to Mission: Wolf, that is
by Eva Benine
THE WET MOUNTAINS — Nestled above Gardner on a hilltop covered in aspen and pine in the heart of the Wet Mountains you will find a very large family… a family of wolves, wolf-hybrids, horses and humans. This is the location directors Kent Weber and Tracy Brooks have chosen to make their dreams come true. On Wednesday, May 9, Ms. Benine and her 8th grade class from Aguilar traveled to the Mission: Wolf sanctuary. The students were greeted by a long eerie howl upon getting out of the vehicle and it took their breath away.
They were met by volunteer tour guide Jake, who is originally from the UK, but has traveled the world and eventually entered the US from Dubai. Students were able to photograph the ambassador wolves, and others at a distance as a large group was there to help clean pens and do repair work. The students were also able to tour two geodesic greenhouse domes that are used to provide food for the volunteers. Following the tour, the group spent time in the gift shop, had a light lunch and then wandered back to see the ambassador pack.
It was at this time that the group was invited by Weber to join another school group from Lake County. Kent explained he had attended Lake County Schools in Leadville and they had raised money for the wolves. He gave a lesson on how to behave around wolves and understand that people communicate with their body language and that wolves read that to decide who to trust. He stated females usually bond easier with the wolves than males do because of their maternal instinct and ability to multitask.
Upon entering the ambassador pack, the wolves chose to visit Ms. Benine first and investigate the scent of her chihuahua pack on her boots and pants. Much giggling and licking ensued and the pack moved onto Clara Martinez. Then they walked back and forth along the logs for the group to pet and greet them in true wolf fashion, smiling and allowing the wolf to lick your teeth while looking deep into their eyes.
Kent was so impressed with the behavior of the group that he asked if they would be willing to go into another pen with two wolves named Rosie and Tiger. They were both very skittish around people and needed human contact. Rosie had never let anyone pet her besides Kent and she has been at the sanctuary since 2013. She was supposed to be trained to be an ambassador, but is still having problems around people. The first member of the group that Rosie greeted was Samantha Ingraffia, but her absolute favorite member of the group was Clara Martinez.
Students attending the trip were Martinez, Ingraffia, Gracie Micek, DeNajah Garcia and teacher, Ms. Eva Benine.