Wolf Park, Again

This column is once again about Wolf Park, but it’s just some odds and ends that didn’t seem to fit in the previous columns.

If you don’t want to spend the time or money (about $500) on a seminar, but would still love to meet a wolf in person, you can sponsor one for a year for just $175. This entitles you to a once-a-month meeting with a wolf, a family membership and a photo of your wolf (or coyote, fox or bison). For complete information about sponsoring, visit wolfpark.org/support/sponsorships/. All of the animals are pictured on the website, so you can fall in love with your favorite and sponsor him or her.

Every member of the staff at Wolf Park, including volunteers, is knowledgeable and friendly, but there are some who have been there longer than others and who, for one reason or another, made a particular impression.

Pat Goodman, who has been at Wolf Park for 38 years, is smart and clever, and the wolves love her. On this visit, what I was particularly struck by was her ability to howl. The wolves and coyotes frequently howl with no prompting, but sometimes, they need a little nudge so that visitors can hear them in action. Hearing a person howl will give them that nudge. When they hear Pat, though, I imagine they think it’s another wolf. And, as much as I love hearing the wolves and coyotes howl, I even enjoy listening to Pat howl. She is like an opera singer, holding the note for so long, you wonder how she can do it on one breath.

Another fixture at Wolf Park is photographer Monty Sloan. Monty takes thousands of photos during every seminar, and for a nominal fee participants can get a CD of those photos. There are almost 3,000 photos on the disc, so it’s a real bargain, as well as a great keepsake. I think the wolves love Monty because they believe he is a wolf, but in a different body. Monty doesn’t seem to think about the wolves when he’s in an enclosure; he just seems like one of the pack. There’s some kind of connection between Monty and the wolves that is unlike the connection between the wolves and anyone else.

Now, I’m not a believer in aliens, but here’s an interesting fact about Monty; he has a dog named Q’onoS (pronounced Kronos) and he is training the dog using the Klingon language. Yep, Monty appears to be fluent in Klingon, an alien language. (Talk to a “Star Trek” fan if you don’t know what Klingon is). No, I don’t believe in aliens, but it does help explain the bond between Monty and the wolves. Having said that, there were at least two seminar participants who were also very familiar with the Klingon language and the wolves didn’t seem to recognize them as kindred spirits, so maybe it’s something else. Whatever it is, it’s almost as much fun watching Monty with the wolves as it is just watching the wolves.

This visit was the first time I’d met Amanda Shaad, the woman in charge of the gray fox kits. I immediately wanted her job, as it was love at first sight with the kits. As I mentioned in my first Wolf Park column, the kits were with a person, or more than one, 24 hours a day. Still they had a special attachment to Amanda. The day we were allowed to interact with the kits, they seemed to treat everyone equally, scampering here and there, climbing on whatever person was in the way, and accepting pats as they went.

Still, it was a lot of activity and a lot of strange people and at the end of an hour, one of the kits ran chattering to Amanda.

He was obviously tired and in need of comfort, and he (or she) knew just who would provide that comfort. The kit explained just how tired he was and how strange everything was as Amanda cradled him in her arms and he cuddled close.

Everyone at Wolf Park displays infinite patience with both the animals and the visitors, and they all work hard to earn the trust of the wolves, coyotes and foxes, and, more importantly, to never betray that trust. In my next life, I want to live and work at Wolf Park. Until then, I try to use what I’ve learned there with my not-so-wild Corgis, distant cousins of the pack at Wolf Park.