Peek Into The Pack Blog

Keeper Chronicles: Paul & Zayne

Article by Paul Koch

June 25, 2024

Recently, Wild Spirit has been working towards offering our followers a more personal look into the world of animal care with the debut of our Keeper Chronicles! Please enjoy our first entry into our KC’s about the relationship between myself (Paul), and our ever-zealous rescue, Zayne.

Zayne tormenting Butternut Squash with his banshee scream, April 17th, 2024

Many people who come to Wild Spirit do so because they are drawn to the beauty, majesty and strength of the charismatic megafauna that is the wolf. This is no different for the Caretakers who devote their lives to bettering the rescues in our care. Something about this remarkable species instills us with such amazement… And then there is Zayne.

For those of you who aren’t acquainted with our loveable goofball, Zayne is one of our lowest wolf-content animals. Even to the trained eye, there are very few characteristics that could tell you–with absolutely certainty–that Zayne is anything other than a mere husky. However, his Embark DNA test has confirmed ~22% wolf-content, which means Zayne has generously received the title of “low-content wolfdog”. Due to this, Zayne behaves just like your average husky, brimming with energy, bouncing off the walls and screeching like a banshee. I’m sure many of you know the unpleasant experience.

Now, in this field, we are not meant to rank favourites–but, it is fair to say that Zayne often ends up on the bottom of the people’s list. He is rambunctious, rude, and has a howl that could shatter glass. Not to mention his greatest fault is that he comes on too strong, not just with humans, but other canids as well, which is why he is one of the few rescues still waiting to find his perfect match. With numerous failed pairings, and a long list of Caretakers he has terrorized, this fellow exudes a lonely and desperate aura that only further pushes potential friends away.

Zayne running over to say, “Hello!”, March 18th, 2024Zayne running over to say, “Hello!”, March 18th, 2024

When I first met Zayne, he had so much energy that all the toys and enrichment in the world would never be enough. Additionally, because of his boisterous ways, his relationship with past Keepers primarily revolved around them disengaging to avoid reinforcing negative behaviors. Despite this, when the time came for me to choose my primary enclosures (those which we are responsible for cleaning), I may have been the first to ever choose Zayne. What I saw, above all else, was someone who desperately needed a friend.

Sure enough, I received a similar treatment to everyone else at first. He jumped up on me constantly, mouthed my hands and screamed like a maniac in my presence. And naturally, I did as the others did before me and disengaged from these behaviours to avoid rewarding them. However, I also worked towards teaching him how we could socialize in a way that was best for both of us. Zayne is such a loving and playful guy that the last thing I wanted was to strip him of that, so instead we worked towards establishing boundaries to allow him to express himself in a healthy way. It took time, endless patience, and the ability to tune out his melody of excitement, but eventually… he learned.

Today, Zayne and I have a very special relationship, built entirely on love, trust, and boundaries. At the cusp of his door, I request a sit (not because the behaviour is valuable, but to ensure he is calm enough to respond to cues). Once he does, I open the door to allow him to greet me in the sub-enclosure, a neutral territory that also acts as an environmental reward. He sniffs, explores, and marks, before approaching me and resting his head against my leg (the cue we established to tell me that he wants affection). He receives his fill with plenty of consent checks, until he departs on his own terms and I begin my cleaning routine. If he cues affection at any time during my cleaning, our golden rule is that he will receive it. If he brings me a toy to play with, I drop everything to toss it for him. This is the foundation of our relationship; one that guarantees our darling Zayne has all his needs met without his naughty behaviors of old.

The only hurdle that remains for our dear Zayne… is for him to treat other Caretakers with the same respect. Unfortunately for them, his reign of terror continues, but it sure is nice not to be on the receiving end. Our next goal is to ensure he is a little angel for everyone he meets, but until then, I wish them the best of luck.

Do you love Zayne as much as I do? If you wish to support this darling creature, please click here to sponsor him!

 

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