Thursday, August 10, 2017

Farewell Tioga

It seems that sorrow is not yet beyond us this year as grief cuts ever deeper into our hearts.  Tioga, the last member of our prodigious timberwolf family, passed on to be with his family on the morning of July 2, 2017.

Tioga was raised at the sanctuary from a puppy and he and his family left a mark on speedwell that none will soon forget.  Originally arriving as rescues, they quickly became one of the most beloved packs in the sanctuary’s history.  Merlin, Tioga’s father, was a true alpha male and taught us all about the nature of an alpha.  Merlin always carried himself with an unyielding dominance, strength, and leadership.  Tioga, though, was quite different, falling into the more submissive role as an Omega.

At the time of their rescue, Tioga was merely a few weeks old and required bottle-feeding.  One of his caretakers bonded with him quickly, a bond that would persist throughout the entirety of Tioga’s life.  With proper space, care, and nutrition, Tioga swiftly grew to become nearly twice the size of his father.  Despite his much larger physical presence, Tioga readily submitted to Merlin’s rule.

Tioga was also very playful.  Because of his close contact with humans from a young age, Tioga was known to pounce and play and at times even partake in mischief, stealing various items from volunteers and tugging on their clothing.  The most fun he had, though, was playtime with his family.  During play, all roles and hierarchies would temporarily dissolve and Tioga would play for hours with his mother, father, and aunt.  If Tioga overstepped his boundaries during play though, Merlin would not hesitate to send Tioga a quick reminder of his pack rank.

Tioga (left) with his father and alpha, Merlin (center) and aunt Keisha (right)

In his later years, as his family aged and passed on, Tioga became less playful for a time.  He missed his aunt a great deal after she passed, though the family member that he mourned the most deeply was his father Merlin.  Tioga was never quite the same after his father passed away, and for a time after his passing, he would send off a mourning howl, expressing his grief.

It was around this time that Tioga was introduced to Little Girl, a much younger alpha female timberwolf who helped to bring light back into Tioga’s life.  Merely 3 years old when they met, Little Girl was very playful and spirited and eagerly pounced and pawed around Tioga, getting him up and playing more energetically than he had in years.  As Tioga aged and his arthritis worsened, he began to slow down a bit, but still could not resist Little Girl’s youthful spirit.  He was often known to hide and wait as she made her attacks, eagerly playing whenever she approached, and waiting patiently for her to return.

Tioga (left) and Little Girl (right) playing in the snow

With the help of Little Girl, Tioga not only overcame the grief of losing his father, but he also began exhibiting personality traits that he never had before-- alpha traits.  Tioga would show dominance in various ways, holding his tail out in the dominant position and lifting his leg to scent areas of his territory.  He no longer felt compelled to quickly devour his food for fear that a more dominant pack member might finish it off and instead was content to bury his leftovers.  Tioga appeared to have followed in his father’s footsteps and taken over as an alpha male.

Tioga was well loved by his whole family, and in later years by his pack-mate and companion, Little Girl, but he touched the hearts and souls of many humans during his life here at the sanctuary as well.  At the time of his passing, Tioga had the most adoptions of any wolf ever to have lived at the sanctuary, partially as a result of his favorite caretaker, who in addition to giving Tioga the highest level of care for his entire life, he would also sing his praises at every opportunity.

Tioga had a very charismatic presence, always interested in his human caretakers and always eager for attention.  He truly thrived as a member of a pack.  Tioga always sought companionship, from wolves and humans alike, and he was always able to find it in one form or another at Speedwell.

Farewell Tioga, your youthful spirit and strong presence will be greatly missed by all at Speedwell and your friendly soul will not be forgotten.

Born: April 23, 2006  Rescued: May 5, 2006  Died: July 2, 2017

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Farewell Princess

 Words cannot express our grief at the loss of another member of the Speedwell family this May.   Our sweet and timid Princess passed away this Spring as a result of a rapid onset of cancer, leaving us all too suddenly and too soon.
  Princess was with us for just over a year and a half, yet she touched the hearts of all who came to know her here at the sanctuary and quickly became one of Speedwell’s very own.
    Princess spent the majority of her time here as a member of the Motley Crew.  The other members of her pack, Shawnee, Kuzco, and Little Joe, were considerably younger and with much more energy than she.  Princess always seemed to exhibit more of a steady wisdom, possibly a result of her past before the sanctuary, possibly due to her age, or possibly just due to her own preference of keeping a calm and watchful eye over her pack and her home.  On a cool and clear winter day, she could be glimpsed playing alongside of them, or relaxing with them on their hill once they finally took a break from their activity.  During tours, though, Princess often kept towards the back, peering through the leaves but preferring to remain safely hidden from view.
  Princess was often shy and reserved, a true wolf at heart.  Her troubled past made it difficult for her to trust in human companionship and care.  With much time and patience, she eventually learned to trust some of her human caretakers, though always on her own terms.  Her trust was evident through her calm behavior, and though she never developed a social tendency with humans, she was known to brush up against those she trusted in a rather aloof and carefree manner.  This level of calm, more than anything, truly showed how comfortable and happy she was in her forest territory.

