Thursday, May 10, 2018

Shadow's Legacy

Shadow came to my home when she was about two months old. Approximately ninety percent timber wolf, she had definite ideas about who would be the alpha in our relationship, and she wasn't shy about showing her qualifications for that position. I, of course, disagreed. While it can be cute to watch a young wolf cub assert her dominance, it's far less cute to deal with an adult wolf living in a domestic environment do the same.

My love for wolves began some years earlier when I became associated with a loosely aligned group of wolf owners. Most of the wolves were high-percent hybrids, but a few were pure wolf. (The state I lived in did allow people to keep hybrids; the purebreds may have been another matter.)

My first encounter with an adult wolf came when while I was visiting a lady who belonged to the group. She was "wolf-sitting" for another member who was out of town, and she offered to let me in the pen with the animal to "get acquainted." It sounded a bit scary, but also it offered a huge opportunity to test my affinity for the species. Giving her invitation more careful thought might have been wise, but I didn't. She opened the door to the covered pen, let me inside, locked the door behind me, and proceeded to go back in the house. The animal took one look at me and began to pace back and forth between me and the door. Then I began to reason on the fact that she was in a strange environment, with people who were not part of her pack, and she was not a hybrid. There I sat, locked in a cage with a pure wolf. Talking to her in a soft voice, I assured her I meant her no harm. At no time did I reach my hand out to her because I did not know how she would perceive that action. The fifteen or so minutes I spent there, alone with a wolf who had the power to end my life in a matter of seconds, sealed my love and respect for these beautiful animals.

My first hybrid, Nina, was pure white, seventy-five percent wolf, and a sweetheart. Her personality was much more docile and dog-like, and she was frightened of loud noises. Fourth of July fireworks terrified her. When we left the state for several months, a young man asked if he could keep her because the state to which we were going did not allow hybrids to be kept as pets. When I checked with him some months after we left, he told me how she loved to run beside him when he rode his bike in the country. Again, the dog seemed dominant. I was relieved that she had a good home.

Shadow, on the other hand, exhibited predominantly wolf traits. I don't recall seeing any evidence of the small percentage of dog in her genetic line. When she was four months old, after recovering from a bout of distemper, she challenged me big-time. As directed by the people who raised and bred the hybrids, I rolled her over on her back, placed one hand around her throat, got down in her face, and growled. That sounds abusive, but it isn't—at least not the way I did it. I didn't grip her throat hard enough to impede her breathing, and I didn't hurt her in any way. She got the point. I was alpha.

She grew up to be incredibly beautiful. She was also incredibly strong. Walking her on a leash quickly proved beyond my capability because she could easily have gotten away from me if she wanted to. Her predatory instincts asserted themselves when she got out of the fenced yard and brought home a chicken from a neighbor's coop. Needless to say, this did not make us popular in the neighborhood.

When my living circumstances changed, I was forced into finding her a home because I couldn't take her with me. A man who worked with my grandson had always wanted a wolf hybrid, and he jumped at the chance to take her. When I visited her several months later, she immediately recognized me and rolled over on her back, exposing her belly to show submission. A second visit a year later broke my heart. The man who had been so excited to take Shadow home had had a spat with his girlfriend and moved out, leaving the wolf behind. The girlfriend "got rid of her" when she killed the family cat. Her daughter wouldn't tell me how she "got rid of her," but I suspect she put her down.

This was a very hard lesson. Much as I love the wolves and the high-percentage hybrids, I must leave them in an environment where they are safe. The changes in my life may well have caused the death of my Shadow, and I still regret that I did not make enough effort to get her into a refuge where she would have been protected.

Wolves are wild creatures and should be free to roam and hunt, as is their habit, and to live in packs according to their custom. Shadow didn't roam free, but she hunted when given the opportunity—or when she took it. She also bonded with me, making me part of her human pack. She adapted—up to a point. Never did she lose the dignity of her species. Never did she lose the inherent traits of her untamed ancestors. Never will she lose her place in my heart. She will be immortalized in an upcoming novel that explores the dangers faced by these magnificent creatures in our increasingly intolerant world.

Editor Linda Lane has returned to her first love—writing—while maintaining her editing work. Her novels fall into the literary category because they are character driven rather than plot driven, but their quick pace reminds the reader of genre fiction. They also contain elements of romance, mystery, and romance. You can contact her at websites: and


  1. That's a touching story, Linda. I would never have the courage to take on even a hybrid, but I admire wolves so much and love reading about them. There's a wolf sanctuary not far from where I live, but they're only open to employees and volunteers.

    1. Shadow was indeed a magnificent creature, and she changed the way I look at all wild life (with the possible exception of reptiles and arachnids — LOL). She never gave me reason to fear her, with the possible exception that she might unintentionally knock me down when she jumped up to put her paws on my shoulders, look me in the eye, and let me know she loved me as much as I loved her. Never did she try to hurt me; however, she was incredibly strong, and I was not. That's why it had been so important to establish early in her life that I was alpha.

  2. Loved this post, Linda. I'm with Pat. Being a city girl through and through, I doubt I could do what you did, but wolves are a beautiful species. I hate that they're hunted in the wild for doing what they are born to do, however, I find shooting them from a plane a disgusting sport.

    1. Sadly, life seems to receive little respect from humans, regardless of the species. In many ways it appears the animal kingdom is a lot more "civilized" than its human counterpart.

  3. Terrific post, Linda. We keep learning all kinds of new things about you. :-)

    We had a dog that was part wolf, not sure how much, but like your Nina, he was afraid of loud noises. Came through a pane in our French Doors one 4th of July. I was shocked that he could fit. And I'm glad your Shadow will live on in your upcoming book. Makes me even more eager to read it.

    BTW, you are so right about our responsibility to animals. We need to understand and respect their needs and not just get an exotic pet of any kind on a lark.

  4. My most challenging experience with a wolf was being locked in that pen with one who didn't know me. I had read they don't normally attack humans but hadn't planned to test that statement for accuracy. Another fun situation occurred when my husband and I visited a lady in a large city who had two wolves, as I recall. She lived in a lovely older home that was beautifully decorated. As we chatted, a huge, black wolf (the biggest one I've ever seen) sauntered down the steps from the second floor and walked right past us. I knew when we went to her home that her animals were purebreds (which may be safer than hybrids, according to some sources). She just neglected to mention that one of them was upstairs and might be coming down. I felt no fear, but its sudden appearance was definitely a surprise. This was twenty some years ago, but the memory is as vivid as though it were yesterday.

  5. Wow... a wonderful post, Linda... Very sad about Shadow. It's too bad that the boyfriend (or girlfriend) didn't reach out to folks who could have helped find another home for her. Ah my.

  6. He was supposed to call me if his circumstances changed. He didn't. I did try to find a place for her in a refuge, but the one I contacted wasn't taking any new "admissions" at that time. Much later I learned of another one, but it was too late for Shadow. She was truly a special creature, and she changed my attitudes and viewpoints about wildlife in so many subtle ways.


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