WHITLEY COUNTY — One local rescue organization has grown in numbers after an opportunity out of Texas presented itself.

Refuge Ridge, a 501(c)3, an environmental /humane education learning center and wolf dog sanctuary, serves as home to several rescued wolf dogs and dogs. Recently a volunteer at the facility explained to Connie Howard and Marty Wilson, who organize and run the rescue, about a situation in Texas that they thought Refuge Ridge could help with.

The Athen Daily Review reported that, Villalobos Rescue Center (of the popular television show "Pit Bulls and Parolees") owner Tia Torres and her team recently came to Athens to assist the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office with the rescue of 50 wolf hybrids.

Also reported by the Athen Daily Review, the HCSO responded to a death investigation on June 28 where they discovered dozens of animals left neglected on seven acres of East Texas woods, some stranded without food or water at the back of the property until their enclosures were discovered much later.

Howard with Refuge Ridge in Whitley County confirmed there were approximately 90 wolf dogs/dogs on the Texas property that were left without an owner or proper care.

“It was just awful,” Wilson said. “They were hungry, they kept going off the property—it was awful."

Wilson said officials in Texas were begging for wolf dogs rescues to help. But Refuge Ridge was full. They already had 30 wolf dogs. But volunteers and members of Rescue Ridge met, discussed and made the decision to help.

Originally they planned to bring only two wolf dogs to Kentucky but Nebula, Epsilon, Jannali and Phoenix were running in a pack so the ridge received four.

Howard said officials from Texas sent a message last Saturday evening and the dogs arrived the next day.

Howard and Wilson said when the four wolf dogs arrived they were terrified and malnourished. Thankfully the wolf dogs are coming around. For now they are being kept together but separate from the other dogs as they are being given time to decompress. They are being treated by a local veterinary office but won’t see the veterinarian until they have made some behavioral progress.

For both Howard and Wilson, it is extremely important that the wolf dogs are treated properly and respectfully and given time to heal emotionally.

“We can really see them starting to trust,” said Wilson. “We were so afraid they were going to shut down.”

Howard said two of the young one are even starting to play. Volunteers and officials will go in to the habitat and simply sit with the wolf dogs, making no sudden movements, hoping to earn trust.

“The changes we’ve seen just in one week, I wouldn’t have expected,” Howard said.

Three of the wolf dogs are approximately 7 to 8 moths old and the other one is 4 to 6 years old.

Howard said since they’ve rescued this group, they’ve picked up over 1,000 Facebook followers and several donations. The group is thankful for the donations because the pack will need a habitat built and the price of lumber is quite expensive.

While Howard and Wilson are thrilled to have the wolf dogs safe on the ridge, it was a truly heartbreaking experience receiving them as they could see the defeat in their eyes when they arrived.

These aren’t the first wolf dogs that Refuge Ridge has received from Texas, nor is it the first time they’ve worked with Tia Torres and knowing Torres is working on finding the rest of the wolf dogs homes in Texas brings comfort.

As well as providing a safe place for local wildlife to live in peace, the mission of Refuge Ridge is to provide education on the importance of protecting the environment, including predator education, providing tips for green living, and encouraging the humane treatment of all animals, pets and wildlife alike.

In addition to the Rescue Ridge’s permanent residents, they have rescued dogs in need of forever homes. Refuge Ridge is also now accredited by the American Sanctuary Association (ASA).

Aside from the howls of the wolf dogs, over 20 volunteers, a learning center for visitors and school groups and two soon to be glamorous camping sites make the ridge a unique place to visit and invest in.

Anyone who wishes to donate to Refuge Ridge or to help with the new wolf dogs visit http://refugeridge.org/donate/ or the mailing address is P.O. Box 1082, Williamsburg, KY 40769.

“We run this for the animals,” said Wilson. “We want them to be happy and to be comfortable in their own skin and around us. We just want them to never have to worry, to never have to stress.”

Howard echoed that thought.

“We want them to see and understand that love exists.” Howard added.

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