Founding and running a non-profit sanctuary for rescued wolfdogs in Alberta’s foothills just outside of Calgary might sound daunting. Turning it into a viable tourism experience could appear overwhelming. For Georgina De Caigny, it’s a passion that has become her life.
A Girl, a Wolfdog and a New Path
Growing up in the wide open spaces of Alberta, Georgina has always had a special connection with nature and animals. In 2009, while still in university, she got her first wolfdog. Little did she realize that getting to know Kuna would forever change the course of her life’s journey.
We sit chatting in the building that serves as the tour entrance and gift shop for the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary near Cochrane. Georgina graduated from the University of Calgary with a degree in civil engineering. “There’s five years I’ll never get back,” she quips. Instead of engineering, Georgina and her mom Andi Scheibenstock, a doctor in B.C., founded the sanctuary. With five dogs of her own, Georgina remarks that “dogs can be impulsive, but they are not really decision makers. Wolfdogs on the other hand are constantly making decisions. They are problem-solving animals.” The main goals of the sanctuary are to dispel myths surrounding wolves and wolfdogs and to educate people about responsible wolfdog ownership.
A Bright Future for the Wolfdog Sanctuary
The sanctuary was originally located on the banks of the Bow River bordering Kananaskis Country and the front ranges of the Canadian Rockies. But as the pack grew, permits couldn’t be modified to allow additional animals. The solution: buy a quarter section of land in the foothills near Cochrane. It took months to fence in the area and build proper enclosures for the animals.
Four times a day, five days a week, Georgina leads tours into the enclosure to meet, feed and photograph the wolfdogs. You can also opt for a self-guided tour along an interpretive walk around the enclosures where you can learn interesting facts about wolves and wolfdogs and explore at your own pace.
Seven days a week, from dawn to dusk, Georgina cares for the pack, expanding enclosures, putting pictures up on the sanctuary’s Facebook page and answering emails from shelters desperately looking for homes for wolfdogs. This is not the life she originally planned for herself, but Georgina’s passion for the welfare of these incredible animals has led her to believe it’s a job worth doing and she wouldn’t change a moment of it.