On the day she got the call, she dropped everything and got to Broward County as fast as she could. When she saw the huge animal for herself, her jaw dropped. All-too aware of the power behind those muscles that coiled under his sleek black coat, she looked straight into his yellow eyes and felt sick.
She knew she had been lied to — the DNA results would confirm that. But now, she only hoped that the poor creature wouldn’t have to pay.
Nancy Smith, founder of her own animal sanctuary and avid animal lover, was determined to help every creature in need. Her sanctuary provides a loving environment as well as rehabilitation to Any animal in need. The team she’d hand-picked over the years was passionate and driven.
Nobody knew that they would soon house an animal that would leave them with hundreds of questions.
A Big Heart
Brittany Allen had been working at the shelter for 10 years. Once she came face-to-face with their new rescue, she knew she had to take action. He was the most intimidating creature she had ever seen, but she instantly felt a connection.
But she felt the anger boil up inside her as she found out the truth about his past.
A Suspicious Call
You see, the day before Nancy had driven out to Florida’s East Coast to fetch an animal from the Browen Animal Shelter, she had received a strange phone call. A man who didn’t want his identity known had told her that he urgently needed to surrender an animal.
When Nancy asked him why, the man told her that the animal had grown “much larger” than anyone had expected…
The man told Nancy that he thought he had known what he was getting himself into. He had done the research, read the reviews, and familiarised himself with exotic canine breeds. He had made all the necessary purchases — bed, collar, lead, shampoo, engraved tag. He thought he was ready for the commitment.
But as the beast began to outgrow his bed and collar and lead, he began to worry. Then, the unimaginable happened.
Although the man had expected Yuki to grow up to be a large canine, he wasn’t prepared for just how large he was getting. At 8 months old, he was already five feet tall – much larger than even the breeder had anticipated.
It wasn’t long before Yuki was too big to live inside the house. The man built him a makeshift shelter in the yard. But, of course, simply moving him outside didn’t make his problems go away.
Calling An Expert
This pup was growing so fast that the man started feeling scared around him. Not visible as a pup were certain features, like the size of his teeth. With his gigantic size and his huge claws, it was becoming a little frightening to be around him.
But, one day, the irresponsible owner knew that he’d bitten off more than he could chew and it was finally time to face the truth. That’s when he called Nancy Smith.
An Urgent Matter
After listening to his story, Nancy told the man that the shelter was full, but she’d get back to him as soon as a space opened up. But, apparently, that wasn’t good enough for him.
The man told Nancy that his “friend” had purchased the dog from a breeder and had later realized that he was too much to handle. The next day, Nancy got the call from Broward Animal Shelter.
The staff at Broward Animal Shelter had taken in hundreds of animals over the years, but they had never seen anything like this. Looking at the beast that had been tied up outside, they immediately knew that they were out of their depth.
They called Nancy Smith, pleading with her to come as fast as she could. Their first priority was to get the creature somewhere safe, then, they’d deal with the authorities.
A Giant Animal
Nancy arrived at the animal shelter and was met with a sight she’ll never forget. A giant, hulking beast paced, alone in his cage. His claws ticked on the concrete and his enormous jaws hung open, hot breath steaming in the air as he panted. But what was he?
The size of his head and teeth sent a chill down Nancy’s spine. Standing at five feet and four inches tall, she knew that he was neither dog nor wolf. But when she spoke to the staff member who had found him, she couldn’t believe her ears.
After speaking to the staff, Nancy found out that the enormous creature had been tied up outside the shelter and had been recorded as a “stray.” And she knew who had done it — it couldn’t be a coincidence. Her thoughts immediately flew to the strange call she had received the day before.
The man who had wanted to surrender his “dog” had clearly decided that he couldn’t wait for Nancy to call back. So, the irresponsible owner had dumped him at the nearest animal shelter.
Nancy felt pity for the creature. His owner had obviously not done his research on hybrids before getting one as a pet. And now, the poor animal would have to pay for it. With her blood boiling, she loaded him into the van.
The first thing she had to do was a DNA test to confirm her suspicions. Then, she could hold him accountable. But when the results came back, even she was incredulous.
The Direwolf-like creature, named Yuki, was brought to the shelter and was in reasonably good health compared to a lot of the animals that ended up in the sanctuary.
Surprisingly, he had a very outgoing personality and loved to greet people. Despite his terrifying appearance, the team even considered him for ambassadorship at one point.
A DNA Test
Nancy and her team at Shy Wolf Sanctuary conducted a DNA test on Yuki, and Nancy’s worst suspicions were confirmed. The results of the DNA test confirmed that Yuki was, in fact, 87.5 % Gray Wolf, 8.6 % Siberian Husky, and 3.9 % German Shepherd.
