Alberta is full of wild experiences, but Yamnuska Wolf Dog Sanctuary was new to me. I turned off Highway 1A near Cochrane, about 30 minutes northwest of Calgary, for the short drive along the foothills to the sanctuary. Approaching towering fences with wolf dogs watching closely, nerves I didn’t realize I had kicked into gear.
Interactive Sanctuary Tour
A tour of the facility involves going inside the enclosure to meet, feed, photograph and learn about rescued wolf dogs. Joining two couples from Calgary, I listened carefully as our guide Georgina de Caigny explained how the experience would work.
Our first directive was to sit in the chairs provided, as the wolf dogs won’t come near us if we’re standing. I passed through double gates to the row of chairs set in a corner of the two-acre enclosure. One wolf dog lay stretched out a few metres away. Two others watched from beneath the trees. Georgina came in with a bag of treats in her hand and two more wolf dogs at her heels. As she sat in the chair beside me and launched into her talk, the animals settled.
What is a Wolf Dog?
I learned that wolf dogs are usually the result of intentional breeding. It’s easier to breed two wolf dogs than a wolf with a dog. It makes sense that the higher the content of wolf in the animal, the more wolf-like its behaviour and appearance. Zeus, Kuna and Nova are high content while Nikki is more German shepherd than wolf.
The Yamnuska pack are rescues, given up by owners who realized that dealing with a wolf dog is nothing like having a dog. Dogs can be trained. Wolf dogs? Not so much.
While Georgina spoke, I snapped pictures of these beautiful animals. Kuna came here as an 11-week-old surrender. Zeus is part Arctic wolf. His aunt is one of the Calgary Zoo wolves. Nova was born at a breeding facility in the United States. His cousin is Ghost, the “direwolf” from the television show Game of Thrones.
Georgina passed out handfuls of treats for us to feed the animals. Nikki was up close and personal in a flash. Zeus and Nova held their distance, but snapped up flying treats mid-air. Kuna held off until the second round. Kaida – a little dragon of a wolf dog pup – came out after treats were finished. Far too soon, our time was done. I’m already planning another visit when my friends come to town next summer.