Farewell Princess, your calm and peaceful soul will be greatly missed by all at Speedwell and your gentle spirit will not be forgotten.

Born: est. 2010 Rescued: December 24, 2015  Died: May 27, 2017

Farewell Lenape

  Just at the brink of overcoming grief, tragedy once again took a toll on the sanctuary.   Our dear, sweet Lenape of the Big Pack, passed on from us on Saturday, May 27, 2017.  He was 8 and a half years old, far too young to leave us.  Lenape suffered from symptoms of a neurological disorder and though his symptoms had been mild and benign for the majority of his youth, they began to worsen with age and became severe over the last few months.  With broken hearts, we bid our Lenape a tearful and sorrowful goodbye.
   A gentle spirit, our Lenape walked through life with a playful innocence.  His deep umber eyes always seemed to twinkle light-heartedly.
  He was always playful and peppy, even despite the occasional surly snarl from his brothers.  His brothers in his pack – Levi, Lincoln, and Lucas – had always been a rowdy bunch, frequently exerting their dominance and banding together as leaders of the pack.  Partially due to his neurological deficiency, Lenape was a low-ranked pack member and was often forced to submit to his more dominant brothers, especially his brother Levi.  Yet despite their unyielding dominance, Lenape never seemed to learn submissiveness, not like a true Omega.  Eventually, he would submit, though he would do so with many noisy complaints.
  With little camaraderie from his brothers, Lenape looked instead to his aunts and uncles for guidance and companionship – in particular, his uncle, Hudson, a strong and dominant member of the Big Pack in years past.  Lenape could often be seen at Hudson’s heels, deriving comfort from Hudson’s strong and steady presence.  Hudson would look after Lenape and the two were often found in each other’s company.  With Hudson’s passing in August of 2016, Lenape mourned the loss deeply and though he eventually appeared to overcome his grief, he was still not quite the same afterwards.
Lenape also had a strong bond with his aunt Trinity, the alpha female of the Big Pack, who had helped in raising Lenape and his brothers when they were pups.  Trinity could often be seen grooming Lenape, cleaning out his ears and the fur around his face while he reclined in the sun.
  Along with the rest of his family, Lenape did not permit direct interaction or contact from people, preferring the independence and peace that is so inherent in the life of a wolf. Like his family members, though, he recognized his territory fence as a safe-zone where he could accept treats straight from the fence during tours without fear or concern.  This sense of safety along the fence was evident at meal time when the volunteers would come to freshen the water and bring the meal.  At sight of the volunteers, he would often prance up and down along the fence, to many grunts and groans of his family members as he stepped and hopped on each of their toes.   He always kept a special eye on his most favorite tour guide and followed her during her tour, which at times led him all the way to the opposite end of his enclosure, even when another guide was giving their tour at the Big Pack.
  In a time of sorrow, we take some small comfort in reflecting on the joyful memories of his life, for Lenape never failed to bring a smile with his happy and free-spirited soul.

Farewell Lenape, your bright and youthful spirit will be greatly missed by all at Speedwell and your gentle soul will not be forgotten.  


December 14, 2008 – May 27, 2017

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Farewell Friday and Solo

  Heavily the rain came down all week and heavily our hearts sank deeply as two of Speedwell’s own, brother and sister, passed away this April.  Volunteers and wolves alike are still in shock from the passing of Friday and Solo, two amazing wolves who taught us the true meaning of family, of vigilance, of leadership, and of a wolf’s true nature.

 When good bye comes a time of preparedness is hoped for, but this past month there was nothing of that readiness. It was just upon us. Our beloved Friday had been showing his age. His hips where failing but he was still healthy.  But something else took hold of him, something swift and sinister.  A sense of dread descended upon the sanctuary. We sounded the alarm, and our vet came early Sunday morning ready to do battle, but with what? Smokey’s pack was sick. They had all been touched by something. Friday lay motionless, a slight rise and fall to his chest. Solo was hunched over, breathing heavy pain in her eyes, Dusty was salivating heavy. The others hiding. Fear gripped our hearts, but this was not the time to acknowledge the anguish I am sure we all felt.

