Hungry Like The Wolfdog

, , , , , | Working | April 5, 2021

I volunteered with a wolfdog hybrid rescue farm. We had a pack of wolfdogs that were permanent residents at the farm, as having other wolfdogs coming in and out of the pack would have been traumatic for them. About half the farm, however, was set aside for the adoptable animals. They were held in large pens by themselves. On the weekends, it was one of my jobs to clean out the individual pens. There was plenty of poop from the week. During the winter, I would jokingly refer to what I picked up as “poopsicles.”

One very cold winter day, it was not much more than 20 degrees F (about -7 degrees C). I entered one of the pens that held a wolfdog. I greeted her, gave her a scratch between the ears, and went about picking up the poopsicles with tongs and placing them in the bucket I carried. There was a decent amount of snow that had accumulated on the ground, so it was easy to find my targets.

As my last task, I had to break the ice in the large water bowl so the wolfdog would have access to her water. I stepped to the bowl and started smashing through the layer of ice with the heel of my boot. All of a sudden, I heard a frightening sound: a menacing growl. I had been a volunteer there for years and never heard any of the wolfdogs make a noise like that. I slowly turned my head and saw the wolfdog standing not ten feet from me. She had fluffed up her fur to appear bigger and was baring her teeth at me. I was terrified. I started backing slowly toward the door, keeping the wolfdog in my field of vision but not making eye contact. I reached the door, felt behind me, and unlatched the handle. I made my exit. It was only after I was safely outside that I realized I was not breathing. I sat on the ground for a moment and regained my composure.

It was only after I got the owner of the rescue to come over that we were able to piece together the reason for the unusual behavior. She had been fed raw deer meat the previous day which she had not finished. She stashed what remained in the corner of her pen, behind her water bowl, under some snow. I simply was not aware of its existence and broke a cardinal rule: never get between a wolfdog and his or her food. I was fortunate to have received a warning from her before she did something physical. All in all, it was by far the most frightening experience I had as a volunteer there, and perhaps one of the most frightening of my entire life.

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