Published in the July 2011 issue of the Mountain Connection Magazine
By Amy Fisher
For those of us fortunate enough to live in our beautiful mountain communities, getting up close and personal with wildlife typically occurs every day—perhaps an elk jam on the way to work or witnessing a mother deer and her fawn in your yard. But getting showered with kisses from a pack of wolves? Well, that’s precisely what members of the Evergreen Church of the Hills (COTH) were lucky enough to experience on a recent trip to the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center in Divide, Colorado.
Twenty-six COTH members visited the center and had the privilege of learning about the sanctuary’s different residents: Arctic Wolves, Timber Wolves, Mexican grey wolves, coyotes, Red foxes and Wolf-dogs. The Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center hosts public tours, as well as gives presentations to groups, educating others about the protection and importance of these precious animals. It also provides a safe haven for the animals since they cannot live on their own in the wild.
The day started off with a guided tour around the sanctuary. After, the wolves were called forward for a “group howl,” and everyone was invited to participate. One by one, the wolves belted out their individual sounds creating a symphony of voices. A smaller group then embarked on the VIP tour, which really meant getting to play up close with the wolves. “It was pure playfulness!” remarked Kelly Krueger, who organized the event for COTH. Wolves curiously surrounded the onlookers and even moved in to steal a few kisses from unsuspecting visitors. The wolf guides explained that when the wolves felt comfortable with someone, they didn’t hesitate in showing affection. “It was an amazing experience to have such close contact with a wolf. It was awesome to discover that such a powerful creature can also be so tender and playful,” said Lilly Croke, COTH member.
The trip represented a way to celebrate the beginning of Pastor Dee Cooper’s Summer Sabbatical. With an entire summer filled to the brim with adventures like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and visiting the National Institute of Play in Carmel, California, she will be exploring how “play” plays a role in spiritual life. The church’s Sabbatical Team has planned countless activities for the COTH congregation to participate in as a means of allowing them to fully experience the mission of Summer Sabbatical as well. Thanks for the generous Lilly Endowment National Clergy Renewal Program, the Wolf and Wildlife Center trip—as well as many of the Sabbatical trips—were able to happen. “The trip was offered as an opportunity for us to get a feel for the kinds of experiences Dee would have on her Sabbatical,” explained Kelly Krueger, also a Sabbatical Team member.
For more information on Church of the Hills and its Summer Sabbatical program, visit churchofthehills.com.
Amy Fisher is a writer and editor in Evergreen. She can be reached at [email protected].