 Our dearest beautiful Friday could not be revived. He slipped away from us. Solo our golden girl a ray of sunshine was seizing. NOOOOOO, hush now we must remain calm. What happened! We carried Solo out she was critical. Fluids we administered, medication was given. Her vitals steadied, but she remained critical and Monday morning we said goodbye to our second of five. But that would be the end for now. We had caught the bug early enough to save the three.  With broken hearts, we retreated and gave Dusty, Swayze, and Cinderella time to grieve in peace.

 Throughout his life, Friday showed strength and resilience at all times.  He moved with intelligence, choosing his path at each moment, keeping a void between himself and humanity, a void that allowed his heart and soul to remain wild like his ancestors, wild and free.  Ever steadfast with the soul of a true wolf, Friday battled until the end.  We mourn his passing deeply, and yet his spirit is too strong to ever truly leave our hearts.

 Solo was the strength and life of her pack.  She had a quiet perseverance about her, even to the very end.  Calm and steady she took up her burdens and weathered them.  Her strength taught us what it means to be an Alpha – not teeth and muscle and noise, but a still and dignified presence, an experienced leader that knows when to play and laugh and when to rule, a leader that seeks nothing but respect.  She will never truly be gone from Speedwell so long as her howl resounds in our hearts reminding us of that playful golden girl who led her pack with grace.

Be at peace, sweet Solo, dear Friday.  Your strength and grace will always remain in our hearts.

Born: January 10, 2003 – Died: April 2, 2017

Born: January 10, 2004  – Died: April 3, 2017

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Vet Care

The wolves of Speedwell have received excellent veterinary care over the years.  We would like to show our appreciation for our dedicated veterinary professionals and provide an inside look at some of our more recent check-ups.

Passing the torch

For many years, we have relied on the hard work and dedication of our local veterinarian team - Dr. Bill and Dr. Chris.  We now welcome the expertise of Dr. John Bergman, who specializes in veterinary care for exotic animals like wolves.  Thank you to Dr. Bill and Dr. Chris for your many years of dedication to the sanctuary, and thank you also to Dr. Bergman for joining us!

The doctor's office

A traveling veterinarian has to have all the necessities easily accessible on the go.  With an office in the back of his truck, our vet is always ready for any sort of checkup or treatment that might be needed.  

Routine checkups

During routine checkups, our vet takes an observational walk to look at all of the sanctuary's residents, a few of which are given a full exam.  Checkup exams include checking their heart, lungs, and other organs, checking their teeth, and doing x-rays and blood work if needed.

My! What clean teeth you have!

Wolves rely on their teeth for survival.  The quality of a wolf's teeth can tell a lot about their age, their health, and even a little about their history.  For example, in the wild, the best way to age a wolf is by checking the quality of their teeth and a 7-year old wild wolf typically will have broken or missing canines, ground down molars, and could even have some structural damage to their jaw.  Our vet is sure to check the wolves' teeth during checkups.  Many of our wolves have very strong, clean healthy teeth, even our elders who are 17 years old!  Much of this is due to their diet of all raw meat, which is often provided with the bone intact.  Crunching up the bones helps to prevent tartar buildup and is a great source of calcium.


Keeping nails filed down is very important to the wolves' health as well.  The majority of our wolves and wolf-dogs take good care of their nails on their own, scratching on bark and treading across their natural terrain in their enclosures.  During first-time exams and routine check-ups, our vet is always sure to check the patient's nails and do a little clipping if needed.

Nap time

Routine checkups can sometimes require sedation, especially if blood work or x-rays are needed.  During checkups, the wolves and wolf-dogs here at the sanctuary receive a low dose of sedative mixed with a few other medicines that help to counter any negative side effects.  While they are sedated, we keep an eye on their heartbeat and oxygen levels and cover their eyes to help them have a more restful sleep.  Once the exam is over, they are gently carried back to their territory on a gurney and woken back up.

Spay and Neuter

All of our incoming rescues are spayed or neutered, unless they are past the age of breeding when they arrive.  In the past, we needed to transport any rescues requiring surgery to the local veterinary care facility a few miles away. One of our future projects that we hope to accomplish will be an on-site veterinary care facility where we will be able to perform surgeries and offer a sterile, climate controlled recovery environment for the wolves.  In the meantime, with the help of a portable anesthesia machine, we are able to prepare a temporary indoor area where surgeries can be performed if needed.  

Thanks Doc!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Farewell Sage

  Winter has not yet begun to deepen and sorrow struck the sanctuary this January.  Nestled in the shade of her favorite tree, our Sage passed on to be with her ancestors on the morning of January 22, 2017.  Two dominant females in the Big Pack, Trinity and Sarge, signaled the loss of a sister in spirit, howling to mourn the passing of a fellow strong female.

