Skye’s Guardian Angel
From W.O.L.F.’s Rescue Coordinator Susan Weidel
This week, Skye Watch wants to introduce you to a special woman named Michelle Cole, who is Skye’s very own Guardian Angel. Michelle met Skye at the Mercer County Shelter in W. Virginia and instantly felt a connection with her. Thanks to Michelle, W.O.L.F. was able to rescue Skye and save her life.
W.O.L.F.’s Rescue Coordinator interviewed Michelle and learned the story of Skye’s life before W.O.L.F
Skye with her Guardian Angel Michelle Cole
What is your background in Animal Rescue?
“I started rescuing animals when I worked as a vet tech at a veterinary clinic, and I saw the need to help homeless animals. My first foster was a boy named Bruno, who was thrown away with two bowls and a mattress. I ended up adopting him, and he inspired me to get more involved in rescue work. I started a small rescue to help dogs before they entered the shelter system. Eventually, I became the Director of the Mercer County W. Virginia Shelter. I am currently the Congressional Leader for the West Virginia Humane Society of the U.S.”
How did you meet Skye?
“I first met Skye on July 16, 2019 at the Mercer County Shelter, where I went to help walk the dogs. The Rescue Coordinator asked me to walk Skye because she was a blind wolf dog, and I was the only person the Rescue Coordinator trusted to handle her. Skye had been at the Shelter for a month. As soon as I laid eyes on Skye, I felt this tug on my heart. She was emaciated and had a blank look in her eyes like her spirit was broken. She looked like she was about to give up. When I walked Skye, she had a look of despair about her. She seemed to be saying, ‘Please help me,’ even though it was clear that she wasn’t expecting any help. She just looked at me, and I felt very strongly that I could be the one who helped.” At that point, Michelle stopped walking and squatted down to talk to Skye. She said, “I promise you I’ll get you out of here to a good place, you’ll never be mistreated again, and you’ll be happy.”
Skye’s intake photo at Mercer County Shelter in June 2019
What did you know about Skye’s former life?
“I found out that Skye had spent most of her life bound to a chain wrapped around a tree. She broke loose in 2018 and ended up in the Mercer County Shelter, where her owner reclaimed her. When Skye came back to the shelter a second time, after she broke loose from her chain again, a volunteer at the shelter immediately recognized her as Sascha, an animal who lived in his neighborhood. By that time, the shelter had given her the name ‘Skye’. The volunteer lived close to where Skye lived, and he had previously seen her chained to a tree. He knew that she was not fed regularly and was very thin. He also recalled that neighborhood children would often stop to see Skye, and she loved their visits. The Animal Control Officer who picked up Skye told us that she was trying to get to safety in an elderly woman’s home. The woman became very afraid of the little wolf dog, and she trapped her between the front door and the screen door. A neighbor came to help, and she took Skye to her fenced-in yard to hold her until Animal Control could pick her up.”
Why did you get involved with Skye’s rescue?
When Michelle went back to the Shelter to visit Skye, she said, “I had a very strong feeling that my beloved German Shepherd Sascha was urging me to help Skye. Sascha passed away in 2016. Skye was very attentive and excited to see me.” Again, Michelle felt the presence of her Shepherd Sascha. At that point, Michelle became devoted to getting Skye to safety.
How did you pick W.O.L.F. Sanctuary?
“Since Skye was a wolf dog, I had already started to research wolf sanctuaries that could help Skye. I looked for financial stability, commitment to lifetime sanctuary where Skye would be able to live out her life in peace, accreditation and licensing, and a sense of compassion and nurturing for the animals. I decided that W.O.L.F. was the best place for Skye.”
Michelle contacted W.O.L.F., and everything fell into place. She felt that “it was meant to be.” W.O.L.F. had agreed to take Skye, and Michelle’s husband, who was a pilot, agreed that they would fly Skye to Colorado.
What was Skye’s last night in West Virginia like?
