Stephanie was the child that always brought home animals that needed help & for the past 25+ years, she has been involved with wolf & wolf dog rescue. She believes wholeheartedly in EDUCATION & of course, rescue. Going to schools & educating the next generation to STOP breeding wolves & wolf-dogs as pets is a priority in her life. Stephanie focuses on those animals born in captivity as they can never be released back into the wild because they have been imprinted with humans. Her hope is to see that the breeding of wolves and wolf-dogs as pets will cease in her lifetime. The animals at her sanctuary will live out their lives with dignity and respect.
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Stephanie was the child that always brought home animals that needed help. And for the last 25 plus years, she’s been involved with Wolf and Wolf Dog Rescue. She believes wholeheartedly in education and, of course, rescue. Going to schools and educating the next generation to stop breeding wolves and wolf dogs as pets is a priority in her life. Stephanie focuses on those animals born in captivity, as they can never be released back into the wild because they’ve been imprinted with humans. Her hope is to see the breeding of wolves and wolf dogs as pets cease in her lifetime. The animals that are sanctuary, will live out their lives with dignity and respect.
Hey, Stephanie, Thanks for coming on today. Well, thank you so much for having me. I’m really looking forward to this? Yeah, I am as well, I’m excited to talk to you and kind of learned how you found your passion. So why don’t you tell us a little bit more about you and how you got into this? Absolutely. You got it. When I was about five years old, I can distinctly remember walking with my grandma and my mom and my dad. And I remember swinging my arms with my dad and a dog was barking off in the distance. And I said to everybody that dog is not happy. It wants its family. It’s tired of being alone today. And they stopped and they looked at me and said, “How did you know that?” I said, “Well because he said so.” So that was the first moment when I knew that I understood canines. And from there, as I went through life, I started to bring home animals. And I was the kind of kid that my mom would say, ”Don’t bring any more home. We can’t keep them. And please, When you get older, you get your own house. You can have a dang zoo for all I care.” Well, I don’t have a zoo but I’ve got a Wolf and Wolf Dog refuge here in the mountains outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Very cool. Now I’m guessing your mother probably was like, See, I knew you would someday, right? Oh, yeah. No, she got a kick out of it when they came out here to help me finish getting the house and moving in. And they already saw that. I had two dogs, a brother, and a sister, and then the husband and wife Wolf Dog. And I rescued them from a puppy mill breeding situation. And she was like, “Well, okay, I guess it’s happening.” So yeah, we all have a good laugh out of that.
Yeah. So you started as a young girl and just really knew that you loved animals. And then how did your journey take you specifically to wolves and wolf dogs? When I had left Los Angeles; after the earthquake in 1994; it was pretty good business for me, very lucrative. But I felt that as a jazz pianist and vocalist and as a musician, that I could pretty much work anywhere. I felt like it, but I didn’t want to go back to Florida, where I was born, I thought, well, New Mexico is close enough to California, but far enough to be away. And, you know, I just remained here and I teach piano, and the next thing I know, there I am over at the Candy Kitchen Rescue Ranch, which the name changed, and now it’s called Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary. It’s been like that for many years now. And the founder, Her name is Jackie Evans, and sadly, she passed away many years ago. But she said, “Well, Stephanie, I’m gonna entrust the first 2 that I ever rescued and you get to have new family members.” And that was it. And then the next thing I know, she said to me, “Oh, watch what happens. You’ll get more, you’ll get a refuge, you’ll have something set up.” And the next thing I know, she’s telling people to contact me. So, you know, there we go and we just slowly started growing and growing. And I’m zoned for this at my home and the animals are in the back area of the house, on the acreage so you can hear them. But you can’t drive by and see them, so we have our privacy which is really nice and much needed.
