“Purity of heart:” wolves bond with developmentally challenged children at the Clay sanctuary.
Spirit, the huge white wolf, stood calmly while the young man massaged her chest. She swung her body slowly, and everytime he stopped touching her, the wolf gingerly pawed his calf, coaxing him to keep petting her.
Kyle Ferris sat on one of the specially created wooden platforms at Big Oak Wolf Sanctuary near Green Cove Springs for Spirit and the other 31 wolves and 15 wolf hybrids. He’d been coming here for nearly three years, so he was at ease.
“The wolves make me happy,” Kyle explained.
Spirit, an interior/arctic Alaskan wolf, stood above him, smiling and occasionally commenting on how soft her fur was or whispering, “Good girl.”
“See how she’s different with him than with other people?” observed John Knight, who runs Big Oak with his wife, Debra Knight. “There’s a kindness about her that you don’t notice when she’s with others.” Knight attributes the disparity to Ferris’s developmental delay. He has Lowe syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes physical and mental disabilities as well as medical issues. While he is 23, Ferris functions more like a teenager, according to his mother, Susan.
“There’s a purity of heart there that the wolves respond to,” John Knight observed. “Kyle doesn’t have the same pressures or anxieties as the rest of us. Because there is no anxiousness for the wolves to misinterpret, they do not fear him. They appreciate and trust him for who he is, and this brings out their gentler side, which is beneficial to them as well.”