Last month we took our grandchildren to see wolves in Estes Park, Colorado. Wolfwood Refuge provides a safe haven for abused and sick wolves and wolf-dogs. These animals are not bred or adopted, but rehabilitated with the best physical, mental, social and psychological environment to live in captivity. Our granddaughters, (3 and 5), enthusiastically entered the cage to meet the wolves without hesitation, while our grandsons (9 and 13) chose to observe more conservatively, outside the cage.
The director discussed the importance of knowing the difference between normal and stress wolf behavior. Stressed wolves, just like people, don’t always make the best decisions and socialization helps them learn boundaries and appropriate behavior. Each animal is closely monitored for any stress behaviors, such as isolating, change in eating patterns, crying, and pacing.
A surprising stress for wolves is wind. While they have highly perceptive olfactory nerves and sense everything by smell, the wind compromises this ability and stresses them out.
As humans, we don’t always know what stresses us out until we detect our stress behaviors. When you feel uncomfortable, upset, compromised, or stressed, do you:
- Deny by pretending everything is okay, like it’s not really happening, and you have a complete handle on it?
- Avoid by distracting yourself with work, shopping, exercising, drinking, eating, sleeping, or watching TV?
- Isolate by hiding and not asking for the help and support you need?
- Ruminate by replaying the situation over and over again with,if only… I wish it was …I should have…why is this happening?
- Blame by giving all the responsibility (and power) to someone or something else?
We have the freedom to choose our behaviors when we are feeling stressed. Before you give in to your next familiar (and unfulfilling) stress behavior, stop and ask yourself, What do I need most right now? To hug, vent, cry, rest, eat, or anything else?
Unlike the wolves and wolf-dogs in captivity, the cages we have in our lives are the ones we create.