Majestic and beautiful in its wild and rugged fashion, we owe our dog's heritage to the wolf.
Owning a wolf would seem like owning a piece of nature. So why not own one? If you elect to try, you will discover that you need a permit to own a full-blooded wolf, or any wolf-dog cross of more than 75 percent. Perhaps a wolf-dog hybrid is the next best thing. The best of both worlds - wild wolf and faithful dog.
Darlene Kobobel, founder and president of the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center in Divide, can tell you why wolf-dog crosses so often don't work. First, Kobobel will tell you that you need to get your terms correct. While many call them wolf hybrids, the term hybrid indicates the animals can't reproduce. Wolf-dog crosses can reproduce.
Kobobel has a lot of experience with wolf crosses and began a sanctuary to provide a safe haven for unwanted wolf dogs. The first year, she received several calls a day from people who owned unruly animals they didn't want to destroy. Too quickly, her sanctuary was full and she could no longer help in this way, so she turned to education. She knows that out of the 250,000 wolf dogs born each year in the U.S., 80 percent most likely will die before their third birthday.
Too many of these animals are not at peace in a household, are difficult or impossible to walk, and unlike a regular dog might never feel a part of the "human family pack." Instead, the wolf dog might kill other family pets.
Another potential problem is when people decide they want to take a vacation. Just before Christmas in 1996, a wolf-dog owner in the Black Forest area left on vacation. A neighbor looking after the two confined wolf dogs was killed by the animals as her young sons watched helplessly.
If you have an urge to own a wolf-dog cross, or want to envision yourself owning a wolf, consider making a contribution to the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center. Then, when you want to visit your virtually owned wolf or wolf dog, take the tour and see how your contribution has helped these animals.
Kobobel can no longer take in unwanted wolf dogs but does coach those dealing with wolf-dog rescues. Her facility also offers tours. Go online to wolfeducation.org for more information.
Swager is a behaviorist and dog trainer who has authored several books and a DVD on separation anxiety. More training information is available at peggyswager.com.