It was just a normal day in 2008 when the phone started ringing at the Shy Wolf Sanctuary in Naples, Florida. On the line was a man who needed help – fast. This person had recently acquired a puppy from a pal of his, but there was a problem. The then-eight-month-old pup just wouldn’t stop growing and had become too big to handle. The creature eventually ended up at Shy Wolf, where his DNA was analyzed by specialists. And when the results came in, it became pretty obvious why the beast was so big.
The pup’s name was Yuki, and he’d had a pretty difficult start in life. After his former owner had made that call to the Shy Wolf Sanctuary, he seemingly lost patience and couldn’t wait to get the pup off his hands. So, the individual abandoned him at another, less specialized shelter.
According to the Shy Wolf Sanctuary, two of its members called Deanna and Nancy made the journey to pick Yuki up from this other shelter. And they immediately understood why his owner had struggled so much with him. He was an enormous pup, but his temperament initially appeared to be rather tame. Unfortunately, Yuki wasn’t to remain so docile for long.
Yuki was brought to the Shy Wolf Sanctuary, but the organization notes that he quickly picked up an injury on his leg. This meant that the young pup needed several surgeries, which would’ve been stressful for him. He showed off a far angrier side during this time – an edge that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to find in your average domestic pooch.
Yuki had revealed a more ferocious side to his nature, but that’s not to say that he’d lost control entirely. In fact, it appeared that the pup really did enjoy being fussed over by certain people. But if any human companions attempted to impose their will over him, then he was liable to be triggered. And this could sometimes happen unexpectedly.
But what group of people did Yuki take a shine to? Well, it appears that the young pup had a thing for women! He tended to tolerate a few specific ladies from the sanctuary, but even then Yuki could be unpredictable. Seemingly at random, the animal could change his mind and decide that he no longer wanted to see a particular woman again. The giant, then, really did have an untamed dimension to his personality. Yet when we consider his genetic makeup, that’s really not too surprising.
Given Yuki’s wilder side, it’s a good thing that he ended up at the Shy Wolf Sanctuary! After all, not many places would be equipped to deal with a creature as large and potentially erratic as he was. Though it seems that this place was up to the task of providing Yuki with the best possible quality of life.
According to the organization, Shy Wolf was set up by Kent and Nancy Smith in 1993 with the intention of taking in creatures that other shelters couldn’t handle. And the sanctuary has housed a vast variety of species over the years. Everything from bobcats, cougars, tortoises, wolves and rare foxes have all called this place home.
The Shy Wolf Sanctuary claims that it has taken in well over 1,200 creatures since its establishment. It has also apparently taught tens of thousands of people about wildlife. The group really emphasizes education in the course of its work, as it wants to see animals and humans living in harmony together.
Shy Wolf’s educational programs are vitally important, but the group’s more practical work is essential, too. After all, ending up at such an institution can often be an animal’s last chance for a reasonable life. If it wasn’t for organizations like this, then certain animals may be perceived as too dangerous. And some drastic steps may sadly be taken.
But by providing animals with homes, Shy Wolf and groups like it can help to keep them from getting into trouble. Also, if human beings can be better educated about wildlife, then outcomes are likely to be better, too. It’s important to reach people, as a Shy Wolf worker named Brittany Allen explained to Bored Panda.
Allen said, “The animals I work with have never been in the wild and never will be, so they are more socialized. We show off their adorable moments in the hope of helping people identify with them at least and maybe change their fear response into a healthy respect through education. [The organization also gives animals] a chance at a decent life when otherwise they would be euthanized.”
So, the enormous pup Yuki could consider himself lucky that he ended at Shy Wolf in 2008. As we mentioned earlier, he was only eight months old upon arrival. Yet Yuki was already too big for any untrained people to deal with. And his growth didn’t seem like it was going to stop for a while yet!
