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I Was Kissed By Wolves

That’s right, I was kissed by a pack of wolves! 

No, not the whistling kind. These were real wolves, wolves with raw chicken breath from their latest meal. Sandy being told by wolf to sit downHow did it happen? Many years ago, in Sun Valley, Idaho, there was a man barbecuing  on his condo deck. We were neighbors, he had two children and so did we. Our kids became friends and introduced us to their father, Jim Dutcher. Jim is a filmmaker and so is my husband. Zip, we instantly became great friends. Years later, and many films later, we are still dear friends. Jim Dutcher is a brilliant nature film documentarian and photographer. You can read about him and his wife Jamie at these sites: Boise State Radio and at The Daily Mail.

Jim and Jaime Dutcher

 

Through the years my husband would sit in the editing room and talk with Jim about shots, storyline, etc. for days. It always was a treat for both of them. Jim has very graciously acknowledged Bob’s contributions. Early in his career, Jim  received many awards for his films on sea life, cougars and beavers. He received three Emmys for his documentaries, Living With Wolves and Wolves At Our Door, including an Emmy for his wife, Jamie for her recordings of the wolves howls and sounds in the solitude of the Sawtooth mountains.

Sawtooth Wolf

 

Jim surprised us one day by inviting us to visit Wolf Camp where he was beginning to make  the first of his two films about the lives of wolves. It was a process that would take him over six years!

The compound was 130 miles north of Sun Valley near Stanley, Idaho. You haven’t heard of Stanley, Idaho? Population 79. The coldest place in the continental United States. Would you believe minus 52.6 degrees fahrenheit? The town is in the Rockies surrounded by the White Clouds, Boulders and Sawtooth Mountain ranges with peaks that reach over 10,000 feet; a magnificent setting.

 

This was to be a unique experience because previously, he had invited only a limited number of people to visit, among them John Kennedy, Jr. and his wife, Senator John Kerry and his wife, and now us!

Sawtooth Wolf Camp Yurt

©Jim and Jaime Dutcher/National Geographic

He built his compound for the wolves in a very remote location five miles north of Stanley. It was isolated to mirror their natural habitat. He fenced in twenty five acres and built a yurt for his wife, Jamie and himself to live and work in. This was not your casual yurt. He included all of the amenities such as a fireplace, comfortable kitchen and dining room, all decorated in high mountain fashion. Really a home away from home except… you still had to go outside to the bathroom. Remember, Stanley is one of the coldest places in the US. Think of that the next time you need to go to the bathroom outside your yurt in the middle of a winter’s night, or even a summer’s night.

Sandy at Galena Summit

Standing on the hand rail at Galena Summit. Over looking the Stanley Basin

So, we drove  up the winding road over Galena summit, elevation 8,900 feet, on our way to the town of Stanley, Idaho.

Stanley, Idaho and Sawtooth MoutainsWhen we arrived in Stanley, Jim checked us out on how to drive a snowmobile. We  zoomed along  in pristine snow for about five miles to the secret entrance of Wolf Camp, and came face to face with real wolves.

snowmobiling to Wolf Camp in the Sawtooth mountains

Jamie instructed both of us on how to behave with the wolves. She told us to remove anything shiny from our clothes because wolves are attracted to anything that glitters. So, earrings off, rings off, bracelets off, and watches removed, we entered the compound.

Sandy with wolf pack Sandy kissed by wolves

Sandy kissed by Sawtooth wolves

Venturing into the wolf enclosure, we were told not to be afraid because the wolves had just been fed. Fed? Yes, raw chicken parts. Raw chicken parts? Today, they didn’t have road kill so they had to feed the wolves raw chicken. Usually the wolves were fed road kill  (animals that were run over on the highway). The Idaho Highway Patrol would bring all the road kill to Jim’s house in Ketchum, where he would freeze it until he brought it up to Wolf Camp. But, not today, just raw chicken breath and no Listerine.

Sandy kissed by wolf

Sandy and a Sawtooth wolf

A few things to know. There is always an Alpha wolf in the pack. He rules. You do not want to stand above him. He pushes you down so that he is above you. Don’t mess around, just bend your knees. The wolves were very curious about us. They sniffed, licked, pushed and stood up with their paws on our shoulders to position us lower than they were. “Get down,” they were saying, “I rule!” Yes, sir!

Sandy pushed down by alpha wolf

Sandy kissed by a Sawtooth wolf

This was an extraordinary experience. A once-in-a-life time adventure. What’s surprising  to me, as I look back, is why wasn’t I more scared? I mean what would have happened IF……?

Little Red Riding Hood

Enjoy my husband’s slide show of our day. 

