Mountain - The Wolf in WILD INDIGO by Sandi Ault

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Mountain and Sandi in the Rockies

Mountain

It was a romantic idea to bring a wolf into our lives, not a practical one. Mountain was a hybrid, estimated to be 75% wolf due to his breeding, however no one knows for sure. He was certainly not like a dog. Not ever.

I’d raised German Shepherds and was used to their eager, obedient, service-oriented nature. Wolves—I have since learned—have no desire to please you. A wolf is like a dear, old friend. He doesn’t mind you hanging around—in fact he rather enjoys it—and he's relaxed and comfortable with you. But he doesn’t want you telling him what to do, and if you try to do so, he'll leave.

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Mountain in ruin

And leave,  Mountain often did.  He had a philosophy that went something like this:  "If I want to go with you, then you take me.  If I want to go without you, then I’m outta here.  Sometimes you get to go with me, and sometimes you don’t.  I’ll decide."  This escape artist companion of ours could climb fences, even as high as seven feet.  He learned to grab the insulator from an electric fence carefully in his teeth, pulling back his lips so he wouldn’t get stung, and remove it from its mount.  He'd then drop the insulator—with electrified wire attached—onto the earth, grounding out the circuit so he could jump right over the fence and be on his merry way.  No crate could contain him, even as a pup, and no gate latch ever kept him confined for long.


When we adopted Mountain, we lived in the greater Kansas City, MO area, on a small parcel of land on the edge of a little lake.  But this was never enough space for Mountain.  Wolves are used to roaming up to forty miles a day in search of food and to maintain their territorial boundaries.  This meant that Mountain required an incredible amount of exercise, which entailed walking him as much as six miles a day.  I tried to find places where I could let him off-lead so he could run rings around me.  That was the only way to get him tired in a suburban environment.

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Mountain and Sandi at Chaco Canyon

Gradually, Mountain changed us and changed our lives as we realized that he needed more freedom. And so did we. We soon turned our annual adventures in the wild regions of the Southwest into a lifestyle, and we moved to a high mesa just outside of Taos, NM, where we could see a hundred miles and three mountain ranges from the windows of our home. Finally, this was enough space for Mountain.

Daily romps on the mesa out to the rim of the Rio Grande Gorge, chasing coyotes across the sagebrush flats, weekend hiking in the mountains, and more and more research trips to the ruins of the Ancient Ones in the remote reaches of the Four Corners area finally brought our life with Mountain— and our hearts—into harmony.

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Mountain runs with the wolves

When the time came for a change, Mountain was a huge factor in our decision to move to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.  We had to have land, a long view, and a place where we could hike so he could get his daily lope.  And, of course, it had to be a place where wolves were allowed.  Our lives were directed as much by his needs as our own, and we soon found that’s not a bad way to live.  Freedom, lots of outdoor adventures in every kind of weather, nature, and beauty.  A willingness to live in the elements and surrender the luxuries of a more civilized life.  This was Mountain’s way, and this was our life together.

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Mountain and Sandi overlooking Pueblo ruin

But it is certainly not a life for everyone.  We paid a terrible cost in personal possessions to Mountain’s destructive abandonment anxiety. And anything on the floor or the ground was fair game to a wolf at any time.  We made our suburban Kansas City home into a wolf preserve to try to entertain and confine him.  We gave up having a lawn, because his loping created game trails everywhere.  We built fences that rivaled those of prison yards.  We learned from harsh experience that we couldn’t leave him, even in boarding.  He suffered.  And so did we.  And so, we learned to travel everywhere with a wolf, to eat outdoors at restaurants, even in inclement weather, to stay at places that permitted us to bring livestock, so to speak.  We gave up many luxuries and so-called freedoms.  And we learned to live a simple, pack-oriented life, a wild life in a wild place.  It is not for the faint of heart.

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Mountain and Sandi writing

The summer I was finishing WILD INDIGO, we learned that Mountain had canine hemangio sarcoma, and did not have long to live.  We quit our jobs, stopped all normal day-to-day activities, packed up our camping gear and took to the wild places to spend our final days with Mountain in joy and beauty.  We camped in snow-covered mountains along icy lakes.  We fished in mountain streams and hiked in aspen groves.  We wandered like a wolf pack in search of heaven.  Every day, as I wrote on my laptop, sitting in my camp chair, wrapped in a blanket, Mountain was beside me.  The day that he passed beyond the ridge, my heart broke open in my chest, and it has never fully healed.  A part of me left with him.

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Wolf Eyes

In spite of this extraordinary experience, I would not recommend adopting a wolf hybrid to anyone.  If you are thinking of opening your life to a wolf, please visit Wolf Haven International in Tenino, WA or online at http://www.wolfhaven.org/ and adopt a wolf who needs your support to survive there in their wonderful preserve.  We have done this, and we have four adoptees of our own.  In this way, we can give the gift of a wild life to some magnificent four-legged, great heaven beasts who might not have a life at all without our help and support.  This is a win-win deal for everyone.

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Mountain Rio Grande Gorge - New Mexico

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A New Beginning - TIWA

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Music by Sandi Ault, Photos by Tracy A. Kerns and Sandi Ault unless otherwise stated
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