Though Yuki seemed calm when he first arrived at Shy Wolf, an incident ultimately revealed his darker side. An unnamed director at the organization spoke to Bored Panda about this, remembering, “Shortly after arriving at Shy Wolf Sanctuary, Yuki managed to catch a leg on a palmetto and opened up a wound on his right rear knee. The wound ended up taking a total of five surgeries to finally repair and in that time Yuki became cage aggressive.”
From that point on, the sanctuary staff apparently had to be careful around Yuki. Volunteer Judy told Bored Panda, “Yuki is one of those animals that he lets you know if he wants you in his enclosure or not. He has a very small group of women that he allows in his enclosure called his ‘harem.’”
Over time, of course, Yuki grew up. And as an adult, his size was immense. According to media reports, he weighed something close to 120 pounds and was over 5 foot long. Such a sizable creature required plenty of food to keep going, so Yuki was fed around 10 pounds of uncooked meat four times each week.
But it turns out that there was another lady in Yuki’s life beyond the female staffers at Shy Wolf. Yep, the enormous pup lived with a canine called Bella. And it seems that the latter was in charge – even though Yuki was larger.
Despite his unpredictability and occasional outbursts, Yuki was well loved by those who volunteered at the sanctuary. Jeremy Albrecht, for example, is just one person who was fond of the beast. Speaking to Bored Panda, the staffer – who started working with Shy Wolf in 2013 – elaborated on the animal’s reputation there.
Albrecht explained, “Today, Yuki is one of the most interesting animals in the sanctuary. He is not an easy guy to get to know, but he does have a small number of volunteers [who] he has bonded with. [Yuki] has gained the nickname ‘Woowoo,’ because when he sees any of his chosen volunteers that is the noise he makes – beckoning that volunteer to come spend time with him.”
Yey Yuki’s popularity has extended beyond the confines of the Shy Wolf Sanctuary. You see, volunteer Britanny Allen had taken to posting pictures of the creature on social media. One photo in particular went viral and brought Yuki to the attention of people around the world.
The image in question presented Yuki as a giant – with Allen herself seeming tiny in comparison. He looked so big, in fact, that people online even started to wonder if the image had been doctored. In response, Allen posted a picture of Yuki on Instagram looking somewhat disgruntled. She captioned it, “The face we make when people say Yuki’s picture is Photoshopped… It’s just his fat angle guys. We all have one.”
The sight of an enormous beast happily sitting on top of a woman’s lap obviously struck a chord with lots of people. The image spread widely, which was really good for the Shy Wolf Sanctuary. It brought attention to the organization’s work and helped in its endeavor to raise funds through donations.
At one stage, Allen’s image of Yuki was inexplicably removed from Instagram. Though she wasn’t deterred and decided to repost a live version of it again in November 2020. The animal lover also included a few other pictures taken when that original one had been. This was to prove that the initial viral post hadn’t been photoshopped, though she acknowledged that the angle had affected the image.
Accompanying the image, Allen posted, “Instagram decided to take Yuki’s famous pic down for some reason. So, here is his live photo and some other angles from the same moment. Obviously he looks way bigger than he is. [Yuki] isn’t small, but the angle does make him seem like you can put a saddle on him. The internet took off with this photo because he looks huge, but I more so love the fact that Yuki wanted to sit in my lap.”
So, the angle of that viral image did make Yuki seem a little larger than he actually was in reality. Though that doesn’t take away from the fact that he really was a huge, fearsome beast. But how is it that he actually came to reach such an immense size in the first place?
Well, experts decided to analyze Yuki’s DNA when he first arrived at his new home. They subsequently discovered his genetic makeup, and it turned out that the creature was a mixture of German shepherd and Siberian husky. Yet these two breeds reportedly only amounted to around 12 percent of his composition.
In actual fact, Yuki was technically more wolf than any breed of dog. Allen told Bored Panda, “His DNA testing came back as 87.5 percent gray wolf, 8.6 percent Siberian husky and 3.9 percent German shepherd.” In other words, Yuki was a hybrid creature known as a wolfdog!
