Darlene Kobobel was stunned when Frontier Airlines called to announce that a painting of Chinook, the first gray wolf she rescued, was featured on the tail of one of its planes.
Chinook is the 100th animal to be painted on a Frontier airliner.
“Frontier representatives came to the (Colorado Woolf and Wildlife) Center more than a year ago to look and take pictures,” Kobobel said. “But they didn’t call and life went on.”
Chinook, a wolf hybrid (three-quarter wolf dog), was the inspiration for Kobobel’s founding of the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center, a nonprofit organization, in Divide.
Chinook, then age 2, had been abandoned to a shelter in Divide, a kill shelter at the time, when Kobobel came to her rescue.
Initially, she started the operation on the grounds of her home in Lake George.
In those early years, Chinook became the center’s Ambassador wolf whom Kobobel brought to schools in the Pikes Peak Region as a show-and-tell to provide education about wildlife and conservation.
Eventually, Kobobel found a companion for Chinook when she rescued Nikita, an Arctic wolf. The two wolves became “The Lovers,” and touched hearts all over the nation.
Chinook died in 2007. “Her legacy lives on,” Kobobel said.
Nikita died a short time after her lover. The story of the two companions is told on a stone plaque and is today a part of the center’s educational tours. At times, the sound of wind chimes is intended to enhance the memory of Chinook and Nikita.
Over the years, Kobobel appeared in front of the Colorado legislature to advocate for wolves to be reintroduced into the state. “It’s exhausting sometimes but I fight for what I believe in,” she said.
And this year, voters will have the opportunity to decide whether or not to reintroduce wolves on designated lands in Colorado west of the Continental Divide.
Kobobel said she thinks the ballot measure may have been the impetus for the phone call from Frontier last week.
Acknowledging that the issue is controversial, Kobobel offers a solution. “There are ways we can all work together,” she said.
As the image of Chinook flies high in the sky around the nation, Kobobel is prepared to make a trip. “If that plane comes to Denver, I’ll be there!” she said.