Both Cheyenne and Argo are senior wolf-dogs who have resided at the sanctuary for the majority of their adult lives. The duo has claimed home to a habitat in the upper compound with neighbors Cinder and Riot on their left and single boy, Teton, on the right.
At 16-years old, Cheyenne is one of our oldest residents at Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary, and she will be turning 17 early in June! For perspective, wolves in the wild live on average between 6 and 8-years old. Life as a large predator that favors bulky ungulate game as food, including bison, elk, and deer, is not easy, after all. The environments some sub-species of gray wolf inhabit, too, such as the tundra, are harsh, introducing more hurdles to jump to survive. In captivity, grey wolves and the various sub-species, including Arctic and timber wolves, have been observed to live on average about 16-years old. However, within Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary’s 29-year history, we have seen wolves and wolf-dogs live closer to 21-years old!
Since Cheyenne is our honorary “Golden Girl,” it has been no surprise to the team that she remains her spunky, saucy self. Nevertheless, the years have begun to wear on Cheyenne, as she slows and shows more stiffness, but she wears it well.
Cheyenne has become very affectionate towards me in her old age. Shortly after being trained on her (I believe I was trained in 2015), I ticked her off. She was trying to test me by taking possession of my poop bucket. She did it in a subtle way—sticking her head inside and refusing to remove it for a good two minutes. In order to continue my habitat cleaning, I tapped the bucket with my hoe, and she growled at me, so I waited. Cheyenne really didn’t like being told her time was up, and she lifted her head out of the bucket just enough to let me know her displeasure with a side-eye-look.
I began to place my shovel on the rim of the bucket to let her know that I wasn’t backing down. Cheyenne did not like this, and began to grumble, but I was getting what I needed—her head was lifting out of the bucket. The more she lifted it out the more I claimed the bucket with the shovel head, covering the top of it until she finally had her head fully out and I was able to cover the top entirely. Cheyenne proceeded to turn away, mark territory, and she gave me that side-eye once more.
Ever since, our relationship has been friendly, and I had gained her respect—she just wasn’t going to let it get to my head. Cheyenne always approached me for pets and affection, but after my power move it always felt like she was trying to test me—to see if I would waiver in any way. Back then, I’d never let her kiss my face. She would say it was ok, but I knew better than to fall for it. I would say I was being too cautious, but really Cheyenne wanted to pay me back for the shovel conversation. How dare I tell her she couldn’t have something? How dare I offend her?
A couple of years ago, Cheyenne was due for her vaccines and she needed a lump examined while the veterinarian was on-site. Due to past experiences, we didn’t expect for Cheyenne to be an easy animal to examine, but we were lucky she was leash-able. I think this solidified our relationship. Of course, Cheyenne didn’t love the injections, but she trusted me enough to let the vet do his job, and he trusted me enough to ensure Cheyenne wouldn’t hurt him.
Cheyenne must have told Argo about it because although he would test me and my boundaries he hasn’t given me half the issues that some caregivers have experienced.
Rae McCue, Animal Care Supervisor, was his caregiver for a bit, and he started to become particularly testy with her. Argo would show this energy before she even stepped into the habitat. However, I would go in to see what he was up to, and Argo would completely ignore me, never showing me the amount of testiness he was displaying to Rae. So I wound up taking them on for a while. Cheyenne seemed to like it, and Argo didn’t mind.
Years in, I’ve slowly allowed Argo to sniff my hand from about a foot away. He doesn’t ever seem to really want affection, but he seems curious about it, especially since he’s used to watching Cheyenne engage with caregivers. In the beginning, Argo’s eyes would glaze over as if he were in a trance. It always told me that he’d nip my hand if I reached closer to him, but not out of aggression, and not particularly out of curiosity either. It was just a reaction.
