Wolf Dog Hybrids
Although Scotts Valley is located just ten miles from Santa Cruz, the valley it sits in traps hot air, making it nearly as hot as the scorching Sacramento valley during the summer. I worked at a pipe and sprinkler supply company selling thousands of dollars worth of product a week. Not getting a commission, I was paid a decent wage to offset the cost of living in that popular area. I enjoyed dealing with a variety of customers, some rich setting up three thousand gallon water tanks on their properties, some just wanting to set up a sprinkler system for their lawn, and some, were the very offbeat, the very eclectic that lived in the Santa Cruz mountains. The woods are very dark and deep there, and it would be easy to cut yourself off from the world if you wanted to.
One day, a customer came in from that area. He was friendly and definitely looked like mountain hermit material. But that wasn't what caught my attention. Standing next to him was a tall mountain of a dog, with subdued tiger striping you might see on some Greyhounds or Pit Bulls. Mostly dark colored, its long legs carried a large but lean torso, upon which sat a massive head that sat at about equal height with my navel. I am 6 feet and 4 inches, so I can tell you that was one big dog. The face belonged to a Labrador with the gentle eyes to match. It was definitely not a Labrador, but some Frankenstein mix. Although its eyes were sweet and friendly, they bore an intense gaze you do not find on ordinary dogs.
The Bark that Echoed
I took a closer look at the surprising animal, taking note of its long legs and large paws. I knew instantly that it was a wolf mix. In amazement, I asked the owner about it and with a shy grin he confirmed it was a hybrid. Then, awkwardly, he said, "he can't bark, well sort of." I figured he meant the wolfdog was completely incapable of barking. That's when he told the dog to speak. The owner urged the animal several times until the gentle demeanored creature became eager enough to resist its own shyness, and lifted its head and burst out a tremendous WOOF! It was a single-beat, heavy-as-lead bark that must have echoed for miles, and could only have come from the throat of a wolf. And yet no wolf can bark, at least not like this.
The sound was so deep, that it reverberated through the pavement and through the soles of my boots and into my legs and chest. It was the most awesome natural experience with an animal I had ever encountered. What made it so profound was the animal's disposition. There was a half smile left on its lips like you would see on a friendly family dog after pleasing its masters, and yet its very form was one that bespoke of wildness and power. I went back to work and never saw them again but never forgot that day.
I have had a fascination for the wolf for a long time. It has had two different histories. One of historical European and Pioneer American days when wolves were feared and men shot wolves on sight to protect their families and their livestock. Before the days of gun powder, there was even more reason to be terrified of these pack predators. Each wolf is its own creature, and sometimes a group or lone wolf will turn to easier prey, some even yearning for the taste of human flesh. But this is not the norm. There is another side to the wolf. One that sheds light on its unquantifiable nature.
I am not sure when my obsession with the wolf started, but I believe it had something to do with the book White Fang by Jack London. In White Fang, the wolf was a sympathetic character, longing for the wild and freedom. After that, I read any books about wolves I could get my hands on, especially throughout high school, (I buried myself in books during those years, needless to say, I was not a social butterfly), and learned too much about this magnificent creature. When I saw the movie Never Cry Wolf, it left an indelible mark on me. A researcher lives in the artic for the winter season to study the completely white wolves of northern Canada to ascertain their effect on the declining Caribou population. There he discovered that wolves only kill the weakest animals, most often those that are sick and dying.
It has become common knowledge that this is typical wolf behavior. These hungry predators were designed by an awesome creator to bring balance to nature, and it is only man's ignorant interference that might upset it. The plot outlines the researcher's observations that wolves are a highly family oriented animal, not only in establishing pecking orders, but also in organizing care for the pack's young. For example, aunts and uncles take turns watching over newborn pups when the rest of the pack goes out to hunt. It is no wonder then that the completely domesticated version of the wolf, man's best friend the dog, forms a complete attachment with its family, even watching over children in some cases. Some breeds even form an exclusive, permanent bond with one member of the family.
Wolves are Wild
Some people, myself included, then wonder about having a wolf as a pet. After all, wouldn't it be natural for a wild animal so closely resembling its domesticated cousins in looks and behavior also be a great candidate for being a pet? Not only that, it would be a great watchdog right? I'm pretty sure it would be a great watchdog, but it takes generations of domestication and breeding to get the right temperament and dilute the wild streak enough for a wolf not to be a danger to its owner.
