Students Visit Wolf Sanctuary

Corine Frankland and Rosa Martinez get an close encounter with Zeorro the wolf-dog. Photo by Charlotte Renken

Corine Frankland and Rosa Martinez get a close encounter with Zeorro the wolf-dog. Photo by Charlotte Renken

While most students early Halloween morning were sleeping in or scrounging together a last minute costume, those in  Corine Frankland and Shanna Marsh-Martinez’s  “Singing Over the Bones” class were about to embark on a much different activity. While munching down on breakfast burritos provided by Frankland, the group of 20 piled into two white vans and drove three hours to the Wild Wolf Spirit Sanctuary in Ramah, NM. The experience to follow was an incredible journey for students, guests and faculty members alike.

Shortly after arriving, there was a tour of the facility during which students got to see all of the different types of wild canines the sanctuary was home to. There seemed to be every species imaginable. From foxes to wolf-dogs to even Australian Dingoes, students stood in awe of each animal inside its enclosure. With each stop on the tour, the guide described the story of how each animal had arrived at the facility, even getting into the enclosure with a red fox named Romeo.

Sign outside the Coyote enclosure warns visitors not to get too close. Photo by Charlotte Renken

Sign outside the Coyote enclosure warns visitors not to get too close. Photo by Charlotte Renken

While the students enjoyed seeing the animals, many felt conflicted about the sanctuary. While the enclosures were well maintained and adapted for each wolf’s natural environment, they were still behind bars.

“One of the wolves at the sanctuary had only been there about six months, and he was so anxious at the sight of our tour group that he couldn’t stop running in circles,” says Creative Writing major Marisa Dee. “The sad part is he’s going to have to get used to this environment, with humans looking at him, because he’s got nowhere else to go.” This is exactly what Frankland wanted her students to experience.

“Singing Over the Bones” is a special topics class that delves into how myth and anatomy coincide. The course description emphasizes “…understanding ourselves in relation to the Wild Woman archetype and how this ancient archetype influences our connection with our bodies, our dreams, our Earth, and our art form.” The textbook for the course is Women Who Run with the Wolves by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes and interprets how myths of “La Loba” and “Bluebeard” can be used to “access the wisdom inherent in the feminine psyche.”

“I wanted the students to see what happens when we’re captured even by the best meaning people,” Frankland says of the trip. While the Wild Wolf Spirit Sanctuary is a place that takes excellent care of their rescued animals, Frankland believes the animals are still “instinctively injured.” The sanctuary “is doing amazing things, but these animals are still captured.”  Frankland wanted the class to understand what that was like and how the captured wolf can relate to their own social captivity. As the class is composed of entirely female identified individuals, Frankland wanted to focus on how the metaphor of a captured wolf parallels to her students own feelings of being captured as women by societal norms and gender roles.

An Artic wolf lounges in the sun. Photo by Charlotte Renken

An Artic wolf lounges in the sun. Photo by Charlotte Renken

“Wolves have been a reoccurring theme in the class. La Loba, another name for She Who Knows, or the wild woman archetype, connects us with the freedom and power of wolves… Wolves carry weight for women. Wolves help us remember the wild nature,” says Jen Hanson, another Creative Writing major in the class who attended the trip.

After the tour, the group was excited for its “Ambassador Meeting” with Zeorro, a Gray (Timber) Wolf Dog. Rory Zoerb, Zeorro’s handler, strode out in front of the sanctuary, both hands gripping onto Zeorro’s leash as he led the group down to a clearing. While Zeorro pulled him along easily, Zoerb was still able to keep him under control as he explained the wolf’s story. After buying Zeorro as a companion for his white German Shepherd, Vuka, Zoerb spent 18 months with the two dogs in the wilderness, training Zeorro to be more hospitable to humans. After a while, it became clear that while Zeorro had bonded with , he was anything but domestic. Zeorb decided to bring the wolf to the sanctuary and continued to be part of the animal’s life as his trainer.

After a brief period of time, during which Zeorro familiarized himself with the group, the students were finally allowed to pet and take photos with Zeorro. It was a breathtaking experience for everyone.

Rory Zoerb sits in shop after tour.

Rory Zoerb sits in the shop after tour.

“I’m a city girl, so about the wildest thing I’ve ever seen is an occasional deer or opossum. Being within five feet of Zorro… was completely different than that. He was so clearly wild,” Dee says. Despite Zeorro being a wild animal, the fear around him quickly passed and even the youngest members of the group, such as Marsh-Martinez’s young daughter Rosa, were practically snuggling with him. There were a few members of the group to whom Zeorro continuously circled back, including Dr. Frankland and the reporter of this article.

After saying goodbye to Zeorro, students crossed the street to eat at a local eatery before heading back into the vans for the long drive home, contemplating their own wild natures. It was a once in a lifetime experience that students are boasting about even now.

The Wild Wolf Spirit Sanctuary is located at 378 Candy Kitchen Rd, Ramah, NM. Information on tours and ambassador visits can be found on its website or by calling (505) 775-3304.