Due to advice from a previous staff member, I slowly began introducing small sticks with my spit on the end: One, to see how fast and hard he’d chomp on the stick, and two, to get him used to my scent in an intimate way. Over the years, I’ve allowed him to come closer, but I am still very careful about letting him too close. His eyes and attention to my hand have softened. Is it because of my continuous presence over the years, his age, or has he finally become so accustomed to the routine that it’s no longer a reaction for him to want to nip me? I cannot be sure. Either way, I have no real aim to pet him. He hasn’t shown that he wants it.Argo
However, Argo is still someone I am always keeping my eye on. He’s a good teacher about never becoming complacent with wild animals. I always carry a tool inside, just in case. He’s also taught me the art of picking up on the subtlest of signs. Just the other day, he was lying down about 40 feet away from me while I was kneeling down, interacting with Cheyenne. In just a second, a change in the air notified me that he noticed I was in a vulnerable position. A millisecond later, Argo was up, and although not directly looking at me, he was moving in my direction. He thought he was sly. I quickly moved to the other side of Cheyenne, safe with her and the fence on either side of me, tool in hand.
It’s been hard to watch Cheyenne age. Although still confident in ways, she is very jumpy around Argo, especially during feeding time. I’m so used to her fighting for the first loaf! The jumpiness began when she started to lose her vision in her left eye, though she can still see shapes and shadows. Argo picked up on this and began to take advantage of her slowing down, which is why he gets the first loaf now.
I’ve also seen Cheyenne pull her caregiver while out on a walk, and so much so that the caregiver yanked a post out of the ground along the tour path as Cheyenne pulled and the caretaker reached out to stop herself from falling. Cheyenne went back to the caregiver and was like, “Come on! I’ve got people to see! A walk must be had!” Nowadays, walks are very calm, she doesn’t pull on her leash like she used to, and instead of worrying about all of the fuss the other rescues are making about her, she mostly ignores them and continues on her path.
I love her so much. I am very happy that Megan is caring for her in her old age!
Megan Murphy, Social Media and Outreach Coordinator, began caring for Cheyenne and Argo earlier this year. Megan was also their caregiver once before a couple of years ago before taking a break from Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary to explore other career options. As you can see, she did not make it far before being called to return to the Wild Spirit Family!
Here’s what Megan has to say about the elder duo:
Cheyenne has always been a spunky, social girl who acts like a puppy no matter her age. She loves getting attention from her caregiver, but can be particular about where she gets pet. Cheyenne always makes sure we are paying attention when we interact with her. She has always been wild-spirited, and she has been known to try and steal items from caregivers if they are not paying attention.Megan with Cheyenne
Cheyenne has slowed down in her older age, but still has a bit of sass left in her. If I am wearing a “fun” textured jacket, or if she’s feeling a little spunky, she might try and nibble on my sleeve or my boots. One of her favorite things in the world is fence-fighting with her neighbors, Cinder and Riot! She also loves splashing in her water bucket, and in the larger tub during the warmer months, especially if her caregiver has just filled it!
Handsome boy, Argo, has never lost his nipping tendencies, and remains one of our higher-maintenance rescues at Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary. He is a bit naughty, and you can never let your guard down in his enclosure. If you do, he will likely come up behind you to try and bite your rear end! (It is one of his favorite things to do. . .)
Argo also loves fence-fighting with neighbors, Cinder and Riot. He can be seen doing daily “zoomies” around his enclosure at feeding time, as it’s his favorite part of the day! He enjoys getting enrichment bones and guarding them from both Cheyenne and his caregivers for several days before he is done with them. And while his companion loves splashing in her water bucket or tub, Argo’s favorite pass time in the summer months is to lay in the tub when it’s empty. He’s a funny guy! Argo still has never gotten over his nipping tendencies, so he is not a rescue we can safely interact with, but he’s okay with that.
Because Cheyenne and Argo are a higher-maintenance enclosure, meaning caregivers need greater experience to be considered for training on caring for the habitat, not many team members have experienced the kind of relationships with the two as Crystal and Megan have. Nevertheless, they are loved for the audacious individuals that they remain to be!
Howls of thanks for reading, and stay tuned for another Spotlight feature scheduled for May!