Georgina’s Story: Upon finding out about the potential of rescuing 14* new wolfdogs (we had a last-minute addition which made it 15 which we’ll explain), the first question on our minds was ‘Is this even possible?’. One of the biggest challenges we always face as a Sanctuary is capacity. The wolfdogs live in large spacious enclosures which require a lot of time, effort, funds, and space to construct. Not only that, but thanks to our Canadian winters, our construction window is short! We do our best to go into every winter with space for 1-4 wolfdogs in case the need arises. 14 was a number we were not even close to being prepared for. But as with anything in life, rather than throwing in the towel, we put our thinking caps on in started to figure out how we can make this work. Could we get some kind of additional containment pulled together in November that would allow us to take in these animals. This is how our Rescue and Recovery Pens came to be. Thanks to all the amazing people who supported our Canid Christmas Campaign, the non-existent winter weather, and the amazing team at Austech Fencing, we were able to pull off perhaps the fastest wolfdog containment construction in our history. Through the construction of our Rescue and Recovery Pens we were able to ultimately say yes to bringing in this large influx of new rescues. *During this process we found out about an owner nearby on the Island who had a wolfdog from Warmland Wolf Kennels that she was no longer able to properly care for and asked if we might be able to take him too….so now the total tally was 15!
Now that the holding pens were sorted, next was figuring out the logistics of transporting and vetting 15 wolfdogs. Unlike most domestic dogs, wolfdogs require much larger and stronger crates in order to transport them not only safely, but safely for over long distances (our travel time back to the Sanctuary was 14+hrs). Looking at our crate inventory we had only 4 wolfdog crates that would be up to the task. We would definitely need more wolfdog transport crates. Thankfully through scouring the internet and connecting with Nikanda Sporting Dog Equipment, we were able to get 3 additional crates on very short notice. So now we could at least transport 7 wolfdogs…
Another consideration to make is that all the wolfdogs we bring in will need to be vetted immediately. Since 14 of the 15 wolfdogs were still intact, that would be far too many spays and neuters for our vet clinic to handle in 1 day. Therefore, the decision was made to split this rescue into 2 trips. We would head to Vancouver Island twice. This seemed the be the best solution to our crate situation, our clinic’s ability to vet the animals, and even just to make this rescue a bit more manageable on our end. It takes a lot of time to get the wolfdogs organized, unloaded, and situated.
Now we had our holding pens, our crates, our vet booked, and our Sanctuary-Sitter* booked so all systems were a go. (*HUGE thank you to our Operations Manager, Alyx, who is the one and only person on this planet who could not only manage the whole Sanctuary during our hours of operations, but also stay on site the rest of the time and look after literally everything). Trip 1 took place on December 15th, 2023 and started off with some very treacherous roads for the first 700 kms. Kudos to Joel for dealing with a very long and stressful drive and getting us there safely.
We arrived the day before the actual rescue in order to visit the animals, come up with a loading plan and just see what we were in for. We also had to do this same process for our last-minute addition, Kona. This part of the plan was crucial as the following morning we would have to get the animals loaded bright and early in order to get to the ferry on time and make the long drive home. If we miss the ferry we won’t be arriving back at the Sanctuary until 4 am or later.
The morning of the rescue, everything went perfectly. We were able to load up Articus, Hilda, Mist, Marcos, Athena, and Midnight. Then came our minor detour into Nanaimo to go pick up Kona, our last-minute addition. Before we knew it, we were on the ferry heading home with the first haul of our 7 new kids. The rest of this transport was thankfully pretty uneventful. We arrived home around 2 am, checked on everyone in their crates and headed to bed. It would be an early morning wake up, as we had to be at the vet with everyone for 8:30 am.
Morning arrived far too quickly for Joel and I, but we were eager to get our new charges to the vet so we could continue the process of ultimately getting them settled into their new home with us. The day at the vet clinic to get everyone spayed, neutered and vaccinated is always so interesting but also just so exhausting. It’s a lot of timing, coordinating, moving animals and holding our breath, hoping everyone will be okay. This part of the process with this many animals always takes up most of the day. We also had some unexpected surprises where all the females happened to have just come into heat, making the spay surgeries that much more time consuming and complex. I do want to say a ginormous thank you to all the amazing staff at Cochrane Animal Clinic for their dedication, care and just support through this whole process. It is not easy tackling so many animals, especially wolfdogs, in one day, and the fact that they are always so kind and accommodating truly makes this whole process just a little bit easier for us. We couldn’t pull off a rescue like this without them.