“Because we were leaving very early in the morning for the flight to Colorado, Skye came to stay at my house. We had a fabulous evening together. I got a hint of her mischievousness when I left her alone in the laundry room for five minutes. Skye decided to go counter surfing for food, and she broke off an already damaged toenail. When I came back in the room, there was blood all over the floor. Skye was completely unfazed. As I was mopping the floor, Skye leaned against me, just like my Sascha did. She wanted the attention! I leaned down and told her that the next day was going to be very difficult for her, but she would get through it. Skye kissed me on the cheek just the way Sascha always did. I started to cry. I felt like she knew I was trying to help her. Finally, Skye laid down on her bed, and I told her that tomorrow would be her new beginning.”
What was the journey to Colorado like for you and Skye?
In preparation for the long flight with several stops to refuel, Michelle’s veterinarian gave her a mild sedative to help Skye with any anxiety. Skye initially paced in her crate and Michelle gave her the pill. Skye slept the entire flight and she did not wake up even at a refueling stop. Michelle said, “I became worried that something was wrong with Skye.”
When the flight landed in Colorado, Skye was still too groggy to walk off the plane, and Michelle carried her to W.O.L.F.’s waiting vehicle. She gently placed Skye on a soft bed, and little wolf dog still did not wake up. Michelle became increasingly worried because Skye was still so lethargic. “At that point, I kissed her on the head and told her she made it to Colorado, she would be fine, and I would see her soon.“ W.O.L.F already had plans to take Skye to Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital for a checkup before her ride to the Sanctuary. Things unfolded at the hospital that no one expected.
How did you feel when you learned that Skye would need immediate emergency surgery?
“I was totally devastated. It took so much to get Skye to Colorado. I was so afraid that we had come all this way just to lose her. But I tried to remain hopeful and stay calm. I felt that we just could not lose her when she was so close to having a great life.”
Michelle said, “I knew she was in great hands at Colorado State University, but I had a similar case with a boxer in 2011 where her organs were in her chest cavity. The vet said if we did not do the surgery, she could not survive. So, we rolled the dice, and she had surgery. Unfortunately, her intestines had adhered to her lung, and she did not make it out of the surgery.”
Michelle recalled being at the vet hospital: “I was at the CSU hospital with W.O.L.F. staff, and I was scared to death that Skye wouldn’t be able to handle surgery since now it was clear that she had liver damage. I was so upset that my husband insisted that we leave and find a calm place to wait for news. Finally, I got the text that Skye was out of surgery, and she made it!”
Michelle knew that Skye had an incredibly strong will to live and that she would not give up – that she would fight to stay alive. But Michelle said she also had a strong sense of guilt – not just because of the expense of the medical care – but because it was an enormous emotional journey that W.O.L.F. had undertaken. “I knew firsthand how difficult it was to be so emotionally invested in a beloved animal. But I knew I had made the right decision to reach out to W.O.L.F. when I saw their unwavering commitment to Skye.”
What has your journey with Skye meant to you?
“When I first met Skye, it was like seeing my beloved Sascha again. There was this unexplainable connection, and I knew I had to help her before she gave up. Skye has been such an inspiration to me. Her journey has reaffirmed my commitment to helping those animals that I can. Skye touched me in a profound way. I think Skye understood on some level that so many kind people believed in her and wanted her to have a second chance.” With each setback that Skye has endured, Michelle felt very strongly that Skye would make it.
There was a great deal of publicity in West Virginia about Skye’s journey and the role that Michelle and her husband played in getting Skye safely to Colorado. Michelle said people often stopped her to ask about Skye and to tell her how happy they were that Michelle and her husband got her to W.O.L.F. Every Wednesday Michelle shares Skye’s story and the Skye Watch blog. Michelle “believes in Skye’s specialness.” She also understands that animals are so forgiving. “Sometimes people ask me why Skye wasn’t just euthanized rather than spend all that money on her. I know deep in my heart that every animal deserves a second chance, and I just had to help Skye. I am so honored to have played a small role in helping Skye to turn the page and begin the next chapter of her life. Once Skye got to Colorado, W.O.L.F. Sanctuary and all the wonderful people who support them made sure Skye got her second chance for a beautiful life.”