Event educates on intricacies of wolfdogs

Photos by Traci Westcott/The Herald
Casey Wolf, 11, of Jasper, lays with Cheyenne, a gray-wolf-Alaskan-malamute-German-shepherd hybrid, at the wolf education and adoption event at Petsense in Jasper on Sunday. Casey and his family came to the event because of their last name. “It was crazy,” Casey said. “I’m gonna want to adopt a wolf. I wish I could but I already have a guinea pig at home.” 

By OLIVIA INGLE
oingle@dcherald.com

JASPER — Apryl Richardson, owner of Dreamcatcher Wolf Sanctuary and Rescue in Mitchell, has a passion for wolfdogs, and has made it her mission to educate people on the characteristics of the breed.

That mission brought her and John DeBoard, owner of Southern Ohio Wolf Sanctuary, to Petsense in Jasper on Sunday afternoon for an event where people could learn about, interact with and even inquire about adopting a wolfdog-hybrid breed. A wolfdog hybrid is a dog that, at some point in its genetics, a wolf was bred with a dog.

Richardson brought with her her newest wolfdog, 7-week-old Legion, who was rescued from Maryland, and DeBoard brought 6-year-old Cheyenne, who is 86.1 percent wolfdog. She’s part gray wolf, part Alaskan malamute and part German shepherd. Both dogs belong to the sanctuary owners, however, each sanctuary rescues, rehabilitates and adopts out wolfdogs.

Richardson’s main message Sunday? Do your research before deciding to get a wolfdog.

She said a lot of times, breeders won’t do the research for you. They won’t educate you on what to expect from a wolfdog or even screen you to make sure you live where it’s legal to own such a dog.

Sarah Hellman of Jasper sits with Legion, a 7-week-old wolf pup, at the wolf education and adoption event at Petsense in Jasper on Sunday. "I never got to hold an actual wolf puppy," Hellman said. "They are just so pretty." 

In Indiana, it is legal to own a wolfdog, however, some cities and counties in Indiana outlaw it.

Richardson said many wolfdog owners who don’t end up doing their research surrender the dogs to shelters, where they are most likely euthanized due to the breed. Some are also set loose in the wild, where they will not survive. If they are lucky enough, the wolfdogs will end up at sanctuaries like Richardson’s and DeBoard’s.

There’s often a stigma attached to wolfdogs that they are vicious and will attack, Richardson said. But, she said many times, that’s not the case.

She did say, though, that many wolfdogs don’t make good house pets and are better suited to live outdoors. If the opportunity arises, their instinct will kick in and they will chase small animals.

She also said the breed can be skittish and is not a watchdog or a lapdog.

“You have to constantly work with them,” Richardson said. “Training is a must.”

DeBoard has been training Cheyenne continuously for about two and a half years. Sunday, the wolfdog laid on the floor beside him and didn’t bat an eyelash as people petted her and kids crawled on top of her.

Ava Huff, 5, of Birdseye, meets Akira, a 14-month-old wolf hybrid, at the wolf education and adoption event at Petsense in Jasper on Sunday. 

“I look at them as more of companions, not a pet,” DeBoard said. “You’re only going to get out of it what you put into it. Learn what triggers them so you have the best possible outcome you can.”

Richardson hopes to do more events like Sunday’s across Indiana and Kentucky.

She’s also an advocate for penalties for people who abuse wolfdogs or who neglect them. She wants regulations for wolfdog breeders.

“Don’t breed for the money, but for the passion for the animal,” she said.

Both Richardson’s and DeBoard’s wolfdog sanctuaries run entirely on donations. For more information, email Richardson at dreamcatcher0820@yahoo.com and contact DeBoard through his sanctuary’s website, www.southernohiowolfsanctuary.com.

Brooke Brown, 11, of Paoli, gets a kiss from Akira, a 14-month-old wolf hybrid, at the wolf education and adoption event at Petsense in Jasper on Sunday. 



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