Kayla Renie, Mlive.com
Muskegon – A continuous chorus of howling echoes through the trees as dozens of wolf dogs sing to each other and passersby, hoping for attention and a piece of meat.
The animals live at Howling Timbers, an animal rescue and sanctuary 10 miles east of Muskegon.
Among the more than 100 animals at the sanctuary are 52 wolf dogs of varying amounts of wolf content.
Most live in large pens on the wooded property in Muskegon County’s Egelston Township. A select few are allowed to live inside the home of Brenda and Jim Pearson, who founded Howling Timbers in 2010.
Howling Timbers provides lifelong sanctuary primarily to wolves and wolf dogs, as well as farm animals and exotics, where they prioritize not only their animals’ physical needs but also their emotional ones.
If you were to tell Brenda Pearson 20 years ago that she would rescue and rehabilitate hundreds of animals over the course of her life, she would have laughed in disbelief. Back in the day, Brenda had strong opinions about keeping her house meticulously clean, and her one Scottish Terrier was enough responsibility.
Yet, because of her husband’s love for animals, particularly wolves, she had a change of heart.
Now she spends her days caring for wolf dogs and dozens of other animals, including, birds, chinchillas and reptiles.
Howling Timbers grew out of the Pearsons’ West Michigan SPCA, which was founded in 2000 as a cat shelter and spay and neuter clinic.
“Over time, we shifted our focus from the cats back to the animals that people don’t focus on,” Brenda said.
Over the next several years, they expanded their operation to wildlife rehabilitation, rescuing farm and exotic animals and striving to educate the public on the proper care and humane treatment of all animal species through guided tours on the property and outreach programs.
Although the Pearsons are open to helping any animal in need, Howling Timbers’ primary focus has always been taking care of wolves and wolf dogs.
“Some have a pinch of wolf but are mostly dog, and some are just the opposite,” Brenda explained.
The wolf dogs differ by size, color and personality, but each has a name and is loved and cared for equally. While a majority of the wolf dogs share outdoor enclosures with a partner, three — Denali, Athena and Lakota — live alongside the Pearson’s domesticated dog Lexi in their home.
In 2000, it became illegal in Michigan to own wolves and wolf dogs due to public safety reasons, explained Brenda, but the law differs slightly by state.
The Pearsons work closely with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and receive most of their wolf dogs from various shelters or humane societies. Additionally, they accept animals that have been surrendered by their owners.
Brenda Pearson has traveled all over the United States to rescue wolf dogs, as far west as Washington and as far south as Florida.
As a nonprofit organization, Howling Timbers depends on donations and the help of volunteers.
Twenty-five people regularly help at the sanctuary, some more often than others.
Howling Timbers accepts volunteers of any age who are dependable, able to take directions and are “willing to love and take care of animals,” Pearson said.