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Thankfully, It Is A Lone Wolf

, , , , , | Learning | December 12, 2019

(My family owns a ranch that is secluded but is a well-known tourist attraction for our Halloween and Christmas attractions. From January to June, we offer free tours and shows for schools, all about how we work together with animals. My family is also known for rehabilitating animals, and those who cannot be released back into the wild act as our “animal ambassadors.” My youngest son is sixteen at the time of this incident when we are putting on one of our outdoor shows for a school. Several of our animals are animal actors and have been trained from a young age, and that includes the animal in this story: our timber wolf named Sitka. Sitka is in his show harness, which we hold onto when we show him. My son brings Sitka out from his holding pen and into the outdoor ring we use for shows and goes through the safety spiel.)

Son: “This is Sitka. He was brought to us from the illegal pet trade. His former owners claimed that they didn’t know he was a wolf and tried to pass him off as a Malamute, instead. He came to us when he was about a year and a half old; unfortunately, he had already been habituated to living with people by then. So now, he works in the movies and here as one of our animal ambassadors.”

Nine-Year-Old Student: *raises hand* “Can I pet him?”

Son: “No, I don’t think he’d be comfortable with someone other than myself, my dad, or my brother handling him or touching him.”

Nine-Year-Old Student: *dejectedly* “Why not?”

Son: “Because he could bite you. He doesn’t know you and could become scared and bite you. His bite is much worse than his bark.”

Nine-Year-Old Student: *stands up and starts walking to the ring* “But he’s just a big dog!” *starts trying to climb over the fence between the seats and the ring*

(At this moment, Sitka’s attention turns to the student, who stops when he notices the wolf looking at him. This is when I arrive with one of our other animal ambassadors and notice what is going on. I try to flag down the teacher, who seems to be absorbed in her phone instead of keeping an eye on her students. I walk over to the fence, looking down to the student.)

Me: “If you want to pet the wolf, it’ll be the last thing you do. Stay on the other side and you can maybe pet the snake; is that a good trade-off?”

Student: *thinks for a moment before climbing back to his seat*

(I’m amazed that the teacher didn’t notice anything that was going on during the entire show, and only addressed her students when it was time to move onto the next activity.)

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