A real wolf is scary. Where I grew up, a neighbor had several wolves in a pen, as mandated by law. What struck me most was their restlessness and even more, the intense gaze that burned holes through center of my being. At night, I would listen to their wolf howls and all at once, I felt a rising primal love for that sound, and a great sadness for their state of habitation. These howls were the sounds of animals that needed to roam the wilderness. Wild wolves can cover about 15 to 20 miles a day, in a territory of 200 square miles. They are meant to roam free, and should not be left in a cage unless the owner is completely involved in the domestication, exercising and proper care of the animal.
Wolves are extremely territorial and even domesticated wolves in rescue centers have been known to kill their caretaker because of a misstep that the wolves interpreted as movements similar to prey. Some caretakers that have been fatally attacked were merely sick, which the wolves probably smelled and most likely observed as well in the movements of the victim. Wolves are magnificent animals, but require as much respect as riding a motorcycle, flying a fighter jet or working with other predatory animals like tigers and lions. Wolves can be domesticated, but require a large living area and the owner needs to be constantly on guard for signs of domination by the wolf of its perceived pack. As with humans, when you've got family, you have to take them with all their faults.
Being a Part of the Pack
The wolf-dog hybrid is an animal that also requires a great deal of care, but most mixes exhibit many of the more desirable dog characteristics that owners love. There is no way to predict the outcome of cross breeding as even sibling pups can differ in behavior, some leaning to the more wolf like state, while another from the exact same parents lean toward very dog like behavior. Nevertheless, this is one of my choices for the breed of dog I want to own. The more wolf leaning hybrids are fiercely loyal, but often extremely shy of strangers, and have been known to hide when visitors come to the house. It seems a little silly, but that could also make an owner feel special because the owner is part of the pack and "on the inside," something other people cannot be a part of. What a powerful feeling, to know you have the love and loyalty of a primal beast that it shares with no one else. The Australian Cattle Dog shares some of this shyness or aloofness toward strangers while reserving complete and total devotion toward its owner, the one it has attached itself to. This breed is also derived from a wild canine - the Dingo.
In the movie Never Cry Wolf, the researcher eventually befriends the pack as they become more and more accustomed to him. If a wild wolf is capable of allowing a human to get close to its pups, then how much more love can a domesticated wolf give to its owner? For me, a wolf-dog is the answer, as its dog traits bring some balance to its wild restlessness, while yet retaining the physical traits of its wolf side, and along with it, loyalty and devotion. I would love to get the same type of hybrid I met that day in Scotts Valley, but finding an exact match would be difficult. When the time comes and I decide to get a wolfdog instead of a Border Collie or Australian Shepherd breed, (also on the top of my list), I will make sure I have the time to give it the care it deserves, just as we all should do with any animal.
A Magnificent Animal Deserves Magnificent Care
There are many unscrupulous breeders of that take advantage of poor romanticists who think that owning a wolf will make them special, and think they can treat it like a dog. Too often, these breeders falsify information by inflating the percentage of wolf the hybrid contains, or even sell the hapless buyers pure dogs that resemble wolves. They'll keep two wolves on site as proof that they are using them as breeding stock, when in fact they are not. Often, the buyers have no clue about what they're getting into, and end up abandoning the wolfdog or bringing it to the SPCA that turns the wolfdog over to a rescue center. I do not want to support the mistreatment of these beautiful animals, so I will not be seeking a breeder, but instead going to a wolf rescue center so I can give at least one animal a good home. Perhaps I will find a wolf-lab mix and get a wolfdog that can bark so loud it will shake the shingles off the roof and clear the area of criminal activity for miles around.
Hybrid Laws in the States
- HybridLaw.com - State laws regarding Hybrid cats, wolves, dogs and other animals
laws by state regarding hybrid cats, wolves, dogs and other animals
Wolves are Dangerous
- Wolf Attack and Comments
Wolves are still dangerous, no matter how many coffee table books about wolves say otherwise! Take heed.
Domesticated Wolf Video
- Beautiful Domesticated Wolf
Very docile animal, the flip side of the coin to all the fierceness and wildness we are warned about. Completely domesticated.
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