Imagine a place where kids roam with the wolves and sounds of giggles fit right in with the howls. Strange? Maybe, but to Mission:Wolf staff and volunteers, this is just another day on the job. And for the 18 kids and 3 teachers from Logan School, it became part of the normal routine as we enjoyed 4 days at this extraordinary place last May. Mission: Wolf is a wolf sanctuary that houses around 40 wolves and wolf-dogs that people can no longer care for. Located just outside of Westcliffe, CO in a remote setting, it offers visitors a chance to not only connect with animals, but nature as well.
It is this connection that brings Cottonwood Institute courses and Mission:Wolf together to offer Logan School students a chance of a lifetime. We spent 4 fun-filled, very active days, and 3 restful, yet chilly nights at Mission: Wolf. While there, students got to meet the wolves, feed the wolves, plant trees, and help with landscaping projects. They learned about tracking and the stories behind animal tracks. They learned how to start fires using cottonballs and only one match. Marshmallows were eaten around the campfire, while billions of stars gazed down upon us. We worked hard, ate dinner late, woke up early and did it all again the next day. Every day, while action-packed, also offered time to reflect on the wolves and all the activities and games we played as well as all the projects we accomplished. One student stated, “This is so cool. We get to eat lunch when we would normally be getting home from school and we get to eat dinner when we would normally be going to bed.” Ah, the excitement of the little things when you are 10.
Yet, I haven’t even mentioned the coolest things. 1) We were kissed by the wolves and best stated by one of the kids, “I’ve kissed a dog, now I kissed a wolf.” The students, along with the teachers, and Cottonwood Institute instructors, did not stop smiling from the memory of this until sleep stole it from our lips. I do believe the wolves were even smiling. 2) We helped butcher a horse. Yes, you heard me right. When nearby ranchers have a horse that dies, they donate the body to Mission:Wolf to help feed the wolves. It just so happened that we were there at the right time to help with this unique chance to fully understand the circle of life. I was so impressed with all the students and teachers when it came time to help with this gruesome task, but their level of understanding of the importance of this was way beyond what I would have expected from high schoolers, let alone 3rd and 4th graders. We were so lucky to have this opportunity. And one quote – quite funny – that I will never forget came from an elegant little girl, quite proper, but very hard working and focused, “I chipped my nail while butchering a horse.” Not many people get to say that!
After wheelbarrow rides, an exhilarating blind drumstalk activity, getting stuck in the mud on the way in, sticky marshmallow fingers, hot dogs around the fire, grimy fingers, campfire stories, survival skills, wolf kisses, horse butchering, walking like animals, stomping on each others feet, throwing meat over fences, digging holes, listening to coyote yips, finding bones, and oh so much more fun, we were exhausted, yet content. And so on a very foggy and very chilly morning, we packed up our home for the past 4 days, blew one last kiss to the wolves, and bid farewell to our new friends. Until next time, keep howling!
Click here for a slideshow of our adventures.