He was a high-content wolfdog — a breed that is illegal to own or breed in Florida.
Humans have always been attracted to the majestic and wild nature of wolves. That’s why wolf-dog hybrids are on the rise. Uneducated breeders and buyers hope to end up with a breed that is as aesthetically pleasing as a wolf, but as loyal and friendly as a dog.
But many people aren’t aware of the repercussions — both for people and the wolfdogs.
A Dangerous Gamble
Creating wolf-dog hybrids is risky because it’s difficult to determine exactly which traits from both breeds are going to be more dominant. The puppies could look like wolves and have the personality of a dog, or vice versa. That’s why owning a high-content wolfdog is illegal in some states.
But there are other issues that arise with these dogs, too. These issues often lead to abandonment when the owner realizes exactly what they’ve gotten into…
Nowhere To Go
Wolves and wolfdogs need a lot more space to run, a lot more food, and a lot more time to properly train than their owners expect — and they often become too much to handle for the average dog owner.
And since wolfdogs are too tame to be released back into the wild and too wild to be taken in by a dog shelter, they have nowhere to go. This is exactly what happened to Yuki.
Nancy’s shelter, Shy Wolf Sanctuary, has seen a dramatic rise in abandoned wolfdogs since they opened their doors 20 years ago. The sanctuary now rescues 20-100 wolfdogs like Yuki annually from all over the United States. Even though the sanctuary’s first rescue was a 3-legged leopard, wolfdogs have become the most abandoned exotic pet.
But before Nancy could even think about trying to track down his previous owner, something happened that changed the wolfdog’s life forever.
Change In Behavior
Shortly after arriving at Shy Wolf Sanctuary, Yuki was roaming around the outdoor space when he suddenly caught his leg on a palmetto which opened up a wound on his right rear knee. This wound ended up taking a total of 5 surgeries to finally repair!
It was during this time that the team noticed that Yuki had started to become cage aggressive.
Despite his injury and subsequent aggression, Yuki’s personality started to develop. And soon, he had a very small group of women that he trusted and would allow them to come into his den. Among this group was Brittany.
But, little did the team at the sanctuary know, Yuki was about to become an internet sensation.
One day, Brittany decided to post a picture of Yuki on the sanctuary’s Facebook page. This photo showed Yuki’s size — he was a giant compared to 5”4 Brittany, who was also in the photo. Soon after the photo was posted, it went viral.
Nobody could believe that the wolfdog was so enormous, and many claimed that the photo was photoshopped.
But Britney hit back at the claims, stating: “It’s just his fat angle guys. We all have one”. It wasn’t long before the photo was shared and commented on by Facebook users all over the world. Everyone was fascinated with Yuki.
“They definitely are creatures that demand respect. It would be a much different encounter in the wild than what I do with these guys. The animals I work with have never been in the wild and never will be, so they are more socialized,” Brittany explains.
Educating The Public
“We show off their adorable moments in the hope of helping people identify with them at least and maybe change their fear response into a healthy respect through education,” Brittany continued, “… And also giving an animal a chance at a decent life when otherwise they would be euthanized.”
Despite the delight that the photo brought to fans, some bad news would soon make its way to the sanctuary.
For a while now, Yuki hadn’t been himself. He wasn’t eating that much and his excited attitude seemed to slowly fade away. Even when one of the team members played with his favorite toy, Yuki was not interested in the slightest.
He seemed to mope around his enclosure, occasionally engaging in a bit of playtime. The team knew they needed answers.
It turned out that Yuki had cancer that, unfortunately, was terminal. While the team had dealt with that particular cancer before, they knew Yuki was a fighter and would hopefully persevere through it as long as he could.
Yuki had been fighting cancer for a while, so the team made sure that they would make the best of their time with their favorite wolfdog. But Yuki had already made his mark…
Making His Mark
Since arriving at the shelter back in 2008, Yuki has definitely made his mark. His outgoing and cheeky personality is what made him a favorite with the guests and staff. He’s been at the sanctuary for 12 years and won a lot of hearts along the way.
But Yuki also did something monumental for Shy Wolf Sanctuary.
“Today, Yuki is one of the most interesting animals in the sanctuary. He is not an easy guy to get to know, but he does have a small number of volunteers he has bonded with,” said Jeremy Albrecht. “He has gained the nickname “Woowoo” because when he sees any of his chosen volunteers that is the noise he makes, beckoning that volunteer to come spend time with him.”
And, since Yuki’s photo went viral, the sanctuary has seen a huge increase in support and visitors. Nancy and her team continue to raise awareness about the plight of wolfdogs everywhere.