All is not always as it seems in the strange and wonderful world of the animal kingdom. That’s what rescuers quickly discovered about Cinder, who looked like an ordinary, if stray, wolf… or so they thought.
Upon further investigation, rescuers realized something incredible about Cinder and his heritage. But his story doesn’t end there…
For weeks, Cinder had been wandering around a neighborhood near Flagstaff, Arizona, where he would try to interact and play with dogs through fences. One family even left food out for him because he was so thin, but nobody could really approach him.
Once animal control was called, an officer assumed that Cinder was a wolf. After all, he certainly looked like one, which meant he’d be the property of the state—and would need to be reintroduced to the wild.
Cinder was trapped and taken to a shelter managed by the Coconino Humane Association.
The Arizona Fish and Game Department became involved to determine Cinder’s DNA and whether he’d need to be released to the state. But the test revealed a surprise: Cinder was not just a wolf! He was actually a wolf-dog hybrid.
Unlike in other states, wolf-dogs are allowed to be kept as pets in Arizona. Still, Cinder was so terrified of people that rescuers feared it’d be impossible to find a home for him. Plus, the shelter wouldn’t be able to keep him for very long.
Cinder was pretty wily, too. He even escaped from the shelter!
“There’s speculation that the gates or doors weren’t closed properly, giving him the opportunity to find his way out,” said Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary assistant director Crystal Castellanos. “These animals are highly intelligent. If given the slightest chance, they can find their way out of most situations that they deem scary.”
The shelter eventually found Cinder again, but it was clear they had to think fast, because they wouldn’t be able to hold him long.
They got in touch with New Mexico’s Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary and asked if they could take in Cinder. Thankfully the sanctuary agreed, and sent two volunteers on a four-hour journey to retrieve the wolf-dog.
Cinder spent seven months in his own enclosure at the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary. Meanwhile, the staff worked hard to find him a companion. They decided that female wolf-dog Riot would be a perfect match.
Riot had been owned by a breeder in California who surrendered the wolf-dog after realizing she wouldn’t have enough space for her. Riot was originally in an enclosure with an Arctic wolf named Doc, but needed a new partner when Doc moved in with another wolf.
The staff had a good feeling about Riot and Cinder. Everyone was anxious to introduce them.
“We walked Riot to [Cinder’s] habitat and watched the body language from both,” said Crystal. “All looked well and we immediately opened the gate for her to run into his habitat and it was great. Tails wagged in delight, he was interested in her, she in him and they had a great nose-to-nose greeting. I’d say they understood our intentions and agreed they were fit for each other.”
They turned out to be so inseparable, in fact, that they became known as each other’s “boyfriend” and “girlfriend!”
They did everything with each other, from “fence-fighting” and roughhousing to playing with stuffed animals. Even though Cinder was still nervous around humans, they both enjoyed going on leashed walks.
Yet they enjoyed spending time with each other the most!
“We want our animals to be happy, and one of the best ways to ensure that can happen is by finding them compatible partners,” said Crystal. “We all need that special someone in our lives.”
Don’t they look so happy together?
Not only does Cinder have a safe home off the street, he has another wolf-dog that he’s happy to spend his days with. Since he can’t be introduced into the wild, hopefully he’ll get over his fear of humans soon enough!
Visit the Spirit Wolf Sanctuary’s website to see how you can help animals just like Cinder and Riot, and share this fantastic story with your friends below!