The Life Enthusiast Chronicles with Kate

What would life even be without the wild? The beautifully real wild. Animals are a big part of my life as they are for many of you out there. These creatures are something for us to marvel at and to learn from. They teach us how to be humble, how to care deeply, and how to coexist. Every time I see an animal, I think…wow. How amazing is it for us all to live together in one place? Pretty damn amazing.

Last month blogger buddy Chris Stocking delivered a deeply enthusiastic message. Often what makes us excited is not a priority in the world, but the vitality of our happiness is rooted in our personal enthusiasm. In my series, The Life Enthusiast Chronicles, fine humans from across the map unveil what makes them passionate about life.

Today I’m overjoyed to show off the always lovely, Kate Johnston of 4am Writer. I hardly know where to begin when it comes to gushing about this gal. We’ve been writer friends for some time, always there for each other through thick and thin. What astounds me about Kate’s writing is her quiet grace. Her intellect, humor, and heart are finely woven throughout her work. I never miss one of her posts, because they are guaranteed to make me feel inspired in some way. She’s quite the Life Enthusiast.

Connect with Kate on Twitter and Facebook.

Without further ado, here is the lovely Kate…

The first stories that captured my imagination were fairy tales. I loved the idea of a world where good trumped evil, magic ruled, and mythical creatures lurked.

But one thing I didn’t like about fairy tales was that wolves were always portrayed as evil characters. It really bothered me, an avid animal lover, that they always got a bad rap in books.

This is when I first started writing. I saw something I wanted to change, and I had the power to do so with story.

I made the wolf the good guy in my own fairy tales. A heroic wolf felt like such the natural order of things that I’m sure I’d have been shocked to know that, in reality, human beings had been pushing the wolf population toward extinction for the past century and more.

In 1926, the last wolf pack had been killed in Yellowstone (though there were ongoing reports of lone wolves). In 1974, the grey wolf had been listed as an endangered species, and in 1975 recovery was mandated under the Endangered Species Act.

Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995—20 years after they were first listed as endangered. They have had a hell of a roller coaster ride overcoming the odds.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every single person on this planet fought for something wild? Imagine how much we would save.

I don’t care if it’s a wolf, a river, a flower, or a mollusk. If we all chose one wild thing that mattered to us and fought for it, this world would be a healthier, happier place.

There are some amazing people who have given their lives to wildlife. I would love to meet them all, tell them thank you.

Denali, a pure gray wolf
Denali, a pure gray wolf

One such woman, Brenda, runs a wolf rescue and education center, Runs with Wolves Sanctuary.

The pure wolves that come to her are usually born in captivity, kept as “pets,” mismanaged and abused, or abandoned. She also takes care of wolf-dogs (half-wolf, half-dog), who were generally kept as pets but ultimately abandoned or mistreated.

Brenda, and others like her, give wolves and wolf-dogs a second chance at life. Maybe these animals can’t exactly live on the wild side like they are meant, but their survival is a clear indication of how much one human being can do to help.

Tazlina “Taz”, a pure gray wolf
Tazlina “Taz”, a pure gray wolf

I’m far from being able to run a sanctuary like Runs with Wolves, but I know I can help in other ways. I write about them. I talk about them. I share their stories through stories of my own.

Giving wolves a voice is the least I can do, when they were the ones who first gave me mine.

*A version of this essay is published in Wolf Warriors, The National Wolfwatcher Coalition Charity Anthology.

**For more information on Runs with Wolves sanctuary, please visit

Kate with Wolves-2008 003
Timber, a pure gray wolf


71 thoughts on “The Life Enthusiast Chronicles with Kate

    1. That was a fun day. Some of the wolves are too traumatized and so visitors can’t be in the pens with them, as they are unpredictable. They are one of the most misunderstood animals around, but their way of life is nothing so unusual that we have to fear them. They look and can behave so much like domestic dogs that it’s hard to believe people can shoot them without thought. I don’t get it.

  1. Wow! I didn’t realise about your passion for animals, Kate… What a beautiful animal the wolf is. I saw a Youtube video about the Yellowstone revival It blew me away to think the impact these great, enigmatic creatures have on the whole ecosystem. So lovely to read about (and see) your wild side 😉

    1. They are gorgeous. Gray wolves come in all kinds of colors, so ‘gray’ can be misleading. I think I know the video to which you are referring. I posted one on my blog a few weeks ago about how wolves change rivers. Clearly, the entire ecosystem is intricately linked, and when we mess with part of it the entire systems is affected.

      Thanks for swinging by!

      1. It was you! I was trying to remember where I saw the video 🙂 I wish we had ‘grey’ wolves in Oz (I don’t know why we spell it differently here…)

    1. They are amazing creatures. Coyotes are getting a bad rap, too. Being targeted for trespassing on people’s property, when we’re the ones who infringed on their territory first. We have to find a better way to co-exist. Thanks for your comment.