Now, how did you come to know more about the wolves and wolf dogs? I mean, they seem very specific, and I’m guessing you didn’t go to school for that. No, it’s one of those things that, for me personally, was intuitive as the five year old understanding the dog barking. I just started watching the wolves more and more, and I realized that because they’re born in captivity, by people that breed them. Oh, yeah, here we go on, and, you know, they think it’s a cool thing to do this, but to be perfectly honest with you, because of the laws that are already in place, it basically is a death sentence. When a wolf for a wolf dog is dumped at a shelter because they’re called an exotic breed, so legally they are the first ones that could be murdered. Well, you know, did they ask to be here? No, they didn’t. Human beings are breeding these animals, thinking it’s such a cool thing to do. But you have to think about the bottom line. You have to think about the future thing. So what happens is these breeders, of course, I’m just speaking straight across the board. I don’t know what they charge for these animals, but to me, my personal opinion is that they’re tampering with nature because the more you breed these animals, it just keeps the cycle going. People need to come to people like myself or other organizations that have wolves and wolf dogs that are up for adoption, instead of keeping that cycle going by going to someone who’s going to keep breeding and breeding. Because folks, you ain’t going to get rich breeding wolves and wolf dogs, you just won’t. And that’s why I said that you’re basically tampering with nature because it’s like, no, you don’t know what you’re going to get when these animals are bred. So you just cross your fingers and hope that they’re loving and kind, which, to be honest with you, they really are. But you have to understand their mind and their brain and how the brain works because, yes, they are canine. Yes, they have dog in them, but there’s always something that will show you that you’re dealing with a wolf dog and we don’t use the word hybrid, by the way, none of us in rescue do. And each time I hear the word hybrid, I go, okay. Uh, no, no, no. It’s a wolf dog, because that’s what they’re bred with. Like I always say, there ain’t no gene splicing going on here. So there you have it, in a nutshell.
Now, how big is this problem? I mean any ideas to the number of wolf dog rescues or numbers that are bred every year? I couldn’t answer the breeding part of it, but I do know that at least I’m not exaggerating, seven times a week, I get an email and the other 45 rescues and sanctuaries that are in this database. We all jump on it and then try to help that animal get a home. So even if the animal is located in Iowa, every one of us that receives this email, we will then send it and share it because of the vastness now of social media. And so what will happen is the word gets out and then, God willing, the animal is saved. It doesn’t always happen. And then, of course, I cry every day. So it’s, I don’t want to start crying now, but it’s kind of an epidemic because they’re just so many places that figure, you know, it’s like, no, we’ll just put the animal to death. I don’t use the expression going to sleep because they’re not going to sleep there being killed period, right? But what I also have found is that so many humans find that animals are disposable. And, yes, I know that sometimes in life things happen and you have to quote, unquote rehome an animal. But I still feel that there are ways that the family, that has that animal, can work something out. A lot of times I hear about people getting divorced, which is sad unto itself. But then all of a sudden who gets caught in the middle, the animal, then the animal gets dumped, right? So it’s so sad. It’s just so sad. And that’s why when I heard that you were a pilot, I was so excited because we’re always looking for people to help us in transporting the animals to a safe haven. They’re awesome family members. They’re incredible, but you have to know how they think. And that’s why I’m trying to write a book. But there aren’t enough hours in the day. So Lord knows when this is gonna be completed, I don’t really know.
We’ll tell us a little bit more because I’m not as familiar with Wilson Wolfe Dogs. What makes them different, when you say you have to know how they think? What would you tell people? For example, the body language is pretty much the same for canines or for coyotes. I have an animal here who is Coyote, Wolf and Husky. I see the dog in her. I see just specific things, you know, like I can’t even explain it sometimes unless you’re watching what’s going on and up there, yelling right now, I think somebody, you see, I can even hear them through the closed windows that I understand. They’re barking and they’re howling. I know what they’re saying, so somebody must be jogging by or something like that. What I’ve noticed is, it’s just a look that they give and it’s a good look. It just tells me, Oh yeah, that’s the wolf in them. I wish I could verbalize it a bit more for you, but there are certain sounds that a Wolf will make that a dog will not. It’s a kind of a howl. I can’t really imitate it over the phone because I think I would deafen you. But it’s just sort of a sound that they make where they’re communicating, and it’s not bad. It’s just, oh yeah, that’s the wolf in them. It’s the way they howl or the way they are speaking that lets me know, yeah, that’s the wolf in them because all canines howl, it’s a form of communication. You know, sometimes when you’re in your home or you’re walking outside and all of a sudden you’ll hear the neighbor’s dog howling because of a siren or something. It has to do with the fact that the pitch is a specific way and it makes them want to howl. It also means that they’re also talking to the other animals in the neighborhood. It’s like a telephone, you know, they’re communicating, they don’t need a laptop, they’ll just howl to each other or bark to each other. So I’m sorry I couldn’t be more specific, but it’s one of those things where it kind of would have to demonstrate if I was doing a lecture, something like that.
