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Scent of a man

click to enlarge SUNNIE SACKS

A wolf that can determine cancer or emotional problems? How's that?

Caretaker Mark Johnson of Guffey told me if Cheyenne the wolf takes a shine to me, it could mean I have a problem. Cheyenne normally doesn't take to men.

Emotional problems I have, skepticism included, but the big C had me worried.

"She's been doing therapy since she was 3 months old," Johnson said.

Therapy too? By the time I stepped into Cheyenne's chain-link enclosure, my feelings were a double-edged mess. I love animals and I love their attention, but in this case, I was hoping to be shunned.

Cheyenne the wolf weighs 165 pounds and stands over 6 feet tall on her haunches. She regarded me cautiously. If regular animals can smell unease in a potential adversary, this gifted and beautiful gray wolf of Arctic, British Columbian and Eastern Timber descent must have been on sensory redline. Her canine teeth were enormous, her eyes pale and deep.

Cheyenne stopped pacing and gently nuzzled my foot. I held out a hand. She smelled me, and for a moment, I thought of my many maladies, both real and perceived. If she stayed on me, my health was in question, and if she left I had no excuse for the shape I was in.

Cheyenne did leave, for a woman sitting nearby. Not uncommon, according to Johnson, and no, it didn't mean the lady was sick, only that the wolf was enamored with her as evidenced by the many kisses to her face. The lady was the 1,440th visitor to receive a kiss from Cheyenne.

Before I left, I received a gift of Cheyenne fur for good luck, and I met Mark's other rescued wolves. He has six, and a dog named Wiggle Butt who shares Cheyenne's cage. In the near future, for their nonprofit endeavor Johnson and his wife hope to build better-suited wolf enclosures on their 217 acres, a chapel and a classroom kiosk for students.

There's also a goal for a PBS special.

-- by Malcolm Allyn

Photo by Sunnie Sacks

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