  2. Your devotion to the cause shines through Kate. Whilst I don’t have your enthusiasm for animals surely each species is entitled to at least be allowed to exist without being harried and hunted down without good cause. And where that’s not possible then the least we can do is provide a little respite such as Brenda does for her wolves, or the Durell Conservation Trust here in Jersey, C.I. Excellent post and great choice by Britt.

    1. Thanks, Roy. You don’t have to be an animal lover to see the right and wrong in these situations. Wolves are unfairly hunted, just like the big cats in Africa. When anyone says that a predatory animal is mean, my hackles go up. They aren’t mean, no more than a human is mean for defending his territory and doing what he was built to do.

      Thanks for swinging by and commenting.

  3. Beautiful animals. You ain’t too bad either! Lovely pictures of you and your four-footed friends. I visited the Portland zoo (they have a large wolf compound) and they all started howling. It made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Eerie, yet stirring. Keep up your good work to protect these treasures.

    1. Thanks, my dear. I love hearing the howl of a wolf, but you’re right, it can be very eerie. I will go to bat for any endangered wildlife, but wolves are my special favorite. It’s hard to imagine people are willing to go to such lengths to rid the earth of an entire species.

  4. Would love to see wild wolves returned to the UK (along with bear, lynx, etc). There appears to be no ecological reason a reintroduction similar to Yellowstone couldn’t be implemented in Scotland – the problems lie in a lack of will and stigma against these beautiful animals.

    1. I hope that those who are fighting to get the wolves reintroduced to Scotland keep up the good work. The wolves need that kind of help, as they obviously can’t do it themselves! But, it is a super tough battle. Seems like every week I read about setbacks to the recovery for wolves. Heck, not just wolves. All kinds of endangered wildlife. There are too many people who simply don’t care.

      They need to get out of our way. 🙂

  5. I remember the stunning video of the wolves and rivers you posted on your blog a while back, Kate. It moved me so much. I love these photos of you – they are so beautiful and you can see the tenderness in each photo. I’ve never seen a wolf but have loved reading about them ever since I read ‘Never Cry Wolf’ as a child. Funnily enough, I’m in the middle of ‘3 Among the Wolves’ by Helen Thayer right now!

    1. Thank you so much, Letizia. That video is amazing, and we must never forget what one link can do to the rest of the chain. We’re all here on this earth for a reason. We all need each other.

      I haven’t read Thayer’s book, but it is on my TBR list. I hope you’re enjoying it!

      1. I just read a chapter on the interdependence between the ravens and the wolves which speaks directly to your point. So fascinating!

  6. Oh Kate!! What a treat your mom gave you 🙂
    How exciting to be amongst those gorgeous animals…I envy you!
    PS: I told my hubby all about your wolf video you posted a while back. I play reruns every so often in my mind!

    1. Yeah, Mom’s pretty darn cool. 🙂 There are lots of preserves around the country, and not just for wolves but for all kinds of endangered animals. Some are private obviously, but there are a lot that allow visitors. Really, what is important is that while we save what we can, we educate people (especially children) about the importance of every single species. We have no hope for survival if we can’t be bothered to help others.

      That’s a great video to get your hope stirring again. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  7. Wow! Love your pictures. My 3rd daughter has always loved wolves and we have every stuffed toy animal of them you can find. She loves to paint them too–they’re so beautiful. But they scare the beejeesus out of me and I never want to see one when I’m out camping (because they’re never alone and they’re super smart hunters and I know I wouldn’t stand a chance against them). Living in Idaho, I hear lots of scary stories about them and don’t want to mess with them.

    1. Haha. Well, unless you have 4 hooves there is little chance that a wolf wants anything to do with you. They prefer ungulates (moose, deer, elk, etc.). This is because when they hunt in packs, they need a lot to go around. You wouldn’t satisfy a pack of wolves much, Char. 😉 And it’s really true that they are more scared of you than you are of them, all because you get to learn neat facts about them and they don’t know how to read. Yet. 😉

      1. Thanks for putting my mind to ease (a little more). My husband’s friend has seen wolf tracks not too far out of town…and that’s a little eerie. I think of them as far away in the woods that I would have to drive miles to get to. But they are gorgeous creatures…and I love that Yellowstone video of how much they have changed the ecosystem since their return. That’s pretty cool.

      2. I would hate for you to cancel camping plans all because of a little ol’ wolf. 😉 Of course, they need to be respected, and even though attacks on humans are rare (like, never), that’s not to say they won’t attack if they feel threatened or if a human ventures too close to their den of nursing pups. But, that’s the case with all wild animals. For instance, Canadian geese get a lot of heat for having ‘bad tempers’ and being mean. So silly. How is a wild animal ‘mean’?

  8. We really do need to give a voice to all those that don’t have one. It’s so true that we’re the ones encroaching on them – whether you’re talking about wolves or deer or really any other living thing. I agree it would be wonderful if everyone fought for something wild. I’d love to see that world. That’s so great that you even tried to save an eel!

    1. When I read about people who get angry about coyotes or deer or bear wandering around town, I scratch my head. Of course, yes, there is a danger, but shooting them doesn’t solve the problem. We need to stop taking up so much land to satisfy our greedy ways.