  Sage had a troubled past but shortly after her arrival she quickly became one of Speedwell’s own and in just one short year she touched the hearts of visitors and volunteers alike.

  Sage transformed into a strong and fearless female wolf during her time here.  Upon first arriving here she was frightened and unsure.  All she had known in her past was a tight collar and a short chain.  Her first step into a new enclosure revealed her true nature, though.  No longer collared or caged, she rejoiced in her new freedom and the years of confinement melted away.  Yet there was still a trace of fear when visitors came by.  She was still uncertain and while alone, she was not yet ready to trust.  Soon, though, that was all to change.  She was introduced to a sociable male wolf named Galahad who had been her neighbor for quite some time.  Too proud to show him any more than a passing glance, and he so set in his lone wolf ways they were not playful like many of the other packs at the sanctuary.  Yet there seemed to be an understanding between the two and they each seemed to derive a sense of comfort from the other’s presence.  Sage was no longer fearful when visitors came for tours.  True, there were some that she would never trust, but Galahad did not show fear and so she did not either.

  Sage developed a rivalry with a neighboring female wolf named Jake.  Both strong and dominant, they each made sure that their presence was known.  The two could be heard howling back and forth toward each other along the fence in challenge during times when all of the wolves would sing together.  Sage’s howl was unique, bold and raspy when she wished to announce her presence, and sometimes deep and solemn when she preferred solitude.

  She was timid with her caretakers, and they were always overjoyed when she would show them her trust by taking a treat through the fence during a tour, or brushing along the fence beside them.  She still was never very social, not like her companion Galahad, and preferred a gentle solitude in the shade of her most favorite tree, out of sight and at peace in a forest territory all her own.

Be at peace, dear Sage.  Your strong and gentle soul will remain in our hearts and you will always truly be one of Speedwell’s own.
Born: March 13, 2007 – Rescued: November 03, 2015 – Died: January 22, 2017

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Farewell Hudson

Our beautiful Hudson was 16 but even 16 years never feels like enough time.   The heat of this year was too much compounded by his age and failing hind quarters.  He laid down where his brother had lain in January of 2015 and prepared to leave this land.  To avoid prolonged suffering our vet came to him and helped him cross over mid-afternoon on August 11, 2016.   Even the skies broke with thunder and a brief respite of rain as our Hudson laid down his burdens and passed on to be with his brothers.

Hudson was born at the sanctuary and helped his brothers as they ruled their pack with strength and understanding.  Leaving the alpha and beta responsibilities to his brothers Murphy and Winston, Hudson focused on strengthening the bonds between his family members and was ever ready to protect and defend them at all costs.

As he aged, Hudson became a respected elder and even after his brothers had passed on, he still retained a high rank during meal times and occasional disputes.  He could be seen right alongside Lincoln, given uncontested preference for the choicest parts of the meal.

His pack always showed him respect.  When the howl would begin, his family would gather around him in a circle, requesting permission to join in with excited wagging tails as they kissed up to his lower jaw.

Hudson’s pack stayed with him until the very end, especially his nephew Lenape who had a particularly strong bond with his older uncle.  Being a lower-ranked member of the pack, Lenape had looked to Hudson for guidance and reassurance.  Lenape and all of the members of the Big Pack will greatly miss their wise and noble elder.

To Hudson:

“Named for the river that flows from Lake Tear of the Clouds in the Adirondack Mountains to Manhattan New York.  Born here, you grew with your family, never having to be separated from those you love.  You lived your life in the same majestic style of that mighty river.  Calm and serene, even tempered and at times tempest and fierce but never hateful.  You were an elder in your pack.  Always respected.  Hudson of the Big Pack!  In my mind’s eye I remember the first time I saw you.  Beautifully stoic in your stance, yes even as a puppy.  You seamed to look upon your world through a unique and philosophic gaze.  How you cared for all in your pack.  Not the Alpha, you were their sentinel and their elder.  The young would depend upon you to teach them and how you did that with such grace and dignity. How I will miss your bear-like looks and your steadfast way.  Always there when I would walk the grounds and you would listen when I cried.  You were always there for me too.  You would tilt your head and look at me and somehow that made me feel better. I always thought you the most beautiful in the park.  I will miss you, we will all miss you.  I know you are at peace and there is no more pain.  I understand that, I just wish I could explain it to my heart. 
Hudson, all that have met you through the years are better for having known you.  We all love you.  I will listen for your howl in the winds.  Run free with those that have gone before.”

May you have peace now, Hudson, and know that we will all remember your honorable and dignified presence.

February 15, 2000 – August 11, 2016