wolves in each adventure), and their needs always come first. The two ambassadors at the Waltz were Pax and Sasha, who are habitat-mates.


At this year's Waltz, the main room was quite noisy, so Pax and Sasha came inside and looked around (meaning cruised the WHOLE perimeter of the space, quickly), went outside and got quiet again, then got curious and asked to go back inside for another speedy tour, part of which was captured above. They were on site for about an hour, then taken back to their temporary residence while the humans continued to do their thing. If you have access to Facebook, there are much better photos of Pax and Sasha on the W.O.L.F. page there.

Tunyan and Sigmund are also, as two pictures from 2010 show, quite social, but they aren't ambassadors. Among other reasons, Siggi doesn't like the car-transport part of the equation and Tunyan is a sneak-thief with a special interest in cameras.

Here's Sigmund with Kris Paige, who introduced me to the sanctuary and has spun and knitted items of wolf fur for the Waltz for the Wolves auctions for the past several years. Like many of the others, Sigmund is a wolf-dog, with too much wolf in him to be a good household pet. Tunyan is coming up behind Siggi to see whether she can steal my camera.


She didn't get it that time. (Tunyan is Lakota for "brat.")


These are some of the wolves whose fur I spun for The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, thanks to Kris's introduction.

One of the reasons that I am fascinated by and interested in the W.O.L.F. Sanctuary is its strong, clear advocacy and its blend of empirical and intuitive guidance. When faced with thorny questions, they consult various people beyond their immediate boundaries, including bioethicist Bernie Rollin, and they pay a great deal of attention to the wolves themselves: what their behavior indicates about what they need. Also because we know Michelle Proulx, who began as a basic-level volunteer (when she was working at the same bookstore that my daughter did) and is now the educational program director for the sanctuary, in addition to being a brilliant animal caretaker.

Michelle is a reason that one of the program items at the Waltz is belly-dancing, because that's another thing that she does. So we enjoyed the proficiency and variety of the Rocky Mountain Belly Dance Company.

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This year, Michelle didn't dance with the troupe because, with the fire, she had too many other things she was responsible for. This year her fellow dancers told her enough.

The Stone People Drummers played for the dancers and also by themselves.

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The belly-dancers even, later in the evening, got a lot of people up dancing with them because of this kind of energy. 

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The live auction included some of the items made by Kris, who had been working on them both before and during the time when she was evacuated from her home. The GREAT auctioneer for the live auction was Debbie Stafford (for an interesting time, read her bio!), who I gathered is the sister of the sanctuary's clinical director, Priscilla Dressen. She did an amazing job.

Back to those gold balloons. They had ticket numbers on them, and could be purchased for a reasonable sum for a chance to win one of the raffle items. By means of her gold balloon, Kris won a custom skateboard with an image of Shaman, a wolf who has been important to her, as well as to a number of other people involved with W. O.L.F.  Kris-shaman2_0102 rszKris looks whomped here because she and her husband Earl lost their house and barn to the fire just a week earlier, and she'd recently seen photos of what was left, although she hadn't been to the site yet—pictures of that are forthcoming. We had to egg her on to go to the Waltz, which is a lot to take in for humans as well as wolves—but a number of us, all over the country, thought it was really important for Kris to be there, even though we knew it would be hard. It was hard. It was also worth it: Shaman said so.

Shaman, who has now (as the sanctuary phrases it) returned to spirit, is a perfect guide for the Paiges' rebuilding effort. Two people came over with offers to buy this item from Kris, but we all agreed that it was the perfect thing for her to have as a cornerstone for bringing into existence what will be the Paiges' new home. Shaman was, for a long-time, one of W.O.L.F.'s primary ambassadors, and he's still doing good work.

Here's one of the items Kris donated to the fundraiser—fingerless mitts from Sigmund's fur:


And another, a hat from the signature wolf for this year's Waltz, Whisper:


In all, Kris made two hats, two pairs of fingerless mitts, and a six-foot-or-so scarf, all from either Whisper's or Siggi's fur this year.

Kris is doing much better now. It's one step at a time, and Saturday night was a big and important leap. Thanks to everyone who has sent messages and/or help through the website I mentioned in a previous post. Kris keeps saying things like, "There's someone here who says they came from your blog!" and "Scotland?!" The support, both emotional and practical, is priceless.

Here's another photo of Kris from our visit to the sanctuary in 2010. In this one she's with Rajan, who is a sometimes ambassador (in a pinch, though I hear he'd rather stay home). I think he'd just been nibbling on Kris's hair.


Photos by Judy Fort Brenneman (at the Waltz, because I forgot my camera) and by me and Kris Paige (at the sanctuary).

The wolves have all returned home to their sanctuary habitats now, with much relief all around. W.O.L.F.'s major advance fire planning has paid offcombined with a bit of luck that the fire, when it reached the sanctuary site, was not burning more fiercely than it was. Several small buildings were lost, but the main buildings and most of the habitat—and the fire dens! which worked!—came through.


3 thoughts on “Waltz for the Wolves”

  1. I am totally in tune with Kris and her loss. We too live in a fire-prone mountain area and love our wildlife. No wolves, but plenty of birds, snakes, deer, coyotes, fox, bobcats,and even an occasional mountain lion. We too could go up in smoke someday (or get taken down by an earthquake. We live just above the San Andreas Fault). But I think it is worth it. After forty years up here, I can’t imagine not living close to the earth. Thanks to all for helping the wolves and my best to Kris and others who have lost, at least temporarily, the best of all worlds. I hope they have the fortitude to regain it. I will be thinking of them. I am sure it won’t be easy.

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