No, that makes sense and I know you said It seems like a lot of people want them because of the cool factor. But then there’s got to be a turning point or a tipping point, where they realize they can’t properly care for these animals. Is that what’s happening? Yes, exactly, because people think that they’re children with fur and they’ll say, “Well, I want to give him a time out.” Well, excuse me, but they don’t understand what a time out is. I get pretty frustrated with humans sometimes because I know that they mean well. But they’re thinking that this is a kid, a child, and it’s not. It is a canine, and they think differently. They have this chip within them. It’s an ancient chip, and it tells them to do specific things in a specific way. Like, yeah, you can yell at an animal if they’ve defecated in the house. But if you don’t catch them when they’re doing it, then they’re not gonna understand because it was two hours later, you know? So with a child it is different. They’ll know right away. And yes, they’ll give you a sad look. Canines will look at you like, Oh God, I’m so sorry, but they don’t completely understand it on the level that a human being would understand. Oh, I did something wrong. You know, if you tell them again two hours later, you knock this off the thing and you broke it. I’m so upset. Well, they’ll know you’re upset but they won’t completely understand why. You have to catch them when they’re doing something. And a lot of times, a canine or feline will tell you something is wrong. If they go to the bathroom in the house, they’re letting you know that they may have a bladder infection, a UTI. That may be something worse is wrong. They’re just trying to communicate. And if you think of it from their standpoint, they always take the time to watch our body language and to learn words and use association, to figure out what we’re trying to communicate to them. Well, we owe them the same. We should watch their body language. We should watch what they’re trying to do to communicate with us. So I’m hoping that more and more people will take the time to do that.
You know, for example, if you have a Chihuahua that does something wrong. What the human will do automatically because it’s a smaller animal. We’ll scoop the animal up and start petting it and going, “No, that’s okay. That’s okay. No, no, no. It’s okay.” Well, what you’ve just done is done everything backward, because by petting them and telling them it’s okay, it’s okay. They’re gonna think, oh, so I get to act like that and snap at people, and then I’m gonna get petted every time? Oh, cool. Awesome. Where, as if a Rottweiler did it, would you pick the Rottweiler up in your arms and pet the animal and say, “No, it’s okay. It’s okay.” Of course you wouldn’t. Yeah, by petting them and telling them it’s okay when something has gone wrong, gives them the exact opposite information. So there you go. And that’s why I’m trying to write a book. I just want to help educate everybody and, you know, empower people to understand the mind of the canine. So maybe one day I’ll actually have this book done.
Now, I know in the meantime, you spend a lot of time trying to educate the next generation about not breeding wolves and wolf dogs. As pets, yes, because this is why I live to go to schools. I love working with kids because when you tell them something and you’re honest with them, they will look right at you and you can see it in their eyes. And they know and it makes me so happy to see that it clicks inside them. And what really moves myself and all of the volunteers that come and help out at different schools, when I do a lecture or an educational talk or whatever, what I’ll notice is that some of the children, here I go, their eyes will fill with tears because they do understand. I have never talked down to an animal, and I have never talked down to a child. There’s no need to do that. They’re so intelligent, and they’re smarter than most adults that I know. So these children know, and I’m just hoping that they will then take that information into their heart and then share it with everybody else that they know.
That’s really touching. Now what does the sanctuary that you’ve got look like for these wolves? They have big, beautiful pens, with Costco carports in each one. I live in a very high elevation. So I have these beautiful, gigantic pinyon pine trees, that are indigenous to New Mexico. And so I thinned out the trees, with the help of all the incredible volunteers that we have and I feed everybody. So if you just heard that, Hey, I feed everybody. So if you do come to help us, I cook a great meal for everyone, to say thank you because it means so much to me. And we will thin out the trees. We will make it very natural for them, but at the same time, they are completely protected from the snow, the ice, the rain from all the elements. And I build straw bale dens and they love it. I’ve sat in there with them and it’s cozy. It’s nice. So, you know, we’ve got, I don’t even know how many pence I’ve got, because some have two canines in them and some have one, and it’s just because they’re comfortable that way. And, you know, they run along the fence line, they talk to each other. Luckily, we have what we call no fence fighting. Everybody seems to get along. Everybody knows the pack dynamics, so that’s pretty wonderful.
