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Alum dedicated to saving wolf dogs

Steve Shaffer has found his heaven on Earth.

His personal piece of paradise is WOLF — a rescue organization and sanctuary near Fort Collins, Colo., that is home to 30 captive-bred wolves and wolf dogs.

WOLF’s 180 acres of pine and aspen forest are a sanctuary for Shaffer, too. For the past decade, Shaffer (BSBA accounting ’72) has been volunteering at the facility — feeding animals, cleaning and maintaining their enclosures, working to rehabilitate them, conducting educational outreach and chairing the nonprofit’s finance and accounting committee.

“Steve goes way beyond the average volunteer,” says sanctuary founder Frank Wendland.

Shaffer, a semi-retired CPA and entrepreneur, even relocated from Littleton, Colo., to be closer to the sanctuary, where he now volunteers at least three days each week. Working with wolves is emotionally satisfying, Shaffer says, and it lowers his blood pressure and blood sugar, too (he has Type II diabetes).

“I don’t even miss DU hockey since I’ve been up here,” Shaffer says, walking slowly toward a forested enclosure. He’s greeted by excited yips from Merlin and Luna; a wolf dog named Arkte peers warily from a brush-shrouded perch high on the hill.

“It makes my day when they come up to the fence,” Shaffer says, noting that when they arrive at WOLF, many animals are sick, malnourished and wary of humans. Arkte’s story is typical, he says: She spent six years confined to a travel kennel because her owner couldn’t manage her dominant personality.

“They can challenge authority; that’s a big reason people can’t keep them as pets,” Shaffer says. “They trained me pretty quickly, though.”

The Humane Society of the United States considers wolf dogs to be wild animals and advocates for an international ban on their private possession, breeding and sales. Although they make notoriously difficult house pets and are illegal in some states, wolf dog puppies are still widely available. But many are abused and neglected, winding up chained in backyards or penned in garages, Shaffer says, noting that thousands of wolf dogs are killed in the U.S. every year.

WOLF has helped rescue more than 7,500 animals since its founding in 1995. “It’s a place for these animals to go where they won’t be euthanized due to the ignorance of people,” Shaffer says.

Shaffer shares WOLF’s mission of education as a measure of prevention. “You may think it’s cool to have a wolf dog as a pet, but you’re not doing the animals any favors,” he admonishes. “You don’t know what you’re in for.”

He learned firsthand. Shaffer says he became “hooked” on wolves years ago after “inheriting” Cheyenne, a wolf dog, from his ex.

Cheyenne’s ashes are scattered at WOLF, and Shaffer says that eventually, his will be, too.

“I have a great admiration, love and respect for [wolves],” Shaffer says. “If I could spend all of my time up here, I would.”

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