Everyone is now spayed and neutered and still just a bit groggy. We arrive back at the Sanctuary around 3:30 pm with our staff ready to help unload. Joel and I had plenty of travel time together to sort out exactly who was going to be paired together and placed in which holding pen, so we had a good plan in place. Now comes my favourite part which is releasing the wolfdogs into their new home. Everyone is quite nervous of course, but there is always a huge sense of relief for the animals being able to be released from their crates, have their paws on the earth, and gain their freedom and agency back. Since all the animals are nervous and overwhelmed, the next few days would largely involve feedings, watering and quick checkups to ensure everything is well. Thankfully, Mother Nature continued to cooperate with us and gave us beautiful warm weather for our new wolfdogs with their shaved surgery bellies to be okay recovering outside. And just like that, Round 1 was done with Round 2 looming a couple weeks away.
During this in between time, we were able to focus on getting the new rescues situated and comfortable in our existing pens. Between the craziness of the holidays and getting the new Rescue and Recovery Pens totally finished, these few weeks flew by. Before we knew it, it was January and it was time for Round 2.
The second trip would prove to be more difficult. From our first visit, we knew catching 4 of the remaining 8 wolfdogs would be tricky. One would definitely require sedation, while the 3 others were fearful and kept in larger spaces which would require a bit of creativity in order to catch and crate. Once again, we arrived the day before the actual rescue, but this time it was to already load up the ‘difficult’ 4. Since once again we would need to catch the morning ferry, we knew there was no way to load up all 8 wolfdogs that morning. So our Saturday was spent sedating and loading up Jasper, as well as catching Cypress, Frost and Snow. Sunday morning, we arrive to load up our remaining 4 wolfdogs: Sakari, Wildfire, Wayla and Lightning and off to the ferry we go.
We had been keeping a close eye on the weather at home and the time had come for winter to finally show up. As we headed home, the temperature changed from a balmy +9C on Vancouver Island to -25C at home. We knew there was no way we could leave our new charges in the trailer outside overnight or have the wolfdogs recovering from their surgeries with the impending cold snap of -30 to -40C. We were about to hit our first significant problem during this whole rescue. Where were we going to put these animals so they don’t freeze when we get home and also after having their surgeries the following day…. So the brainstorming began. We realized our only option would be keeping the wolfdogs indoors in our heated shop building until the cold snap ended. The night Joel and I arrived home we needed to back the trailer into our heated shop, so the wolfdogs would stay warm. (This was an interesting endeavour at 1 am, in the dark in -25C and given what a tight squeeze it is to get our trailer into our shop!). Step 2 would be building chain link kennels in our shop the following day for the animals to recover in post-surgery. While I spent the day at the vet getting everyone spayed and neutered, the rest of the team would be busy getting the kennels prepared, all the while doing all the animal care of all the other wolfdogs at the Sanctuary as well as running our tour programming for our guests.
Day 2 at the vet seemed to go mostly according to plan. Our one hiccup would be that Cypress would have to return to the vet a week later to have 3 of her canines removed as her teeth were in pretty bad shape. Otherwise, after another day of coordinating sedations, surgeries, and recoveries, we were ready to bring our new wolfdogs home. This release would look a bit different. Rather than being able to be free outdoors, the wolfdogs would have to tolerate a bit more time being contained indoors. Long enough to get us through the cold spell and have their incisions completely healed. A week later, Cypress returned to the vet for her dental and is since recovering nicely. Once her mouth heals, I have no doubt she will feel so much better.
So where are we now? All the wolfdogs from Trip 2 are now outdoors in our Rescue and Recovery Pens. For the next few weeks and months, it will be the long process of getting the wolfdogs settled and feeling comfortable in their new home and with their new caretakers. At 58 wolfdogs that call the Sanctuary home now, we would also like to thank Grand Dog Essentials for supplying all our commercial raw dog food to us cost-free. We will be going through an average of 150 lb of food a day with 15 new pack members!
Looking towards the future, the big thing weighing on our minds is the 6 new enclosures we will need to build to give these new animals the spacious forever homes they deserve to live out the rest of their lives here at the Sanctuary. Our team is already working on the planning stages of where we will build these enclosures and have already begun the process of securing the materials for this. The goal will be to build 3 enclosures as soon as we can in the Spring, and build the remaining 3 enclosures before Fall.
Our work is far from over. This rescue has been a team effort from the very beginning, and it will take our community of supporters to help us see this through to its completion. If you’d like to support our ongoing efforts towards our Warmland Wolfdog Rescue, we have started a fund to help raise the resources we will need to continue with this rescue mission. We would greatly appreciate any support.