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In Loving Memory of our beloved wolf-dogs who have crossed the Rainbow Bridge


March 4, 2024 We are mourning the loss of our precious wolf-dog Dakota. He would have been 13 years old next month. Dakota was the first wolf-dog we rescued and probably the most recognizable as his handsome face is on the back of all of our t-shirts. Dakota was just a puppy ~7 weeks old when we rescued him. He had not been properly socialized and was already terribly fearful of people, especially men. He would lose bowel control when he was frightened and hide behind or under anything he could. Our founder and Director, Jennifer Ackley, was able to earn his trust over time with patience and love, although he remained fearful all his life. When he was a year old we rescued Leia, and the two of them became our first bonded pair. Even though they would play rough and vocalize loudly to each other, at the end of the day they were best friends and could always be found near each other. They loved to chase each other, and loved playing Find It when treats were hidden around their enclosure.

Every Spring, Dakota and all the wolf-dogs would molt. He allowed Jennifer to brush him, and she collected his fur - he produced the most fur of all the wolf-dogs! Afterwards, he looked like he lost 20 pounds! Then in the fall, he would regrow his undercoat, looking regal and fluffy and “wolfie”. According to Embark DNA testing, Dakota was 68% wolf-dog. This is considered mid-content, but Dakota had many features normally found in high-contents and pure wolves: He had cheek tufts and a V-cape, rounded well-furred ears, almond-shaped golden eyes, huge paws and a bottle-brush shaped tail. And my, what big teeth he had! He had a beautiful howl and often led the pack in howling sessions, but if Leia came over to him as he was howling, he would sometimes change his howl to mimic her sound which we call a “broken” howl. He would also occasionally sound an alarm-bark when strangers came to visit. His howl was included in the Canid Howl Project early research done at the sanctuary in 2014. Click here to watch video of Dakota & Leia howling:

As he started to age, Dakota developed health issues that made it increasingly difficult for him to get around, and even difficult for him to eat. We had to make the most difficult decision to end his pain and suffering, and free him to pass over the Rainbow Bridge, where he could run again without pain. We find some comfort knowing that Dakota is playing with Alo, Frost, Sasha, Teyah, and Bauer (Bear)! The entire human pack is feeling the loss deeply, and Princess Leia, his close companion for 12 years, had her world turned upside down. Time will help reduce the hurt, but he will remain in our hearts furever. 


Dakota's Embark DNA test results

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 January 8, 2024 Alo was such an incredible light of personality who touched the lives of so many visitors and volunteers. He will be profoundly missed by many and certainly never forgotten.

Alo was rescued in March of 2014 from Indiana at approximately 3 years old. Like many wolf-dogs Alo had a knack for a natural "Houdini" act of escaping by continually jumping the fence. His family made the tough decision to relocate Alo to our sanctuary as they realized as much as they loved him, they could no longer provide adequate containment. Over the years Alo truly settled in to the sanctuary life, enjoying most mornings romping around and patrolling his territory with his mate Moonbeam. Eagerly greeting new and old visitors alike in the morning with his signature "Howl-oooo" waiting to see if he could bribe an extra treat out of anyone who happened to make eye contact with those gorgeous brown eyes. He and Moonbeam happily grew old together side by side everyday for almost 10 years. Due to their social nature, wolf-dogs need species companionship. Alo was no exception, and their bond was a wonderful sight to witness with him, often preferring Moonbeam's lovely company to that of humans, and rightfully so.

While Alo was still being active with Moonbeam in previous months, our animal care volunteers monitored his daily health due to his advancing age as we do with all our seniors. Wolf-dogs are very private and concealing creatures when it comes to pain as their wolfish nature tends to have them hide it until they no longer can so they are not perceived as weak and kicked out/picked on by other members of the pack. This is another reason why having a strong, consistent bond with these animals is very important to having their trust in us in both good times and bad. Within the last two weeks we noticed a decline in his health, with real concern mounting after seeing him display what we believe to be signs of a stroke severely limiting his mobility and cognitive function. We also discovered that he had a degenerative spine which attributed to his weakness in his hindlimbs. In the days that followed, Alo refused to take food or medicine no matter how tempting the reward. This brought about the extremely sensitive and heartbreaking discussion about what to do next that would best for him moving forward. Our vets confirmed this was the best choice for our dear boy, when working in rescue as the saying goes "There is no time on Earth long enough to share with the animals we deeply love or prepare our hearts for goodbye". All of our animal care staff here at Wolf PAWS have been left with a huge hole in our hearts and miss him terribly.

Thank you to each and everyone of you who helped support Alo and continue to help us in our mission to raise awareness for these beautiful but misunderstood animals!

Alo's Embark DNA test results:


Our beautiful Frost died suddenly on February 7, 2022 at the age of 3 yrs. Frost was surrendered by her owners on February 7, 2020 when they were being forced to move and could not take her with them.  They were heartbroken, but the reality is that owning a wolf-dog can make it difficult to move due to legal restrictions and cost of proper containment. She had jumped a six-foot fence before, so an 8-foot + fence was necessary to keep her contained, as well as a lean-in at the top and a dig guard at the bottom to prevent escape. Wolf PAWS was able to take her in and care for her specific needs.

Frost was originally bonded with Orion, but the tours were very stressful for Orion. He was moved into a different enclosure off the tour circuit, and Frost then shared her enclosure with Zeus. Being left by her previous family made Frost untrusting of people, but she enjoyed playing chase in her enclosure with her pack mates and chilling under the trees. She leaves a hole in the hearts of her humans and her wolf-dog companions. Many thanks to Frost's sponsors Michael & Helen Aurenz, Randy & Cheryle Morgan, and Ashley Watford.

Frost's Embark DNA test results:


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Bauer (originally called "Bear") was rescued by Knox County Animal Control when his owner was charged with animal cruelty. As you can see in the photos on the left, he was chained to a tree for so long it carved a ring in the base of the tree.  Water and food were scarce and he weighed just 76 lbs when he was brought to Young Williams Animal Center. There, he was treated for heartworms and hookworms, brought up-to-date on all his vaccinations and was microchipped and neutered.   Wolf-dogs are illegal to own in Knox County so Young Williams could not adopt him out to the public. Wolf PAWS rescued Bauer on September 7, 2015 from an uncertain fate that would likely have been euthanasia, and housed him in our intake pen while he was recovering from heartworm treatment. We worked extensively to socialize him and teach him basic manners.  After being with us for almost 2 months, we nursed him back to health and he weighed over 140 pounds!

 In November 2015,  an amazing woman in California adopted Bauer as a companion to her female wolf-dog, Danica. Bauer lived in the loving home he deserved with his compassionate owner and his best wolf-dog friend. Sadly, Bauer passed away in September 2021 after a brief illness. He was loved dearly and will be missed!

Bauer's Embark DNA test results:

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