 

Jim and Jaime Dutcher have just published a new book, The Hidden Life of Wolves, and please visit their website, Living with Wolves

Hidden Lives of Wolves, book by Jim and Jaime Dutcher

All images appearing on I Was Kissed By Wolves are the expressed property of Sandra Sallin. All rights reserved. In other words, don’t steal it!



  • Randy Hyde - Another great post! I loved the tips on how to act with the wolves. I feel like you just taught me a very valuable life skill! Now I want to go hang with some wolves!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - They really let you know with those large paws and strength that you do not mess with them. You get below them. They rule. That’s alpha for you.ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Yes it was a Wow experience. Loved it.ReplyCancel

  • Carla Fischer - fabulous! your coats of hair match perfectly…they might have thought your were part of their pack minus your fresh chicken scent…poor wolves need all the help they can get to survive…thanks for spreading your words…great story tellling!
    beautiful photos and setting!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Yes, it’s amazing how uninfromed people are about wolves. They are killing them off again. Jamie and Jim do their best through their non-profit to inform the world but… Their are ingrained fears and hates.ReplyCancel

  • Cathy - This is an absolutely stunning post. The photos are gorgeous, but your smile shines through each photo of what your heart is feeling. The landscape is magnificent and the animals…well, they are precious. You are a lucky girl to have enjoyed such an extraordinary experience. Thank you so very much for sharing. Best, CathyReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thank you so much for your gracious comment. I do feel fortunate to have the experience.ReplyCancel

      • SilverFoxyBlog - I am so jealous. I have always loved wolves and know how misunderstood they are. They are really wonderful animals with a fascinating social structure. Your blog and photographs were wonderful and I fully agree that you look so at home they must have felt you were one of the pack!ReplyCancel

        • sandra - Thank you. I just could not believe what I was doing. Frolicking with wolves? You must go to the Dutcher’s web site. Fascinating information and stories. Do you realize they worked on that film for six years!ReplyCancel

  • kathy peck leeds - What an absolutely incredible, once in a lifetime experience. I loved seeing all the photos, and the incredible joy on your face. Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thank you Kathy.It was indeed a day to remember. I don’t go on roller coasters but I’ll hang our with a pack of wolves. What’s wrong with that picture.ReplyCancel

  • Marti Koplin - Really an impressive adventure, how does one prepare for something like this?
    MartiReplyCancel

    • sandra - You don’t. I just listened to Jamie and Jim. Nothing shiny, no fast moves and stay below the alpha wolf. I must say when that alpha wolf put his paws on my shoulders, I immediately got on my knees. He was strong, heavy and I did what ever he wanted me to do. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • wilma engel - still cannot imagine why you were not freightened? maybe a little? by now you know that I love your writing and your smile and your sharing….but wolves! what next in your adventures through life with bob?
    wilmaReplyCancel

    • sandra - I paid attention to what was going on. No quick moves, just kinda sat in the middle of the pack and let the wolves sniff, lick and push me around. You’d think I’d be more scared but Jim and Jamie assured me that if I did what they said, everything would be OK, probably. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Lori McNee (@lorimcneeartist) - Hi Sandy! I was able to visit and have the same experience with the Dutcher wolves too. I was the illustrator for the Wolf Educational Research Center that helped fund the Sawtooth Pack…I miss them. What an experience! It was fun being with you on Friday…ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Oh, I did not know that. Congratulations. Wasn’t it great to be with those animals. A great experience. Always a delight to be with you.ReplyCancel

  • Judi Briscoe - Your blogs just get better and better! The photos really brought home how BIG these animals are! Not German Shepherd size for sure! I especially loved the bit of humor at the end…Little Red Riding Hood…you are now ( drum roll……) Little Red WRITING Hood.
    Judi in TexasReplyCancel

    • sandra - Little Red Riding Hood…you are now ( drum roll……) Little Red WRITING Hood.
      Good one Judi. You got it.ReplyCancel

  • Ellen Dolgen - Your photography is breathtaking. Thank you for the armchair trip.ReplyCancel

    • sandra - We had breath taking models and sites. Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • Pete Vanlaw - What a marvelous experience. Thanks, Sandy, for sharing it with us. And thank Bob (unless it was you) for putting together that wonderful slide show, and a great choice for music. I already forwarded your blog to many of my friends. The closest I can come to your experience with wolves, was Linda and my experience with C.J., the trained Orangutang, just after he finished Clint Eastwood’s “Every Which Way But Up”. What a loveable creature!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks for reading and forwarding Pete. Yes, Bob did the slide show. I remember that Orangutang. Aren’t we fortunate to have these experiences?ReplyCancel

  • conniemcleod - Amazing!! I stumbled upon that documentary one night surfing around and was completely enthralled. A fascinating story and so beautifully told and produced. Fast forward months later and a divorced friend is sharing that he doesn’t know how to connect with his teen daughter and the only thing he knows she has any interest in is wolves. I told him about this documentary. They were able to find a dad and daughter connection because of it.

