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Call of the Wild
Not many things are extraordinary in a town without a gas station or a population of over under 1,300 people. To the left of the Lake Country railroad tracks lies a small country road with no more than eight houses. Those taking the time to glance in the direction of that road are instantly drawn to the weeping willow in the drive of one quiet house, but no one suspects the piece of the wild that used to live there. That is, the two Timber Wolves that 68 year old Sandy V. called family.
Scattered over her few acres, Sandy has an elaborate kennel system designed specially for the canis lupus who lived 17 long years at her residence.
“They are not pets, but they still need some of the same restrictions as your average dog. The kennels must be covered if [the kennels]are under 6 feet tall,” she says.
Sandy, who worked as a flight attendant, dedicated her time off to volunteering at the Timber Wolf Preservation Society in Milwaukee. It had taken only a matter of days before she knew the names of each wolf and small details that made them each unique. Month after month, Sandy helped to raise the pups that were born at the society until one day, she realized she wanted to assist in more than just their puppyhood.
“I knew that the only way I could ever have Timber Wolves was to raise them as pups. I’d already gotten past that stage and I was ready for more. They weren’t pets and I’d learned that on my first day when one accidentally snagged my finger with his tooth. I tried to hide it from my boss, but he eventually noticed the trail of blood leading form the office to the bathroom. I wasn’t afraid of them, more like intrigued. “
Sacrifices were to be made in the sake of her newly acquired animals, including quitting her flight attendant job in order to assure she’ always be home.
After building the special quarters and acquiring the necessary permits, Volkman was finally able to bring the young, gangly wolves to their forever home. Ilikon and Dakotah, as they were known, were treated as any other wild animal in captivity, but they always served an educational purpose. Sandy has no children and never married. The wolves were like her children and through them, she helped to teach people about the animals.
“Teachers would bring their students to come see them and I’d tell them the precautions I went through every day. I always made sure to announce that they were never vicious, but they were still animals and had to be treated as so. Sure, they were animals, but they were more like my family than anything else.”
Though Ilikon passed away at eleven, Dakotah lived to see 17 of the same birthday cakes – raw hamburger with hot dogs as candles. In the place of his brother, Dakotah had Sierra, a Siberian Husky, and Belle, a one-eyed lab, to keep him company.
These days, Sandy gets teary-eyed when talking about her boys but she always puts on a smile.
“The Native Americans are very spiritual and much of their heritage revolved around wolves. I believe that my boys are out there somewhere enjoying themselves. Sometimes I still hear them howling in the moonlight – it’s always soothing.”
Next time you pass the somber weeping willow on a country road, listen carefully at the wind blowing through its boughs as it may carry the tune of a howl.