Ashima’s story starts like so many captive-born wolf dogs. Originally named Storm, she was born to a backyard breeder on April 11, 2017. As many wolf dog breeders mistakenly believe that wolves, like birds, imprint when their eyes first open, Storm was sold to a young couple at just three weeks of age. With few instructions on how to appropriately care for a young wolf, the couple was unprepared for dealing with Storm’s rapid development. During the next six weeks, Storm grew into an energetic, possessive puppy who would harass the couple’s three-year-old German Shepard and guard her toys obsessively. When they tried to contact the breeder for help with the puppy’s behavioral issues, the breeder hung up on them and blocked their phone number.
Through a combination of unfortunate circumstances and malnutrition, Storm’s right femur was badly broken at just nine weeks of age. The young couple brought her to their vet, but when the extent of the damage was discovered, they knew they would not be able to afford the surgery. Warned by the vet that most wolf dogs surrendered to rescues or shelters are killed, they contacted a local no-kill dog rescue to see if they would be willing to take in a “Husky-mix” puppy. The rescue agreed, and Storm was transferred to another veterinary clinic for emergency corrective surgery.
Shortly afterward, the couple contacted W.O.L.F. about Storm. After speaking with her original owners, seeing pictures and hearing her story, W.O.L.F. knew she was a high-content wolf dog. After discussing the situation, it was decided to give one of the two spaces available at the Sanctuary to Storm. W.O.L.F. told the rescue that we were interested in taking her in permanently, and the rescue readily agreed to surrender her into our care. After W.O.L.F. picked up Storm from the vet, there were some concerns with the ap- pearance of the surgery site, and it was decided to get a second opinion from an orthopedic surgeon.
Unfortunately, the X-rays showed that the repair work done on Storm’s leg—a metal rod running the length of her femur with a wire wrap around the break site–was not the most effective repair technique for the type of fracture Storm suffered. The orthopedic surgeon thought the procedure could lead to a stunted and deformed leg as Storm grew into adulthood. At the very least, the rod extruding from her upper thigh posed a high probability of bone infection. According to the orthopedic vet, her best chance for a having a functional leg would be to have a second surgery to stabilize what had al- ready been done. Even then, there might still be a need for additional surgeries later in life to lengthen the leg so Storm would be able to walk normally.
Because of her physical condition and the potential for complications and infections, Storm was not in a position to go immediately to the Sanctuary. Unfortunately, for these same reasons, Storm was not allowed to be around other wolves or dogs until fully healed. Instead, it was decided that she would be cared for off-site by staff and volunteers until her leg healed completely. Much to staff’s delight and frustration, Storm was not at all impeded by having only three good legs and was up and running in what seemed like no time.
Despite attempts to follow doctor’s orders to keep Storm “calm and contained,” she showed just how wolf-y she was, climbing, crawling, running, jumping and CHEWING. In fact, she was so skilled at attempting to climb over her containment gates that W.O.L.F. was inspired to change Storm’s name to Ashima, after Ashima Shiraishi who, at 16 years of age, is one of the world’s best female rock climbers (go girl!). The name also means “without boundaries,” which is fitting for the little wolf’s personality.
On June 26, Ashima went to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Colorado State University for her second surgery. Luckily by that point, she had grown enough that the surgeons were able to repair her leg through a process known as in- ternal fixation, using a special plate and pins to hold the break together. With this method, not only were they able to remove the metal rod and wires, but the entire new device is internal and does not need to be removed as she grows. In addition, Ashima was given two stem cells injections to further aid in her recovery. Surgeons informed staff that Ashima needed to be kept quiet and quarantined for a minimum of four weeks to allow for the best chance of recovery.
Though Ashima is adorable, her care is a 24-hour puppy-sitting job to make sure she doesn’t further hurt herself. Full of energy that has nowhere to go, Ashima is looking for any and every chance to stretch her legs–literally. Given even an inch of freedom, Ashima will take a mile. Everything can be a toy, from sprinklers, to dog beds, to human feet. She loves to run, wrestle and bite her caretakers, basically being a typical wolf puppy. As she grows, she is exploring her environment and is continuing to improve her technique as a climber and jumper. It is a constant struggle to find outlets for her energy while trying to restrict her use of her injured leg. Her antics have earned her a host of nicknames ranging from Taz (short for Tasmanian Devil) and Tigger (because she bounces everywhere she goes) to Raspberry (her favorite treat).
In typical wolf fashion, Ashima has decided that she is most content outside and will spend most of her days (and nights) in the great outdoors. This means that her puppy-sitters must also spend most of their time outside, which is not necessarily a bad thing. However, since Ashima can rarely be left unsupervised because of her broken leg, her caretakers are getting ample experience with “backyard camping” at night. Thank goodness it is summer!
As we write this, Ashima has had her four-week post-surgery checkup. The stitches have been removed and the orthopedic team at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital took x-rays of her leg. So far everyone is thrilled by her progress! Her joints are strong and flexible, and it appears that her legs are growing at the same rate. The veterinarians are still recommending an additional three weeks of restricted activity to insure a full recovery. With that and putting a little bit more weight on her, we are all optimistic that Ashima will soon be joining the rest of the wolves at the Sanctuary.