By Amelia Dickson / The Olympian
A female wolf that bit off part of a 3-year-old Thurston County boy’s arm in April has been relocated to an out-of-state wildlife sanctuary, along with her pups and her Alaskan malamute mate.
The puppies were born in Thurston County Animal Services’ custody after the adult animals were seized following the attack, said Animal Services Director Ric Torgerson.
“Typically, in a lot of these situations, they end up euthanized,” Torgerson said. “It’s hard to find homes for them. They were lucky in this case.”
Torgerson said tests confirm that the female is 100 percent wolf, and the male is a malamute. That makes the puppies a wolf-dog hybrid.
“In this state, wolf hybrids are considered to be dogs, but they behave differently than dogs in many situations,” Torgerson said.
It’s not legal in Washington to privately own or breed wolves.
But the animals’ former owner, Rick Miracle, said the female, named Cheyenne, isn’t a full-blooded wolf. He calls her a “high-content wolf-dog,” and said that her wolf content is so high that the dog portion wouldn’t register on a test. He said that Cheyenne isn’t mean, she’s just extremely food-motivated.
“She’s not aggressive in a mean way,” Miracle said. “She just liked food.”
He believes that the boy was trying to feed Cheyenne a piece of pizza when he was attacked.
The malamute is named Ed, he said.
A Thurston County Sheriff’s Office report says deputies responded to Miracle’s home, located on the 7000 block of Meridian Road Southeast, at about 3:15 p.m. April 3. Multiple people had called 911 and reported that an animal had bitten off part of a child’s arm.
The boy was flown to Harborview Medical Center and survived his injuries. Information about the boy is limited because he is a minor. However, the Sheriff’s Office report requested that Child Protective Services be contacted regarding the incident.
“Entering the property, I could see that there was a large wooden cage with metal wiring just outside of the main entrance of the property, inside the fenced area,” wrote Deputy Evan Cofer in his report. “Inside the cage were two wolf/malamute breed dogs. At the entrance to the cage was a large amount of blood where one of the two animals has bitten (the child’s) lower right arm off. There was a blood trail from the cage leading into the house.”
Miracle told deputies he had been renting a room to the boy and his mother, a 31-year-old Thurston County woman. The woman reported that she was in her bedroom at the time of the attack, and she thought one of the other tenants was watching the child. The other tenant had been in her own bedroom, according to the report.
No adults witnessed the attack.
Miracle told deputies that he warned both the child and his mother to stay away from the cage, according to court documents.
Ed and Cheyenne, who was pregnant at the time of the attack, spent all of their time in a large enclosure on Miracle’s property. Their former owner said it wasn’t because they posed a risk to humans.
“It’s not that I think my dogs are dangerous,” Miracle said. “It’s that they’re animals. An animal is unpredictable no matter what.”
However, Miracle said he has a German shepherd that is allowed to roam his property.
Ed and Cheyenne aren’t the first of Miracle’s animals to end up at a sanctuary. Angel, Zoe and Lakota reside at Wolf Haven International, located near Tenino. State law allows wolves to reside at sanctuaries like Wolf Haven.
Wolf Haven’s website describes Lakota as a “male gray wolf who was privately owned in Washington state. After he escaped from his backyard enclosure and ran through a nearby town, Lakota was nearly euthanized.”
A blog post penned by Wolf Haven’s Communications Director Kim Young and Sanctuary Director Wendy Spencer explained that both Angel and Zoe were rescued from “deplorable conditions” earlier this year.
The post alleges that Angel was purchased by a local wolf-dog breeder, and that he decided to “get rid of her” after she went six years without producing offspring. Zoe was the runt of an unrelated half-wolf litter and was housed with her mother. The two animals fought for dominance, the post says.
Miracle said the animals were his, and he always took good care of them. He said he gave Angel, Zoe and Lakota to Wolf Haven “because they really wanted them.”
But why breed wolf-dogs? Miracle said he had one as a boy, and it was a wonderful animal. When he moved from Georgia to Washington state several years ago, breeding wolf-dogs seemed like the right fit.
“When I think of the Northwest, I think of living free and John Denver,” Miracle said. “My intention was never to be the guy who stuck out like a sore thumb and got all this attention.”