“Please, be careful!” my mom warned me for what felt like the 100th time.
“Alright,” I said, rolling my eyes.
It was so irritating, but I understand why she kept saying it. I was about to embark on my first solo trip to a state I’ve never been to – Ohio.
I wanted to meet a wolf, live and in the flesh.
I love them. I love their howls and I love how family-oriented they are.
I love how each member of the pack plays an important role, whether it’s an uncle showing their pups how to hunt, a mother lovingly licking their fur to get them nice and clean, or a dad, lying around lazily as the pups trample over his head playfully.
I love wolves because they’re a lot like me. They love each other. They protect one another, and they’re pretty active at night.
My birthday was in June, and while I originally wanted to go to the Wolf Conservation Center in New York and sign up for their “Sleeping with the Wolves” event, I didn’t think my friends would be up for it. It’s also kind of pricey.
Instead, we went to the Great Wolf Lodge in Concord, North Carolina. I love water, and I had been wanting to go there for a long time.
It was fun, but I didn’t meet any wolves, so I told myself that I’d meet one before the summer was over.
That, I did.
I researched programs throughout the U.S. that would allow me to meet some, like the Lakota Wolf Preserve in New Jersey, and WCC in New York. I also took a look at Animaltourism.com, a website that shows you where you can see certain animals.
Both Lakota and WCC said the wolves would be behind a fence. It’s illegal in some states for the public to have contact with a pure breed wolf, Lakota said.
I wanted to meet one and get as close as possible, legally, of course. I did some more searching online. That’s how I found Ironwood Wolves in Ohio.
They have four wolves and a few other animals, and they let you meet them in person, take photos, and ask questions about the animals. They also do educational events at libraries and other sites.
I emailed them and set a date. In August, I drove over 500 miles to meet Cana, a beautiful, nine-year-old wolf who loves kisses, apparently.
I was pretty nervous about going alone, but it’s something I really wanted to do. I thought “I’ve got a car, I’ve got a destination, and I’ve got myself.” That’s all you really need, right?
I listened to some music, took a few breaks here and there, and had a wonderful time.
I also checked out the Historic Kelton House Museum in Columbus, as well as the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. That was also part of my research – finding stuff to do ahead of time so I didn’t sit there twiddling my thumbs once I arrived.
Cana, the wolf I met, is beautiful. At one point, she was on the ground, staring directly in front of her, as if she was trying to hear something. It was quiet, and the way she stared ahead reminded me of a person whispering “Shhh.”
As she stood there, she leaned into me.
I don’t know if she did it intentionally, but the warmth I felt as she put most of her body weight onto my leg was one of the most comforting feelings I’ve felt in a while.
I felt like she trusted me, and even though I drove to Ohio all by myself, at that moment, I didn’t feel lonely at all.
Being by yourself is tough, especially when there’s someone you miss. It’s uncomfortable and it takes some getting used to.
I had to get over my fear of being alone and just go for it.
I cried a few times, but that was mostly because I missed someone and wanted them there. When that happened, I redirected my thoughts and distracted myself.
“Look at you! You drove all the way here by yourself.”
“You met a wolf. You took some awesome photos, and you met some cool people while you were here too.”
Just because I couldn’t share the moment with a particular person, that didn’t mean I shouldn’t experience it.
Dreams don’t die when you stop speaking to people. You just find new ways of making them come true, even if you have to do it alone.
I’m so glad I went.
I learned a lot about myself, like how good I am at planning trips!
Now, I feel fearless and bold.
If there’s a trip you’ve been wanting to take but you have no one to go with, go anyway. Just because others don’t enjoy it, it doesn’t mean you should suppress what you’re passionate about.
As for me, I’ll cherish the warmth and the kindness that Cana showed me forever.