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Brother Wolf revives pets’ health, socialability and adoptability

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By Pete Zamplas –

Brother Wolf Animal Rescue is a paws-on center for pets’ social development, and bonding between them and prospective owners.

Non-profit Brother Wolf runs three facilities together off Glendale Avenue near Swannanoa River, a mile down Thompson Street from Biltmore Avenue in Biltmore Village. The Joyce B. Cambron Adoption Center and shelter is open 9-7 daily. Brother Wolf is gradually raising $400,000 to buy it. The “re-tail” (retail) shop offers grooming, pet supplies and such treats as Himalayan Dog Chew Yaky Yam. The thrift store drew a steady crowd on warm Saturday, for its yard sale.

The no-kill shelter includes eight concrete kennels, which shield animals from view of each other better than cages. A concrete playground indoors leads to a play area outside with six-foot-high fence, where dogs exercise one at a time or in groups as part of socializing. Fourteen kennels are getting private fenced-in runs added from them to outside, said building contractor Jason Byrd who is doing the work and much of it donated.

Also on the shelter’s west side, Corning Inc. Foundation plans to soon build a dog park as a civic project, said Community Service Director Tom Chickos. He is among Brother Wolf volunteers. A private detective by trade, he also handles shelter security and supervises penal work crews there.

Executive Director Denise Bitz started Brother Wolf in 2007, to help fill a void. “There were so many homeless or orphaned animals, but not enough resources to help them,” she said. A registered nurse for 12 years, she has adopted 11 dogs herself from the shelter. Most are hounds.

Her Spitz and mini Doberman Pinscher can bite. Bitz said the Dobie is a defensive “fear biter. People mainly get bitten because they don’t know how to read dog body langauge, and warnings most dogs give before biting.” Yet Brother Wolf caregiver Adam Drillings, 25, said signals vary. A growl, normally a sign of aggression, can be playful.

On Saturday, their playful nipping abounded in a productive interaction in the mingling room. There, a prospective owner meets the pet, to see how they interact and also with an existing pet. Mallory McBrayer, 21, brought Aspen, her three-month-old Labrador-shepherd mix. They both mingled with Dexter, a nearly five-year-old Australian shepherd mix. McBrayer was considering temporarily “fostering” Dex, with an option to adopt. Dex chased Aspen, and at times gave friendly nips. The two dogs seemed to hit it off, McBrayer said.

Drillings, who supervised the greeting, agreed. He described the often up-tempo interaction as spirited, yet with “relaxed” compatibility. Still, he counseled McBrayer about mixing the grown dog with her puppy. He noted the elder dog might tire first in playing, and can use a separate play area.

If the prospective adopter brings his or her pet cat, “we’ll do an introduction” with the dog in question, Bitz said.

Bitz said “we’re matchmakers” for animals and caregivers. “We get to know the animals, while they’re with us. We look for people and animals who are compatible, who jive with the same likes and interests.” Postive feedback on matches from pet owners are on Christmas cards, or posts to Brother Wolf on Facebook. Bitz said “that makes it all worthwhile.”

Alicia Chickos, soon to be Bitz’s assistant, works in the shop. “A frightened dog or cat finally comes along, with human love and touch. The love from these animals, in return, is the best feeling you could ever get.”

Most unwanted animals are brought in by owners, Bitz said. Some “jump too much” for their liking. Ian Whitley, 20, who also works in the shelter, likes how the animals “release stress” in their play time. Dogs are walked by staff in the mornings, and volunteers take them for long hikes in the afternoon.

Kitten season starts in about a week, and lasts into summer. For now there are mostly dogs among more than 350 animals in Brother Wolf. About 200 get “foster” care by staff, volunteers and others — some indefinitely, others advancing in training and health toward adoptability, Bitz said. “We take animals with medical issues, that are elder or too young, or have behavioral issues. We won’t adopt out a truly aggressive dog. Instead, they may stay in ‘forever fostering.’ We had to euthanize overly-aggressive dogs only twice.”

Brother Wolf takes in some strays, only after they go to the Buncombe County animal shelter where their owners can find them. “We may say we want the dog back, after his time (three days) is up,” Bitz said, “so it is not euthanized.”

Several animals are transfers from “kill” shelters. One was Kalina, a two-year-old Lab mix. “I loved Kalina. She’s such a nice dog,” Bitz said. “We saved her from a gassing shelter, in Nash County (with a drive-thru drop-off). Her puppies were adopted there, but not her. We got her spaded. We bonded with her.”

Angie and Chris Georgi adopted Kalina a month ago. Their daughter Mileena turns 17 next month. “We lost our dog we had for nearly 10 years (Ivie, a 15-year-old Lab) six weeks ago,” Angie said. “Our hearts were so empty. We needed to get another dog.” They didn’t “click” with other dogs, for two hours. Then Kalina was back from a walk.

“She connected immediately to me,” Angie said. “She follows me all around.” She said Kalina is “skiddish” around men and over loud noises, perhaps having sustained abuse. But she is adapting, more willing to be petted upon realizing her new owners are kinder via tasty treats, a soft bed and “unconditional love,” Angie said.

The Georgi family, among others, are leery over more gregarious dog breeds. They appreciated Brother Wolf staff questioning to figure “what we’re looking for in our pet,” Angie said. She praised what she saw at Brother Wolf. “The staff shows love. They’re patient, and so kind and compassionate with these animals.”

Brother Wolf special events include Run for the Paws 5K run and mile walk April 7, 1:30 p.m., in Fletcher Park. Winners in age groups get prizes. The Wagging Wellness Fair follows, with pet and health vendors. The Hillbionnaires play bluegrass. The entry fee is $25. People can register online.

For more about Brother Wolf, call the store and offices at 575-2411 or shelter at 505-3440, or check www.bwar.org.

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