Photo by:Jessie May Wolfe

Many of us have grown up to believe in the “big bad wolf,” but how many of us have actually met a wolf? I had the opportunity to spend a day with wolves at The Apex Protection Project, a sanctuary in Palmdale, California that rescues and rehabilitates wolves and wolfdogs. One of the main goals of The Apex Protection Project is to debunk the myth of the big bad wolf by educating the public on the true nature of wolves, which is actually very similar to humans. 

During my day at the rescue I learned about the importance of wolves to the world’s ecosystem. Their existence allows for a truly balanced natural habitat in the wild. There is a short film titled, “How Wolves Change Rivers” I recommend watching. It is a documentary on how the reintroduction of wolves to Yosemite National park turned a crumbling ecosystem into one that thrived. Humans could learn a thing or two from these intelligent and beautiful animals. 

My first introduction to a wolf was with Taboo, the alpha female of the pack at the rescue. Paula, one of the founders of the Apex Protection Project, informed us that Taboo would have to first check us out so she would feel comfortable with us meeting the rest of her pack. Taboo carefully walked into the room full of women and did a few circles around us. She was not like a regular dog, excited at the presence of new people that could pet her, but rather she warily sized us up. She had a responsibility to fulfill for her pack and was making sure none of us posed as a threat. Once she became more familiar with us, she signaled her comfort by letting us get closer. A surprising thing Paula told us about the alpha wolf was that they actually do not lead at the front of their pack. The alpha is always at the back of the pack, making sure that no one gets left behind. As we all left the room to visit with the other wolves, I happened to be the last one out. Just as Paula had described, Taboo patiently waited for me to get up and leave before following behind me. I forgot something in my purse so went back for it and Taboo actually turned around and rounded me back up, making sure I did not stay in the room while everyone else was outside. I was fascinated by her attentiveness. 

We went on to meet the other members of the pack. Every single one of the wolves had their own personality. Some liked to be affectionate, kissing our faces every chance they had, while others needed more time to build trust. The important thing was to respect each wolf and their personality as opposed to expecting them to conform to our moods and desires.  After getting to know the pack, we all went on a sunset hike together. Paula explained to me how in a pack, each wolf will have a position depending on what their strengths are. Some may be hunters while others are caretakers. Even within a group of hunters, in certain environments some wolves will have a better sense of smell than others. 

The wolves know what each of their pack members’ gifts are and they step down in each situation to let another more qualified individual lead. There is no ego or hurt pride when allowing another wolf’s strengths to shine. In the end it’s for the benefit of the entire group’s survival. 

When I heard about this and saw for myself how unique each wolf’s character and strengths were, I immediately thought, Wouldn’t that be wonderful if humans could interact in that way? For the most part we all have our different jobs depending on our strengths, but we humans put a hierarchy to each title. We have ego, pride, selfishness and feelings of inadequacy because someone is better at something than we are.

Watching and learning about the wolves helped make me see that we are all worthy of belonging, being loved, and respected just by being ourselves. 

A group of different and unique people each contribute to comprise a highly functioning pack. The wolves don’t need to do anything special to be included or respected. They just have to be themselves and let that shine. We too are born with everything we need, and once we realize we are worthy, we can shine. 

My day with the wolves was not just informative, but it was also incredibly inspiring. These magnificent creatures have much to teach us about coexisting with one another. We can find strength as a group when we respect one another’s uniqueness. Whether it is the color of one’s skin, a disability, a high paying job, or lack of a job that differentiates us, we cannot rise above each other in order to move forward.  Our strength is in coming together, each in our truest nature.

For more on the Apex Protection Project, visit apexprotectionproject.org