Pure wolves tend to steer clear of any humans they encounter, but wolfdogs are apparently more unpredictable. Their behavior can vary from one individual to another thanks to the mixture of dog and wolf traits. Given this ambiguity, it’s fair to say that wolfdogs present a set of challenges to any prospective owners.
Members of the Shy Wolf team explained as much to Local10.com in March 2019. They said, “[We] try to never speak about animals using absolutes, because there is always some individual out there [who] will prove you wrong. But wolfdogs are extremely difficult animals to manage. And while it has been done successfully in a home, 99.99 percent of people are not capable of being successful.”
Brittany Allen also echoed this sentiment in an interview with Bored Panda. She said, “Wolfdogs are a bit more difficult in my opinion because you don’t exactly know how much wolf behavior versus dog behavior they will have. Yuki isn’t necessarily more social versus the pure wolves. We have pure wolves who will run away when they see new people because they are generally shy, curious animals. Yuki, however, will run straight to a new person and if he doesn’t like them will become aggressive towards them.”
Allen went on, “With the pure wolves, once they know you and feel comfortable with you, they can be affectionate and loving but they will always be wolves. You can’t get in the way of them and their food, and you must respect their boundaries. They are both social with people they accept in their space, but they are very selective as well. This also applies to other wolf [and] wolfdog companions. They are very selective, but when they bond it is pretty unique.”
Given his nature as a wolfdog, there was nowhere better for Yuki to spend his life than the Shy Wolf Sanctuary. And having arrived there as a pup, he grew to reach a ripe old age. For reference, wolves in captivity reportedly can live up to 14 years – the same as a big domestic dog.
Sadly, Yuki’s health started to decline as he neared the age of 12. Shy Wolf was very public about his issues, as they hoped it would lead more people to donate to the cause. A crowdfunding page was subsequently set up, and the sanctuary outlined its desire to move to a bigger facility.
Shy Wolf had actually been based in the same two-and-a-half-acre plot since its establishment in 1993. But with all the creatures that the organization had taken on, the place had really become quite cramped. So, the team set their sights on another site spread across 40 acres.
Yuki’s fame was ultimately a way of highlighting the sanctuary’s work and picking up more donations to help achieve this goal. Though he sadly didn’t have much time left. Despite his outer appearance of health, the wolfdog had received an inoperable cancer diagnosis. As a result, the sanctuary could only help his final days to be comfortable.
Jeremy Albrecht spoke to Bored Panda about the wolfdog’s illness and how the sanctuary would deal with it. He said, “Yuki has been fighting it for quite a while now and is persevering so it is business as usual while we enjoy our time with [him]. When the day comes that he starts showing symptoms we will, as we always do, make the right decisions for Yuki’s quality of life.”
Drawing out a silver lining, Albrecht went on, “Saying goodbye to one of our animals is always difficult for our staff and volunteers, and Yuki will be no different. But it’s important to remember that while many of these animals have rough beginnings, their stories always have happy endings once they get to Shy Wolf Sanctuary. When their time with us is over the last thing they do is make room for our next rescue and happy ending.”
So it was on November 12, 2020, that Yuki’s story finally came to an end. The famous wolfdog sadly passed away at night. But according to a statement released by Shy Wolf in the wake of his death, it had come after a pleasant day for the enormous creature.
This statement read, “[Yuki] left us on his terms – in the middle of the night – after having a wonderfully normal day with his friends. His companion Bella has been introduced to another older couple and is adjusting well to life without her longtime companion. We appreciate the worldwide support Yuki had and hope that his followers will continue to support our efforts to rescue other animals in need, while planning a new facility with bigger and better habitats.”
At the time of writing, the Shy Wolf Sanctuary has purchased a 20-acre plot in southwest Florida. The next step, then, will be getting the money together to build up the land and install the appropriate amenities. When this task is complete, then the group will hopefully be able to look after more creatures in need – just as it did with Yuki.