So what is an average week look like for you? It’s nonstop because I still have a job of teaching piano. But every day I pretty much cook for the animals. We receive incredible donations from Vitamin Cottage Natural, which is a wonderful store. It’s where I go to get my vitamins, and I also get for the animals as well, and they donate their frozen meats that have expired. So that way I don’t get bankrupt. And then the Roadrunner Food Bank, also donates to the other Wolf refuge, as well as myself, so. As well as Wanagi Wolf Fund and rescues. So therefore I have turkey, chicken, fish, meats, and what’s hysterical is that I’ve never really eaten meat, ever since I was a kid. I just don’t eat meat, but here I am, up to my elbows, cooking for the packs. Kind of ironic I think, yeah. But, it’s a daily thing. It takes me about an hour, hour and 1/2 to prepare all the food, do all the vitamins, get everything set. They get really great organic kibble that is donated by either Clark’s Pet Emporium or Long Leash on Life, which is a great store in Albuquerque. So both of those stores, they help us out tremendously. I mean, I still have to go and purchase all their treats and some specific bags because one of the animals has Addison’s Disease, and it’s the same as in humans, where it’s an adrenal gland disease. So she has to get special kibble. And that bag, I think, is $100 per bag. So, yeah, and she has a vet bill every single month of close to $200 because she gets her shot once a month for Addison’s and then you know it adds up. It’s not inexpensive taking care of 12 animals. So yeah, it does add up.
I was just going to say, I know that Wolf Rescue is such a far cry from jazz music. Is this really where you thought you’d end up? Well, I wanted to be a vet, so I noticed that when I was younger that I kept having a reaction to formaldehyde. I’m severely, so I guess that’s a good thing to be allergic to, because it’s a pretty powerful chemical. But I could never complete my lab classes because even though I was covered from head to toe, goggles. My years recovered. No, I was just one gigantic itch. I couldn’t handle it. So I’ve got the book smart, but legally, I am not a vet, but I kind of know what to do in certain circumstances. But I usually just get the animals into the back of the SUV and bring them to TLC, in Albuquerque. And they’re amazing. They also do house calls for us, which is so awesome because we had a rattlesnake bite on one of the animals and survived beautifully. And that’s because prior to that, she had the booster shot for rattlesnake. Because even at this elevation, we do have rattlers here. But this was the first time that we had ever had anything like this happening. So you just don’t know with nature. Yeah, So they came out to the house and then did the booster shot for everybody, just to make sure because it buys time, you know. And then I was able to get her over to the vets office ASAP.
I wanted to mention something about when I had interjected Rabies. Every vet that I know has to have a Rabies shot, for their own body because of working with dogs and working with cats, etc, etc. And I used to always ask one of the vets, I said, “So did you check yourself? Is the Rabies still in your muscular structure?” And he said, “Yep, still there.” And this is why whenever I do a rescue, they only receive the Rabies vaccine once, it will stay in their bodies for the rest of their lives. For some strange reason, what I’ve noticed in this country is that everybody over inoculates their animals. And if your animal happens to have cancer and you give it a Rabies vaccine, within three months, they’re gone. I mean, I’m gonna average it and just say, within three months they’re gone. Because it makes the cancer in the body, I’m just speaking very simplistically, it just makes the cancer in the body explode. And that’s that, you know? So that happened to me one time here with Wanagi. And that is why I’ve named the organization after him, because I want him to live on, and I miss him terribly and he passed in 2002. But I talk to him every day, when I say his name, so it’s pretty good. No complaints there.
Well, Stephanie, this has been really nice to talk to you, to learn more about what you’re doing. And is there anything else you wanted to mention before we wrap things up? Well, you’re so kind. Thank you. Well, anybody that would love to get in touch with me, to either ask questions or if they happen to have a child that needs to do a report for science, I am honored. Anytime anybody wants to do that because I’ve had children from around the world contact me. And of course, I beam with pride when they say, “Miss Stephanie, I got the highest grade in my class.” Always makes me feel so good. You can always contact me through our website, which is www.wanagi, which is spelled W A N A G I. And then you put a dash. Next word is wolf, w o l f. Then you place a dash again and the last word is fund, F U N D.org. (www.wanagi-wolf-fund.org). And I would be honored to be contacted. And whatever we can do to help and educate, it’s my pleasure to do so. Well Stephanie, thank you so much for sharing that. And thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. I really enjoyed talking to you. Well, you’re wonderful. And I thank you so much for giving us this opportunity to get the word out and to help these incredible animals that deserve so much better than what they’ve been receiving. So thank you so much.
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