Adventures in Florida: The Seacrest Wolf Preserve

Over the weekend, I experienced the adventure of a lifetime when my dad, sister, and I took a trip to the Seacrest Wolf Preserve. Tucked away in Chipley, Florida, the Seacrest Wolf Preserve was one of those bucket list items I never even knew I had until recently, when I met one of the volunteers at the Blue Springs Manatee Festival. I come from a family of animal lovers (who also happen to be involved in German Shepherd rescue efforts), so visiting the Seacrest Wolf Preserve was the perfect family getaway.

For those who are unfamiliar, the Seacrest Wolf Preserve is a non-profit organization dedicated to wolf conservation. Covering more than 400 acres, the preserve is a safe haven for several wolf packs, as well as foxes, skunks, a coyote, and other wildlife. Seacrest offers both public and private tours, allowing visitors to meet and interact with the wolves and smaller animals.

For our first visit, we decided to check out the Saturday Wolf Encounter Tour. When we arrived, we met Cynthia Watkins, one of Seacrest’s co-founders, and it was easy to see her passion for these beautiful animals. For just $25 admission, we had the chance to tour three wolf habitats and meet the packs who live there, as well as visit the foxes and skunks in the small animal areas.

This experience was life-changing, and I can’t wait to return for another visit. Within the wolf habitats, we were actually able to pet, play, and howl with the wolves– we even received a few wolf kisses! I fell in love with an energetic 10-month-old pup who reminded me a lot of my first German Shepherd, Shana, at that age. 🙂

Throughout the day, we learned about how packs form and how difficult it truly is to be a “lone wolf.” We also learned about why conservation efforts are a necessity, as wolves are incredibly vital to the ecosystem, and how greed and legislation have put their lives in danger.

During the tour, we talked about how important it is to speak for the wolves, because they cannot speak for themselves. Supporting organizations like Seacrest is a great way to give back to these incredible animals and fight against the regulations that have put them in harm’s way. Visiting the preserve gives you a greater appreciation and empathy for an often misunderstood creature, and is a must-do for anyone who wants to get up close and personal with a wolf.

I’m excited to return with my family for a VIP Tour in the near future! I highly recommend Seacrest (learn more about tours here) for all of you animal lovers. It’s an experience you won’t forget.

Link Love Wednesday: Goat Cuddlers Wanted

a6dc09ca9c131ce46ff4c903ec1f1c2eHappy Wednesday! 🙂 Hope everyone is having a fabulous week. In my little world, I’m working on crossing a few more items off my 25 at 25 Bucket List, applying for graduate school, and figuring out some exciting upcoming travel plans. What have you been up to? As always, feel free to share your favorite recent links or plans in the comments section below!

Things I’m Loving Lately

What are your favorite links from the week? Share your latest finds in the comments below!

The Friday Five: Reasons I Love My Dog

In the summer of 2001, just a few months shy of my eleventh birthday, we brought our German Shepherd puppy home from the most socially inept dog breeder on the planet. Shana, whose name means “beautiful,” was the first dog my family ever owned and the most difficult puppy imaginable. As time wore on, however, she grew into a loving, loyal, well-trained dog and one of my best friends.

Now, at ten and a half years old, she has slowed down a little because of injuries, but has remained extremely healthy for her age. I love her to pieces and can’t imagine life without her. Unfortunately, last weekend she had to have surgery, and although she was recovering well, she went back into surgery again today and is being monitored once again. Because I go to school 200 miles away from home, I don’t get to see her, and so I have to think of her from afar, rely on phone updates from my family and hope she is doing okay. In honor of my beautiful, courageous dog, I would like to dedicate this week’s post to her and some of the wonderful things I love about her. (I know I’m sounding like one of those crazy animal people, but I don’t care!)

The Friday Five: Reasons I Love My Dog

1. Her love is unconditional.
No matter how bad I feel about myself one day, no matter how my grades look or how my diet is going or how many of my goals I accomplish, I know that when I walk through the door, she will give me that same excited greeting she always does. Because she wasn’t socialized much before we got her when she was young, she has a somewhat shy disposition and doesn’t open up to most people easily, but she knows her pack and loves us all in spite of our faults. Shana picks up on our feelings, and when one of us needs her, she will keep us company and protect us.

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2. She acts as a mother to our little dog, Charlie.
Just after Shana turned nine years old, we bought a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy (aptly named Charlie) for my mom. At first, Shana wasn’t so sure about having another dog in the house, but right away he wanted to gain her attention and approval. Charlie will turn two in November, and he follows Shana wherever she goes, trying to learn the same tricks she does and sitting with her whenever she’ll have him. In that time, Shana has grown attached to Charlie, playing with him in the house, protecting him against other dogs and grooming him when she thinks it is necessary. The two have become the best of friends, and without her for the past few weeks, Charlie has been completely lost. He really does seem to think that Shana is his mother.

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3. She has above-human intelligence.
For years, I have believed that Shana is actually smarter than half of the people I know. I absolutely love that you can talk to her and she responds appropriately. If you tell her to “go find Dad,” she will specifically look for him. If the guardhouse calls to notify you that your guests are coming, and you tell them to “let them in,” she immediately barks when you hang up the phone and morphs into guard-dog mode. She mastered the traditional “tricks” early on, but understands more complex commands and English words. One time, when we were practicing Charlie’s tricks with him (some of which were tricks Shana never learned), Shana caught on quickly herself. Every day, she amazes me in what she knows and what she picks up on, even now that she is no longer a puppy.

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4. She tries to keep the peace.
If any two people in my house are arguing, Shana always tries to calm everyone down. Similarly, when the entire family goes to the pet store or an outdoor restaurant and temporarily splits up, Shana looks out for everyone to return. She constantly tries to keep the pack together.

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5. She brings joy to our family each and every day.
Have dinner with my family one night, and we will talk more about our dogs than we do about our day. Just one look into those big brown eyes and you know that she loves you with every fiber of her being. Some people don’t understand, especially those who don’t have pets, but my dogs mean more to me than any mere possession, and they are one of my favorite parts of coming home. Having dogs had a profound effect on my life and on the person I grew up to be.

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I am praying for my Shana’s healthy return home and can’t wait to hear some good news. If you could send her your positive energy over the next few days, it would mean a lot to me. Happy weekend, everyone!