One of the best things about living in Alberta is the fact that some of the world’s most amazing animals can usually be found right in your back yard…or at least very close to it.  After living in Calgary for so many years and taking countless trips to the mountains, I think I’ve seen almost every animal, except for the mysterious wolf.  While it may be hard to see them, I recently discovered the next best thing.

Now, I’m not sure how I found out about the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary, but ever since I did, I must have visited their website each and every single day, captivated by the photos and the fact that these amazing animals are only 45 minutes from downtown Calgary.  I honestly can’t believe I’ve never heard of this place, because not only does it get you an amazing experience with these gorgeous animals, it makes a perfect pit stop on your way into the mountains.   The sanctuary lies at the foot of Yamnuska, one of the Rockies most impressive mountains and beside the Brewster’s Kananaskis Ranch Golf Course.

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$39 gets you get an extremely up close and personal experience with the wolfdogs. (To avoid disappointment, make sure you book your visit.) The sanctuary is run by a really lovely woman named Georgina and to say she loves her dogs is an understatement. For the 45 minutes, while the dogs ate, played and slept all around us,  she packed our brains with so much information about wolfdogs, I had to start taking notes.  I love animals more than any season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and at times, I felt overwhelmed with information, but in the best way possible. I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone that’s so passionate about what she does and takes the responsibility of these big animals so seriously.  She lives, breathes and loves these dogs and the way she cares for them is evident and amazing, especially when you consider how much work goes into raising one dog, let alone five wolfdogs.  (She also has five other dogs.)
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The sanctuary features five wolfdogs of varying content. Meaning, the amount of wolf DNA that is present in the dog. Kuna, Zeau and Nova are high content dogs and look most like the wolves we see on nature documentaries or in the movies. Kaya is mid-content and Nikkie is low-content and the most the like the dogs we have in our homes.  To see how they all act more or less like a wolf simply unbelievable.  Some of the high-content wolfdogs never came closer than a a few meters, as they slightly paced from side to side, while Nikkie could easily be mistaken for a regular dog given how friendly and approachable she was. Throughout our time with the wolfdogs, we were given treats to give to the animals, so got to almost build instant relationships with them, which was weird because of how much some of them look like wolves.   But as Georgina, wolves themselves are very gentle animals and will avoid humans whenever possible, so not only was it an informative visit about wolfdogs, we learned about wolves themselves.

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Since it is a sanctuary, some of the wolfdogs are available for adoption, but judging by how much work Georgina has to do, I doubt very few people would be willing to take on the responsibility, so it made me appreciate the sanctuary even more, because instead of being euthanized, these wolfogs are given a second life.   If you really think about it, it’s really quite amazing.

As I began posting photos of my visit on Facebook and Twitter, my friends curiosity about the sanctuary means that I will likely be heading back soon, but that’s totally okay. There’s something amazing about knowing that you’re paying more than just admission, you are helping to protect these wolfdogs. And the fact that some of them lick your face?  Well, that’s just icing on the cake.


The Travel Series is presented by Travel Alberta.


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Mike Morrison


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