Driving through scenic stretches of Angeles National Highway an hour north of Los Angeles, a sign appears. It points drivers in the direction of the remote Aliso Canyon. Down a dirt driveway, one arrives at a small cabin. It’s only the photos on the wall that might give away the hosts of this remotely beautiful destination. Until we step outside and hear the howling. Within seconds, the cry of one lone wolf becomes a full chorus of breathtaking, bellowing wolf howls. We have arrived at Wolf Connection.
How Wolf Connection Happened
Eleven years ago, Teo Alfero was working with at-risk teens and young adults. He searched for new ways to inspire them to change their lives. At the same time, as a single young man living on his own, he adopted a young wolf dog for company. Having grown up with German Shepherds in his native Argentina, a wolf dog didn’t seem like such a departure. He was wrong.
“When I adopted my wolf dog, I fell in love with her. But I didn’t know what I had on my hands,” explains Alfero. “They are charming, but they are much wilder.” Deciding that his high energy companion needed a playmate, Alfero found a rescue group with a pack of 16 wolf dogs. Besotted with these creatures, and with a burning desire to help them all, Alfero began to volunteer for the rescue. He recruited the at-risk teens and adults he was working with to help out. To his amazement something beautiful happened. “There were radical changes in these people. They had been shut down and introverted, unwilling to connect and to trust—products of their own difficult circumstances. These animals began to change them.” The wolves also responded and opened to the human affection and attention they were receiving.
Alfero knew he was on to something extraordinary, and soon adopted the entire pack. He leased 25 acres and moved his life into a trailer. For the next five years he worked to develop a nonprofit and curriculum with a mission of changing lives through this unique and ancient bond between humans and wolves. Wolf Connection was born.
Where it is Now
In 2015, the organization purchased a 165-acre ranch in Acton, in the Angeles National Forest. There they built a massive wolf compound, meeting spaces and facilities. Today, Wolf Connection operates programs for youth in approximately 36 schools. It also hosts programs for high-risk populations such as recovery groups, military veterans, gang members and foster care organizations. With its pack of now more than 30 specially trained wolves, its Wolf Therapy program focuses on rehabilitation and education. All of the wolves are born in captivity, rescued from illegal breeders or roadside attractions and unable to be rehabilitated into the wild. In addition to the therapeutic component, educational programs also touch upon sustainability and environment, zoology and biology.
Individuals and smaller groups or families are also welcome to book time at Wolf Connection. Community hikes are $65 per adult/$55 per child over the age of seven. Or folks can volunteer, and enjoy close encounters and wilderness hikes with the wolves.
Future plans include those to build lodging, a sustainable farm and a retreat center. Alfero is well on his way to creating a ranch that is a destination for human and animal healing. For more information, visit wolfconnection.org.