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    Caretaker wants good owners for wolves

    The animals are not recommended for homes with children and small pets.

    [Times photo: Jim Damaske]
    Bill Schultz finds it hard to keep his sandwich to himself while he cares for five wolves that belonged to a friend.

    By MONIQUE FIELDS

    © St. Petersburg Times, published December 5, 2000


    If the telephone calls are any guide, Woolie, Cheyenne, R.T., Xena and Jake may have a home soon.

    More than a dozen people throughout northern Pinellas County have expressed interest in the wolf hybrids, who are 1 to 3 years old. A wolf advocate is working to screen potential adoptive parents, and a handful of animal lovers stopped by their home over the weekend for a closer look.

    Their temporary caretaker has been overwhelmed by the response. Still, he knows he has a difficult task before him, because it takes a special breed of animal lover to take care of a wolf hybrid.

    "They're not dogs," said Bill Schultz, who is taking care of the wolves in the wake of their owner's death. "They act totally different."

    The five part-wolf, part-malamute hybrids were orphaned after Bradley Chase collided with a 1997 Dodge pickup as the truck's driver attempted to turn left onto San Christopher Road from County Road 1 in Dunedin Thursday evening. No charges have been filed in the accident, which remains under investigation, said sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Greg Tita.

    Chase loved his wolves, treating them like family.

    "They're not aggressive or mean or anything," Schultz said. "He was very gentle with them."

    Unlike their canine cousins, wolves shy away from people. They prey on other animals and need tall fences to keep them out of harm's way. Another expense is their food: raw beef, deer and elk, not to mention chicken. Schultz feeds the dogs a dog food Chase purchased at a local pet store.

    Some of the wolves can be quite aggressive and are not recommended for homes with children and small pets, especially cats.

    They are very loyal, though. They choose a mate for life. After they have formed a pack, it's difficult to separate them. If separated, they can become lonely, disruptive and unruly.

    Wolf-dogs can be so unpredictable that some advocates discourage breeding and try to dissuade pet lovers from taking them into their homes.

    "Wolves should be wolves and dogs should be dogs," said Darlene Kobobel, who runs the Wolf Rescue Center in Lake George, Colo.

    Owning a hybrid is a fad that loses its glimmer as soon as people realize they can't house train or contain them, she said. She ought to know. She has rescued wolf-dogs from Hollywood types, small crates and college dorm rooms.

    "They belong in the wild, not in the back yard," said Kobobel, who owns 11 purebreds and wolf hybrids.

    Dozens have stepped forward to help Schultz because they love animals and fear the wolf-dogs will be put to sleep.

    Dawn Bednar, a wolf advocate, will screen potential owners. No permit is necessary to own a wolf hybrid, she said, but she wants to make sure families know what they are getting into.

    Traditional dog training doesn't work, and the hybrids require a large back yard and plenty of physical activity, she said.

    Jeanne Curtis of Clearwater has raised German shepherds and is considering adopting one or two of the hybrid wolves.

    "My main focus is the animal," she said. "I don't want to see them destroyed, because they don't need to be destroyed."

    Others touted their experience with wolf hybrids.

    "I realize it's going to take a select individual to deal with them," said Gina Hunter, the owner of 7-year-old Cody, a wolf hybrid she rescued from an abusive situation more than six years ago. "I have some expertise. I have studied these dogs for the last 25 years."

    To learn more

    For information about adopting the wolf hybrids, call 538-8664.

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