July 2000: On my way to a Sundance in southern Alberta, I see a red building on my right. Something about the building grabs my attention so intensely that I U-turn on the highway. I must explore what is there. The place is a wolf haven, and I spend time petting wolves through a chain link fence.
July 2000: I am giving a new friend from Alberta a ride back to Seattle. I talk about the place and the wolves. Wolf Haven was closed when we got there. I am disappointed.
April 2008: I am on spring break from college and meeting a friend in Jackson Hole, Wyoming for a week. One day it is snowing, and we decide to drive out to the country, to watch the snow, share our stories from the past year, and sit in silence staring at the mountains across the way. On our left, we both see a lone wolf, trotting across the snow covered field. As we continue to watch, the wolf stops and stares at us for what seems like 20 minutes. We sit in silence watching back..
April 2015: I am in Yellowstone National Park. Along with lots of snow from a fresh spring storm, I see wolves ‘being’ themselves in their environment. I watch, mouth open catching flies… Well if a fly could live in that temperature, I would have caught multiple. I am in awe of how natural the wolves seem.
June 2016:. I see a Facebook post from a friend and text her, saying her radiance was showing in the picture and asking where the photo was taken. She responded with a location and shared a bit of the impact of her experience.
November 2016: I booked an hour at Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center, the place my friend had named.
December 31, 2016: It was 5 degrees when I arrived in the mountains, snow and ice on the ground, a clear blue sky and the sun was just starting to make its way over the nearest of the eastern mountains. As I walked up, I did not see any wolves, but could hear them howling in the distance and then the echo of the howl on the hills around me. Somewhat surreal to my experience, my mind started thinking of safety, along with flashes of horror movies and bloody bodies laying in the woods while being torn to shreds by wild animals.
Luckily for me, the walk was a short distance and a nice person greeted me, taking me out of the next Stephen King thriller my mind was creating. Of course there was the paperwork; just in case I was attacked. There were ferrets and a rooster running around greeting people; the building was warm and full of wolf items.
I listened to the staff say to me: the wolves are not dogs, do not hug them, grab their face and kiss them, or rough-house with them; they will react as if you are their size and power and that could be dangerous.
The first pack: Once I sat down on the ground, face level with the first pack, everything disappeared that did not need to be in my world at that moment. I was fully present to every breath, movement, posture, nudge, or growl from each wolf and each gesture had its meaning. I was not cold or concerned for my safety.
I have to be honest. One thing concerned me, and that was how they greet each other, and that greeting would also include me. The process is the equivalent of a human handshake; the wolves greet each other by sticking their tongues into each others mouths, and trying to touch the tonsils.
It took me three tries before I would let a partially wild animal get that close, i.e tongue in the mouth close. First try, the Alpha male comes over, sniffs my hand and arm, then goes for the tongue action. I keep my lips together and kiss him on the cheek like I would a friend.
The wolf walked off. Being the kind wolf that he is, and with some luck, he came back about 5 minutes later and tried it again. Still, I could only part my lips a tiny bit, and did not let his tongue in. I then notice the wolf seem to make a sigh and sit just far enough away from me that I could not physically connect with him. A few minutes went by, and the same wolf gave me another chance. No other wolves had come close to me.
Internally, I agreed to go for it. I told myself, how bad could it be… maybe just some small raw animal parts, a piece of stick or bone stuck to his tongue, and the possibility of having part of my face taken off by sharp and giant teeth.
Luckily for me, none of that happened. In fact, the wolf’s tongue was not slimy, not gross, no after taste, and he was very gentle so as not to bang teeth. I thought to myself, I have kissed a few women with worse tasting tongues. Somewhere in the faraway distance, I could hear one of the two staff giving instructions, although I somewhat failed to follow them and was guided by intuition.
(Click galleries to enlarge photos.)
When meeting the second pack, I was told not to get down to the level of the alpha male, as he is known for trying to top everyone.
Remember the rules I spoke about earlier, I broke them all. The first thing I did was grab the alpha wolf by the face and kiss him. Then, when he pushed against me, I gave him a big hug and kissed him again. I played with him like I would a regular dog. Sometime after the hug, I could hear the staff telling me, ‘apparently you guys know each other’ and not to worry about being topped.
We, the alpha male and I, rubbed, nudged, and pushed a bit back and forth. Later he allowed me to rub his belly and front legs. That is when I about pissed my pants. The alpha male started growling at me and showing his teeth. I yanked my hands away from him so fast. Even if it were a rattlesnake, I would not have been bitten.
The Wolf and Wildlife Center staff chuckled and informed me, the wolf was letting me know he liked what I was doing. Still shaken a bit, I informed them, that when someone growls and shows their teeth, I typically stop the behavior and move away. I was then encouraged to start rubbing him again in the same way, and he growled and snarled the entire time. Once I understood his communication style, I felt less nervous. Still, it took me a few minutes to relax. Wolves have big teeth and deep growls…. Just saying!
For my last 25 minutes, I had the option of seeing wolf puppies or another pack of adults. Of course I chose puppies. I mean come on, who doesn’t want to see puppies. When we arrived, I found out these were 80-90 pound sister and brother puppies who were eight months old!
The moment I sat down with them, I had two playful wolf puppies kissing me in their traditional way, then stealing my Seahawks hat; by the way, stealing my hat means means the wolves are Seahawks fans…(wink). They then stole my hair tie by gently pulling it out of my hair with their teeth. They tried to try to take anything that was loose on my clothing.
The staff started to get nervous that they might tear my coat, or ruin something. I wasn’t nervous, I was laughing and loving the playfulness of youth, the exploration of boundaries and their trust of me. Here are two kids wanting to play. I chose to wear what I wore, and be involved with them. How could I then get upset? I couldn’t.
Sadly it was time to leave, and my time with these wonderfully loving creatures would be over for now. Once I exited the area and returned to my truck, I started the motor, put the truck in gear and noticed something. I had no energy to leave, to drive, or to converse with others. My mind and body were silent. I had no want. There was no internal voice on either shoulder talking to me. My experience was “I am”.
Once I returned to the world of fast moving cars, Starbucks, and snowy Colorado mountain roads, I realized how similar my experience was to the many times I have received Amma’s darshan (hug).