Gardner, Colorado


Hillary told us that there are only two rules to remember when you meet a wolf. First, make sure you always look directly into their eyes. Second, show your teeth so the wolf can lick them. Yes, you read that right. You let the wolf lick your teeth. I guess I should mention that for me there was a very important third rule: Stay calm—which I hardly was.

There are no wolves where wolves belong in Colorado. They were killed off a long time ago and since then the ecology of the environment has suffered. Putting them back into the wild is obviously a difficult task considering the farmers who have animals to protect and the ever expanding suburbia. The fight to return wolves to their native land has been ongoing for many years and part of Mission: Wolf’s philosophy is that if you let someone meet a wolf, they’ll never forget how nice they are. The reality is, with the exception of farm animals, that wolves are much more scared of humans than humans are of them.

So there we were, Hillary, Elle and I, just hanging out with three big bad wolves. But as big as they definitely were, bad they definitely were not. It’s easy to see why the interns that live here love them as much as people love their dogs. Hillary told us that for her thesis in college she tried to find out what traits wolves preferred in humans over others. The common “baby voice” that we tend to use with dogs and small children worked the same for wolves. The theory is that if wolves are super nervous around us, then using a soft high pitched sound takes the edge off. As I sat there snuggling up to a full blooded wolf I couldn’t help but feel more connected to our history. I imagined the humans that came before us who once held in their arms the first ancestors of dogs. Instead of huddling around a fire, though, we turned the heater on in our Subaru as we drove north to Denver.

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