WOLF-DREAMING AT CANDY KITCHEN By Barbara Berge
Arm outstretched, hand palm up, Jacque Evans sits in perfect stillness on a bench in an enclosure. A few feet away, a wolf dog named Wambli watches her. Fear, anxiety and wariness register in his gold eyes. Neglected, unsocialized, yet intensely curious, Wambli cranes his neck to sniff. With infinite patience Evans knows not to force interaction. Wambli will come to her when he is ready, not before.
Candy Kitchen Rescue Ranch came into being informally in 1990 when Evans bought a wolf dog from an irresponsible breeder in Gallup. Networking with other wolf dog owners, Evans soon found herself taking in unwanted animals. Dreaming of creating a refuge for these misunderstood beings, she had the land but not the financial resources, and struggled to build fencing and suitable housing. In Albuquerque, Barbara Berge dreamed the same dream. A wolf dog owner for many years, she, too, was rescuing on a smaller scale, trying to find homes for abandoned wolf dogs. Sable, a wolf dog that Berge rescued, brought the two women together. They decided to join forces and slowly the dream became reality.
Located in the Zuni Mountains near Ramah, New Mexico, Candy Kitchen Rescue Ranch occupies the old ranch headquarters of the same name. Back in the 20s and 30s the couple that ran the ranch made piñon nut candy, and the ranch took on the name of Candy Kitchen. During prohibition the couple also had a still and the candy served as good cover for the truckloads of sugar that came in to make moonshine. A historic site, Candy Kitchen is on topographic and aeronautical maps of the area.
Candy Kitchen is a USDA-licensed, Federal Non-Profit Organization that provides safe sanctuary for captive-bred wolves and wolf dogs that have been abused or abandoned. Currently, 74 animals from across the U.S. live at the facility. All their animals are spayed/neutered, receive yearly shots and live in large enclosures in compatible groups or pairs. Abused or neglected animals are nursed back to physical and mental health. Networking with other facilities, Candy Kitchen tries to place animals they cannot take. Education Director Brett Martin leads their Outreach Program, taking ambassador animals to schools and public venues across the state. They also play host to school field trips, scout troops, and visitors from around the U.S. They consider their rescues as ambassadors for the wild wolf, the environment and the humane care and treatment of all animals.
Candy Kitchen is funded through donations, memberships, animal sponsorships and grants, and puts out a quarterly newsletter, The Candy Wolf. Five staff members and volunteers provide animal care and help with projects around the ranch. Student interns gain valuable experience in the management of captive-bred wolves.
In the enclosure, Jacque works her magic. Cautiously, Wambli approaches Jacque’s outstretched hand. Braced for flight he reaches out and licks her fingers. For an instant the fear barrier is breached as animal and human connect across the heart path that is Candy Kitchen Rescue Ranch.
Barbara Berge is the General Manager of Candy Kitchen Ranch (505) 775-3304.
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