    I loved this post and can’t wait to share it with some wolf loving friends.ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thank you so much. Jim and Jamie have a foundation. Go their web site. Maybe your friends can connect with them through the Foundation or one of their readings across the country. I’m sure they would be thrilled to meet your friends.

      Thanks for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • Anne (@notasupermom) - Amazing story with amazing pictures. I wouldn’t say I’m afraid of wolves, but I don’t know if I’d be as brave as you.ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks. I think I was brave because I knew their stomachs were filled with raw chicken. 🙂

      The photos were taken by my husband. He had a fabulous time taking the photos.ReplyCancel

  • Jean Parks - This is the most beautiful, coolest thing I’ve read in awhile. I love animals & always thought wolves got a bum rap. What stunning animals! Thank you so much for sharing this with us!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - You’re absolutely right. Wolves do get a bum rap. Jim and Jamie have been fighting an uphill battle to educate people to the real nature of wolves. Thanks for reading.ReplyCancel

  • molly campbell - This was both beautiful and amazing.ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thank you so much. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I did too.ReplyCancel

  • Mom Mom's Apron - What an amazing experience! Beautiful creatures, and you looked right at home with them. Were you even a tiny bit scared? If so, I couldn’t tell!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Yes, I was a tin but scared when the alpha wolf put his paws on my shoulders and made me get on my knees. I thought, “Sure. What ever you want sir.” So yes, I was very aware that I was with a pack of wolves and I should be on my very best behavior.ReplyCancel

  • Sandra - Congratulations Sandy on another fabulous post! Thank you for sharing such an amazing experience. I loved it! And yes, I think you look quite natural sitting among the wolves. Bob’s video with his great song selection is also wonderful. Kudos to both of you. I am forwarding this post to family and friends.ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thank you Sandra. Glad you enjoyed the post. I’m glad my joy showed. Looking forward to meeting with you soon.ReplyCancel

  • Marsha @ Splenderosa - Hi Sandra, I’m coming over from Lisa’s place, Privilege. It’s Marsha @ Splenderosa…on the top right side of my sidebar there is a Pinterest icon, also you can go to the bottom of each post where it says “SHARE,” when you click on this it will give you the option of posting any image to any site, they are in alphabetical order so you have to look for Pinterest, then follow the prompts. To reach my website where the jewelry is actually sold, go to the very top of the right sidebar, you will see the SHOP SPLENDEROSA button, which is clickable…it takes you right to my shop, then you choose the catagory (bracelets, earrings, etc.) that you’re interested in and it will open. You will see lots of different merchandise on each page, to see the price just click the image you like and it will open up for you. So sorry you were having trouble, but happy you like my blog & merchandise. Big hug from Texas…..ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks for the info. I was so frustrated. So many beautiful things and I just couldn’t get to them.I’ll be over there pinning and looking and maybe buying.ReplyCancel

  • Arah - Wow. We were in Stanley a few years ago, and had no idea about the Wolf Camp. How very interesting and amazing! I love these pictures – the size of their heads is very surprising. Love your info about the alpha behavior. Thank you for sharing this!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Aren’t the Sawtooth Mountains magnificent? A wonderfully secret piece of heaven. The wolf camp is now dismantled, but you can read all about the wolves in Jim and Jamie Dutcher’s book. Were you in Stanley hiking? Some of my favorite hikes start out of Stanley.ReplyCancel

      • Arah - We were there for a rafting trip on the middle fork of the Salmon… maybe in 2007 or so? It was a great trip with several other travelers & the outfitting company, Aggipah River Trips. Yes, those mountains are magnificent! We didn’t do a whole lot of hiking-but we did do plenty of floating by & flying over lovely scenery!ReplyCancel

        • sandra - That Salmon River and Valley are gorgeous. We never did much rafting. Just day trips with the kids. But, I loved hiking in those mountains. We would climb up beside waterfalls!ReplyCancel

  • Michelle Pond - What a fantastic experience. The photos are beautiful as are the wolves. It sounds like the four of you share a really special friendship. TALUReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks for commenting. I didn’t know we were supposed to ad the TALU when commenting. Oh well, a lot to learn. Yes, we are wonderful friends. It’s fun being friends with such creative people We have a good time together.ReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - Wow I am in AWE!! I truly thought the first photo was photoshopped in some way. I enjoyed the story of how this came to be and girl I was scared for you though you had to be fine since you wrote this. WOW!!! Love the slide show – perfect song choice. Thanks for linking up with TALU. I am going to show my son the video. He will enjoy it – especially for the music.ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks Kenya. I didn’t know we were supposed to mention TALU when we posted. Thanks for reading and yes, I survived to tell the tale. I hope your son enjoys the slide show.ReplyCancel

