Here at the sanctuary, we do the majority of animal care in the early morning. We come in before 8 AM to prepare and gather food for our rescues and start feeding by the turn of the hour. Every rescue responds to food or bone related enrichment differently, but I doubt that anyone gets as excited for a morsel as Quinn. Turning the corner up to their enclosure gives you a heartwarming view of Quinn leaping repetitively on his hind legs with a smile from ear to ear. If Lyca is getting too excited it isn’t uncommon to see our hungry hound chasing her around to ensure he gets his food/bone first. It’s a shame he spends all of that energy needlessly considering we always feed him first and her second, but we encourage all walks of life to be authentically themselves. On normal feeding days we throw his 4 pound “loaf” past him where he accomplishes the seemingly impossible twist to grab it and run off. After his meal, he and his sister go off to nap off the full belly of food.
When all of the kids have been fed the animal care team members grab our poop buckets and head out to clean enclosures. Despite the full tummy, both Quinn and Lyca tend to run to the fence line, wagging their tails vigorously with excitement. This experience is even more intense if there are a couple of people walking towards them considering they associate this with a walk and potential playdate through the fence with some different neighbors. Normally however, I enter the enclosure to greet the siblings. Quinn loves his attention and will do his best to hog it from Lyca. The initial reaction from Quinn can be that of jumping or trying to get into your face, however we don’t encourage that considering he could potentially hurt someone unintentionally. If he’s being too much, I will usually just start cleaning poop up. He’ll follow me and sniff the bucket (especially if there is other animal’s poop already in the bucket) until he calms down and I can reward with a hang out for this behavior. While it has not always been this way, I have built a relationship with him where I can really rub and scratch at him, pulling at his ears and scratching inside during fly season to help with any itchiness he might have, and even giving him a big ol’ hug. I know he’s enjoying his time when he starts blowing air out the sides of his mouth telling me he wants me to kiss his face. All the while I am keeping one hand on Lyca making sure that she gets some attention through all of this.
Lyca was my biggest “challenge” in this enclosure due to her shy nature. She has always been slower to warm up to certain people, but especially males. Male caretakers such as myself tend to have more of a handicap with some animals due to their natural disposition to be either intimidated or skeptical of men. As I do with all animals I let her call all of the shots when we first met. For many months all I could do was let her sniff my hand and poop bucket to show her that interaction with me was safe and acceptable. As I write this article, I can pet her all over and I even can initiate play by “play bowing” and bumping her with my butt and hips. This imitates a natural play behavior for them which gets both her and Quinn excited and usually ends with both of them running laps around their enclosure in excitement. As I exit the enclosure, they usually are laying down panting with big smiles because they appreciate and benefit from the playful and intimate interactions with caretakers they trust and adore.
Despite the fact that they are both low-content animals, I treat every enclosure’s occupants with a similar level of respect in their sovereignty. While Quinn and Lyca both have a significant amount of morphological and behavioral similarities with domestic dogs I know that there is a part that is not as human-pleasing centric as an average dog. This means despite my excitement to work with animals I knew from day one I wanted to be close with, I had to set boundaries, respect their boundaries, and travel at their pace. Quinn and my relationship started with a lot of boundary setting on my end to ensure my safety as well as others who may work with him in the future. Lyca’s relationship with me was a lot of respecting HER boundaries in the beginning and letting her know that I would welcome her at her own pace. This allowed for the confidence she has in our relationship now and hopefully with future caretakers who ever they might be. Being some of our youngest kids on the sanctuary they need lots of enrichment and love from everyone and I ask of your support to continue to fight one of our biggest battles with captive exotics, boredom. Check out our donation page for ways you can help these and all of our rescues by purchasing wish list items, donating, and even better yet sponsoring your favorite rescues. I also highly recommend checking out their pages on our website to learn about their history before coming here and getting to know them in a different way! I’m one of the luckiest people in the world to get to work with Quinn and Lyca and by sponsoring them you share in the wonderful journey everyone here at Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary is on.