January 16, 2010 was a momentous day for all of us here at the U.S. Wolf Refuge. That was the day that our long-time resident Shasta went to his new forever home near Grand Junction, Colorado. He enjoyed the 20-hour ride, and arrived in high spirits. He was greeted immediately by the 5 other wolves that he will now live with. His new "people" are a couple that we have known for some time and who have visited and volunteered at the Refuge several times. The preparations for the trip took several days. Though none of these preparations occurred within the range of Shasta's sight, hearing or smell, his behavior surely indicated that he knew that something big Shasta in his new homewas about to happen.
When it came time to leave, he walked confidently on a loose leash right to the truck, and jumped right in. During the trip, he was reluctant to get out of the truck for "potty breaks," and anxious to get right back in and on the road again. Shasta's new home is about 30 minutes from the highway. When we got to that point, Shasta stood up, peered out all of the windows, and became very alert. It was like he knew he was going to his new home.
Spay or Neutered
Shasta is extremely shy, and makes new friends his way at his pace. So we first put him in his personal pen, and then walked a distance away to observe him and all the others who were in their personal pens nearby. During our several hours of observation, we built him a new, bigger dog house and discussed all the behaviors that each of us observed. We all felt there was no hostility or animosity. So we then decided to let Shasta out of his pen to investigate the big enclosure that contained all the personal pens. We also wanted to see which of the resident wolves Shasta might be curious about. He sniffed every corner of the big enclosure and each of the other animals through the fence of their pens but no one animal in particular. So in an effort to "prime the relational pump" we released Wyakin (their resident socialite) from her pen. There was a little mutual sniffing of each other and some tail wagging, but not the exuberant play that we had hoped for. There was no snarling or aggressive behavior by any of them, and we all felt that Shasta will soon emerge from his shell of anxiety and become a happy active member of his new pack.
Not long after that I felt it was the right time to say "goodbye" and wish him well. After a few tender and quiet moments, I got the emotional strength to walk away. Shasta is a healthy 7 year-old and he has many good years left. I know I will see him many more times during our follow-up "home checks." But the time in between will be filled with the love and antics of the other 17 wolves that call the U.S. Wolf Refuge home.