A Wolfdog’s Home

Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck

She approached very gingerly as I sat on the edge of my seat. I was ready to pounce and shower love in the form of pets, smooches and treats, but knew any such sudden movement would scare her off completely. Kaya came close enough to sniff my arm. She softly licked my glove and then retreated.

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That was as close as she would allow me. As a medium-content wolfdog, Kaya has no motivation to please humans, as dogs normally do. The wolf in her is shy and protective, anxious and very careful.

The higher the wolf-content, the further away the wolfdogs stayed. Zeus, Kuna and Nova kept their distance, coming close enough only so that we could toss the treats they were so eager to snack on. Then they would withdraw behind a tree, a building, back to the farthest corner of their fenced enclosure.

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Beautiful Nova.

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It’s their elusiveness that brought them to the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary, under the care of their keeper, Georgina. Their beauty entices the unknowing pet owner – wanting the looks of a wolf with the behaviour of a dog – backyard breeders rise to meet the demand. Soon, disappointment for the owners sets in when that fantasy is not realized, and the wolfdogs are often abandoned. Here, with an owner that understands their behaviour, they are cared for and safe.When no one else is around, they silently compete for Georgina’s attention. Kuna, the dominant high-content female, sleeps with Georgina at night, establishing dominance over the pack because as the purveyor of sustenance, Georgina is obviously valuable to them all.

Zeus is the alpha-male of the group, intimidating with his jet black fur and piercing hazel eyes. Any new wolfdog to the pack has to win Zeus over first which can take anywhere from one to three months. “And we really hope any new wolfdog is submissive, it makes it much easier,” Georgina said with a laugh.

Here, with an owner that understands their behaviour, they are cared for and safe.
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The elusive Zeus.

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The long-term hope, of course, is to not have the need for such a sanctuary. But currently there is more demand then they can handle – the sanctuary will soon be moving to a space with eight massive enclosures. Calls for rescue have unfortunately been turned down, but where possible, low-content wolfdogs are placed with new owners.  45 such placements have occurred in the past two and a half years.

For others, Zeus, Kuna and Nova, this is likely their home forever. They will continue to shyly take treats from strangers and accept love from their one-and-only Georgina. And in the meantime, hopefully teach us humans that wolfdogs are not dogs, and not the pet that one would expect.

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Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary

The Sanctuary, located just outside of Canmore, Alberta, also has a secondary location in Cranbrook, British Columbia. Contact the Sanctuary directly to arrange a visit.

Where we stayed

Canmore HotelWe breathed a massive sigh of relief when we walked into the Solara Resort & Spa in Canmore. We were so in love with our apartment that we curled up on the sublime leather couches in front of the fireplace and wiled an entire evening away doing nothing but enjoying the coziness. We love having the comfort of a suite every once in awhile along our journey, and Solara was an incredible pleasure to stay in. Also, you just can’t beat those mountain views.

Many thanks to Travel Alberta and Discover Banff Tours for their assistance during our stay. As always, all opinions are our own.
Special thanks to Canon Canada for the invitation to be part of the ambassador program and lending the 70-200mm f/4 lens to test out.

18 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • March 6 2014

    This actually made me a bit sad – these poor wolfdoggies! It’s horrible that people buy/breed them and then dump them because they aren’t “dog” enough. Kudos to Georgina for caring for them, though.

    And the photos are gorgeous! Those eyes… I’ve always been mesmerized by wolf eyes.
    Amanda recently posted..RTW Diaries: Southeast Asia in the Rearview

    • Pete
      March 13 2014

      Agreed that Georgina is doing such an amazing thing with these animals. And those eyes, I’m captivated by them too.

  • Cindi
    March 7 2014

    The photos are stunning and the subjects are just beyond beautiful. I have been fascinated with these beautiful Wolfdogs for a long time. I have so much respect for Georgina. She has a wonderful relationship with all the doggies and you can tell they love her as well.

    • Pete
      March 13 2014

      You can definitely see the love when you are there between Georgina and the wolves. Thanks Cindi!

  • March 8 2014

    Love this piece! We are in the are (Edmonton) and are going back and forth trying to see if we’ll have time to visit before we head out of Alberta next month. You did a great job with the photos, I’m very impressed!
    Rachel recently posted..Crossing The Border From The USA Into Canada As A US Citizen

    • Pete
      March 13 2014

      I hope you have the chance to visit, it’s a pretty special place. Thanks for your kind words on the photos 🙂

  • March 9 2014

    Amazing photos. Sad story… Is there something like this in Ontario?
    Lorenzo recently posted..Belize Tourism Statistics 2013

  • March 10 2014

    The photos are brilliant. Zeus looks the part of an alpha male

    • Pete
      March 13 2014

      Zeus was my favorite to photograph, such powerful images.

  • March 11 2014

    The wolfdogs are beautiful. Thank goodness Georgina is there to care for them. I love animals and it breaks my heart when people try to bring them in where they don’t belong and then abandon them.

    • Pete
      March 13 2014

      Yes, thank goodness indeed for what Georgina is doing. It’s a shame the way animals are treated and lack of respect sometimes. It breaks our heart as well.

      I’m looking forward to returning when they have their new home.

  • Beautiful photos! Stunning animals- I love what the sanctuary is doing to protect them. Thanks for sharing!

    • Pete
      March 13 2014

      Thanks Bridget, we love it too!!

  • So pretty!
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..The asado experience I wish I had in Buenos Aires

  • March 20 2014

    What beautiful creatures! I once visited a dog breeder who had many different breeds. One was a wolf, and she really was just curious. She didn’t wag her tail, or sniff me like a domesticated pet would. She got along with all the other little dogs around her like Chihuahuas, yorkies, etc. She seemed very docile and like these wolves, had the most beautiful fur coat and eyes to accompany.

  • April 2 2014

    Beautiful photos of a sad story.

  • David C
    November 20 2015

    I enjoyed your article about the “wolf-dogs” as I have many of the stories you post. This one struck me as important as it is interesting and it demonstrates to the reader wolf-dogs are not dogs and do not make pets under most circumstances. Great pictures.

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