In a mutual win-win situation, the Warriors and Wolves program pairs veterans suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder with rescued wolves and wolfdogs in a Southern Californian ‘eco-therapy’ program. Just as the returning veterans feel as if they are living in an ‘in-between’ world, somewhere between active service and civilian life, so are the wolfdogs; not quite wolves and not quite dogs.
Pairing the veterans and wolfdogs together in a safe environment allows them to find solace in each other’s company. Both are disenfranchised, marginalized and misunderstood. Their experiences at the program allows both the veterans and the wolfdogs to establish trust, to feel what it is like to be grounded again, and to take the necessary space in order to heal.
They just don’t fit in society, much like the veterans coming home. – Matthew Simmons, veteran & co-founder of Warriors & Wolves
The Life of a Wolfdog
Wolfdogs are rarely a direct cross between wolves and dogs, but more often crossbred with wolfdogs and other dogs. Any level of wolf genetics however, tends to create a cognitive dissonance within the animal; conflicting urges between thousands of years of domesticated dog behavior and the wild, pack instincts of the wolf. Many people relinquish these animals to shelters once they realize that they do not always make the best ‘pets.’
Few people realize the kind of fencing that is required to keep an animal with any amount of wolf genetics in its blood from jumping out of an enclosure; which is the reason wolfdogs are, unfortunately, often kept on chains for life! The wolfdogs at the Warriors and Wolves program now live in a series of large, securely-fenced enclosures that occupy eight acres, including a two and a half acre area dubbed “Wolf Mansion.”
Healing Trauma with Wolves
The impact on the lives of the veterans in the Warriors and Wolves program can be profound. One veteran, Matthew Simmons explains that everything he knows about love, compassion and how to operate in a functional family unit has come from studying the behavior of the wolfdogs; something that was completely absent from his experience of military service. Matthew Simmons and Dr. Lorin Lindner further discuss the impact in this video, if you want to know more.
It’s a slow transition, but what they find here, working with the animals and getting back to nature, is that they belong. – Matthew Simmons
Finding a New Home for Wolfdogs
Twenty-nine of the wolfdogs at the program came from one rescue mission in Alaska. Chained to posts on a half-acre lot, the wolfdogs had languished for years behind stockade fencing at a roadside attraction. The wolf hybrids were unable to touch one another except when they were bred through chain-link fences.
Several had sore backs and legs because they had never been able to move more than a few yards at a time. Their rescue involved complicated logistics, and spaying and neutering all of the animals before they were eventually transferred by air to their new home in Southern California.
Although wolfdogs are not really suitable as domestic pets, have no doubt that they are extremely intelligent and empathic creatures. If you need any further proof, just take a look at this short video of Wiley, one of the rescued wolfdogs at the Warriors and Wolves program ‘crying’ over the grave of one of the humans he had formed a bond with.