Monday, August 2, 2010

Sanctuary: A guest post by Rebecca Rasmussen

Rebecca Rasmussen is the author of the novel The Bird Sisters, forthcoming from Crown/Random House April 19, 2011. She lives in St. Louis with her husband Hans and daughter Ava Lily, and teaches writing and literature at Fontbonne University. Visit her at or at

Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary in New Mexico offers an alternative to euthanasia for the captive-bred wolf, an animal of grace, intelligence and mystery; a symbol of what is wild and free, yet forced to live in captivity in a world obsessed with possessing a part of that wildness.

*note:"If you’re interested in helping wolves –today’s topic – please visit this wonderful organization"

As a guest writer, Rebecca tells us about her new novel, Sanctuary: "The reason I began writing this second novel about wolves is because sometimes I think we, as a population, are so focused on protecting our families – Are the kids reading enough books and eating enough leafy greens? Is my husband taking his cholesterol medicine? What time is soccer pick-up again? Are the kids looking both ways before they cross the street? – and we often forget (I do this all the time! Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.) that there is an entire world that would benefit from that kind of staunch protection. 
I wonder what would happen if we took care of our animals and our earth, if we asked of them half the questions we ask ourselves and our families on a daily basis, whether or not the precarious state of our wild animals, our old growth forests, our rivers and lakes, would be any different than it is today."

Excerpt from Sanctuary: A novel-in-progress
by Rebecca Rasmussen
     Chana turned up in our vegetable garden on a cool June morning. Her stunning Arctic coat was blackened by old blood. At first, we thought her wounds—the blisters and lesions on her hind legs and buttocks, her exposed ribs—had been inflicted in the wild. But when Chana finally allowed Lee to come into the garden, on his hands and knees, he saw the spiked collar embedded in her fur, a cardinal sign of domestication and abuse. What we didn’t know then was that she’d traveled nearly two hundred miles from her home in Elk Springs or that her owner had kept her on a two-foot chain since she was a pup and visited her with his steel toe boots each time he lost his temper. The way he figured, or so he said in court: beating a wolf was better than beating his wife.

     After we’d successfully adopted Chana, Lee and I heard about the others. There was Bruno, whose owner had struck him with a tire iron at a trailhead in the Medicine Bow Mountains because he wouldn’t get in the car. There was Stella, who’d been tranquilized by an aerial hunter in Alaska and brought to an irresponsible breeder in Colorado. There was Mr. Shyloh, Coco, and Whitney—all awaiting euthanasia at Animal Control in Fort Collins—and hundreds of wolves and wolf dogs just like them all over the country. And there was Ishi, a skittish Timber/Malamute hybrid, brought to us by a man who said if we didn’t take her, he would drive Ishi down the road and shoot her. We did what we could.

     Neither of us had experience with wild animals, though Lee was much more of an adventurer than me. I was the kind of person who read books about bears and mountain lions, but did not welcome the opportunity to encounter either on a hiking trail. As far as pets went, I’d grown up with the usual: a cat, a dog, a fish, and a hamster. Unusually, however, each of our pets was eventually “liberated” from its enclosure. When I was eight, I remember my mother taking Henry, my hamster, and me to the forest preserve and convincing me to let him go.

“You want Henry to be happy, don’t you?” my mother said.
“And want him to be free, don’t you?”
“And you love him?”
Yes. Yes.
“Then you know what to do, Adie.”

     In one graceless motion, I took Henry out of his cage, kissed him ceremoniously, and sent him to his death.
When I was old enough to understand what had happened, I was also old enough to understand that, in Henry’s case, I was as much to blame as my mother. I loved Henry because he was cute and fluffy and little. I loved him because he drank water out of a bottle, like a baby. I loved Henry as though he was a stuffed animal, which, along with my mother’s loathing to clean his cage, sealed his fate, for which I have always felt sorry.
He was just a hamster, people have told me.
They were just wolves.

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  1. You got wolves and New Mexico. You got me!

  2. Yeah, nice combination. I'm with you. Thanks for the comment, evf.