What happens, finally, is you turn a corner – this one being deep in New Hampshire at the bottom of a frost-heaved dirt road over a Western ridge. There is a sign there, crude letters on simple planks. "Loki Clan Wolf Refuge," it says. And you turn that corner and then you see one. You see a wolf. Her name, you learn later, is Wayah. You're here to meet the man who saved her.
In a minute that man, Fred Keating, will watch you watching Wayah, and will begin telling you about her. To begin with, she is not entirely a wolf, despite everything your senses tell you. She's a wolf dog, a mix made by breeding wolves in captivity with dogs. (Wolves won't mate with dogs in the wild.) In most states, Wayah is illegal; in the rest, she's a bad idea for all but a very, very few. "People get them, thinking they'll be pets," Mr. Keating says, "dogs, but cooler. But they're not pets. They're wolves. Doesn't matter if their wolf blood is only 1 percent – that makes them as smart as a 12-year-old human, compared with dogs who are like 3-month-old infants. They're wolves, and that's how they act."
Which means they're in trouble. While no official statistics exist, advocacy groups estimate that some 500,000 of the animals – out of a population as high as 1.5 million in the United States – are at risk of maltreatment or euthanasia because of their temperament as adult animals. They need to roam (up to 40 miles a day), to be outside, to live in a pack, but many are chained, caged, or even abandoned. The problem is getting worse with Americans' growing taste for exotic animals. Keating, who rescued his first wolf dog 20 years ago, started Loki Refuge to save as many as he could. Since its construction began in the '90s, Loki has become one of the largest sanctuaries of its kind.