  • Kathy G - WOW! The closest I’ve come to being with wolves was going to a wolf howl with my boys when they were in Cub Scouts many years ago.ReplyCancel

    • sandra - It’s pretty remarable when you actually here them howl.ReplyCancel

  • Susan Nernberg - Dear Sandy, I am computer illiterate and this is my first experience with a blog. I am hooked on your adventures with the wolves. What a great adventure and you describe it so well. I will be looking forward to more of your stories. Love, SusanReplyCancel

    • sandra - You did it. You figured out how to open the stories. Good for you. I’m so glad you enjoyed the wolf story. It was quite the unique experince.Enjoy reading more.ReplyCancel

  • Amy Mable - Amazing experience for you! What gorgeous animals.ReplyCancel

  • mindy - Just beautiful, Sandy! Isn’t it funny that sometimes the things we do, in retrospect, scare the bejeezus out of us, but while we’re doing them, we’re fine?ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Mindy, I think it’s called guts. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Catherine Kitty Brideau - Awesome experience for the both of you. Wolves are so beautiful.ReplyCancel

  • Pam Bremer - What a wonderful and amazing experience. I am a wolf lover and am always speaking out on their behalf. I love this story and thank you so much for sharing it!
    ReplyCancel

  • Katherine Kotaw - Hi Sandra!! This came up in my Pinterest feed yesterday (wait, actually that’s not true… I searched you out because my smart feed wasn’t showing your pins and I missed you!) and these pictures of you and the wolves absolutely made my day! And what a beautiful story to go along with all the beautiful pictures that warm my heart more than words can say!

    I so want to be kissed by wolves!!! When hiking in the mountains with my pit bull Ivy and my poodle-doodle LuLu, Ivy often comes across white coyotes that look like wolves. I of course hold onto little LuLu for dear life, but Ivy gets more peaceful when she sees these coyotes than when she sees any other creature, dog, human or otherwise! And the coyotes stop and look at Ivy sweetly and I can see them communicating and it’s really very sweet (only a little scary!)

    I was sure the white coyotes were wolves (even though logically, why would they be?… though I did once Google “Wolves in Griffith Park”!!!) simply because of how the coyotes I was used to from seeing them ALL THE TIME on sidewalks in San Diego, where I used to live, were all brown, scrawny, slinky and mean… which is justified, seeing as they were pushed into living away from nature) but Ivy LOVES the white coyotes she sees in the mountains on our walks. And since Ivy is a radar for sweet and these white coyotes have never done anything but look sweetly at Ivy, I think they must be almost as sweet as the wolves that kissed you!

    Not that I’m going to go kiss any coyotes in the mountains, but seeing how calm and peaceful they make Ivy always makes me smile! 🙂 Thank YOU for making ME smile with this blog and all the AMAZING pictures! I will surely come back and look at all the pictures whenever I need a smile! Plus I’m of course off to pin this now! Big hugs to you!ReplyCancel

  • Helen Laman - Dear Sandra,
    So happy I found your site. I did not want to visit Russia, but it was a stop on our cruise. My grandmother came from Kiev in the Ukrane. They came with their megar belongings in the bow of a ship. Sick, nauseated, their belongings stolen by others. My mother was six months old when she came to this country.
    In Russia we had the same experience with the entry guards. Not a greeting, not any eye contact. How sad these people are.
    We visited the synagog in St. Petersburg. I have photos that I will send. Yes beautiful artifacts on the backs of the people and every guide started each sentence with “After the revolution.”ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Dear Helen, Thanks for reading. I take it you’ve read my posts of Russia. My family lived near Kiev also. I’m in the process of writing about their adventures incoming to the United States. I think the dirty little secret in Russia is that everyone drinks. I think it’s the only way to get by!ReplyCancel

  • October | Sandra Sallin | Style at a certain age - […] I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve shaken Steve Job’s hand, partied with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, cruised the Mediterranean with Albert Finney and Yvette Mimieux while my husband was directing a feature film. I’ve visited museums from The Hague to St. Petersburg and taken cooking classes with Guilliano Bugialli in Tuscany and so-and-so in New York City. But probably the most unusual experience I ever had was being kissed by wolves in Idaho! A close friend of ours was creating a now-famous film about wolves for the Discovery Channel, called “Living with Wolves.” He invited us to his 25 acre compound up in the Sawtooth Mountains where he had raised a pack of wolves from puppies. I actually was able to touch, feel and be licked by them. You have no idea what wolf breath smells like when they’ve just had a meal of raw chicken. You might enjoy reading my experience here. […]ReplyCancel

  • THE JOY OF BLOGGING » Apart From My Art - […] was rather astounded when my readers responded enthusiastically to my stories about kissing wolves in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho, sailing on a yacht off St, Tropez with Albert Finney and shaking hands with Steve Jobs during […]ReplyCancel

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