      I’d love to see the world where we each signed up to defend something wild. I actually think it would be neat to see the choices people make. I bet some would be very surprising.

      The eel is kind of a funny story. My brother-in-law caught it while fishing for bass, and he was so freaked out he couldn’t take it off the hook. Meanwhile, it’s flapping around on the dock and suffering. My husband tried to do it, but he got grossed out because it was so slimy. So, I, the GIRL, took care of it. Got the hook out–which wasn’t easy–and put it back in the water. It swam off, and of course, the guys could never admit the truth about what really happened. 😉

  9. Another cosmic link, Kate—I wanted to be a vet, too, but couldn’t do it for exactly the same reasons as you! Visiting those wolves looks like it was an amazing experience. I would love to see more wild animals “left alone” to do what they and we humans all strive to do—to live our lives.

    1. That is so “wild,” JM! 🙂

      Back when I was a kid, our vet made house calls and gave our dogs and cats the shots and exams they needed. I got to follow him around as he did his stuff, and he explained everything he was doing. I was fascinated. Until we took our sick dog to him, and he had to put her down. I was traumatized.

      I wish we could figure out a better way to co-exist, especially with the animals some people consider a threat. How can we expect wild animals to stay on “their” side of the imaginary line when we keep taking land and trees from them?

  10. Spirit is gorgeous!
    Kate, have you read Brenda Peterson? She is a personal essayist who writes about her connection to the wild. A couple of her well-known books are Living By Water and Nature and Other Mothers. She’s a terrific writer and I think you’d like her. She also happens to have been one of my writing teachers. She’s written extensively about wolves, their re-introduction to Yellowstone in the 1990’s and their continued plight.
    BTW–about an hour from where I live (south of Seattle, WA) there’s a wolf rescue place called Wolf Haven. Similar story.
    It was fun reading about this aspect of your writing life and passion.

    1. I haven’t read Brenda Peterson, but I will right away! I love books like that, and I bet I’d really enjoy what she has to say. Thank you for the tip.

      I like the name ‘Wolf Haven’. I am fascinated with centers that protect and rehabilitate wild animals. The people who go to these lengths are obviously 100% committed to the cause, because maintaining something like that isn’t easy. Very expensive, not enough help, and too many animals that need a safe place to go.

      Thanks for swinging by, Jagoda. This was a fun post to write. Made me feel like I ought to post a little more often about wolves and endangered wildlife. I have resisted in the past because not everyone wants to hear about it. This issue is fairly political and controversial, and I try to avoid those issues on my blog! 🙂

      1. I know what you mean about wanting to avoid political and controversial issues. Important for my blog too. It’s good there are other places to express ourselves this way too. I’d love to write more about endangered wildlife myself. I’m backing into it by starting a mystery series about an environmental conflict mediator. On the back burner for now but not forgotten.

    1. Thanks, V. I’m glad to hear that it isn’t a boring subject. There are a few people I know that look at me funny when I talk about the latest situation involving wolves, or any endangered wildlife, as if I should have more important things to worry about. I don’t know. I guess I have learned to tread carefully. As I mentioned to Jagoda above, I would like to talk more about it on my blog but because it is a political and controversial issue I have avoided it. But, I got such joy out of writing just this one piece that I may reconsider…

      Thanks for swinging by!

      1. If you had the time, you could set up a whole separate blog just to talk about the wolves and wildlife issues, so that if people follow it, it’s because they’re interested! But I know that’s not practical for you at the moment. Ooh, and you could source various animal welfare people to do guest posts on there! Maybe one day 😉

      2. That’s something to consider, and maybe wouldn’t be all that much time depending on how often I post. Also, like you suggest, if I did have guest authors, they’d be responsible for replying to comments. It would be a lot of fun. Perhaps, when things settle down on the fiction side of things I will look into it further. Thanks for the tip!

  11. Kate is truly a life enthusiast, as you say, Britt. She’s got a great voice, and that she uses it for the good of others – all kinds of others, including our wilder cohabitants – always makes me feel that there *are* people in the world bridging gaps and distances, and bringing all of us closer together. 🙂

    1. What a sweet comment, Mayumi. Thank you. I love having opportunities to help others, even when it’s a small gesture, because I know how I feel when someone goes to bat for me. And, every time I think of people like Brenda or anyone else who works for the benefit of someone or something that can’t help themselves — I feel a wave of gratitude toward them. We would be in a much sorrier place without people who care enough to truly fight for what’s right.

  12. Those are amazing pictures Kate. I love wolves so I salute your work to help protect them. I loved the video you posted about how they’d changed the river, so would love to read more. Britt – another great example of a life enthusiast in Kate!

    1. There were a lot of pics to choose from, but I didn’t want to crash Britt’s site with them all! 🙂 I had a lot of fun writing this and then reading the responses from all of you. After reading so many stories about people who would rather destroy than help, I was rejuvenated to see that there are a lot of people who care.

  13. Beautiful animals. I love the idea of each person fighting for one thing in the wild–plant, animal, waterbody–just taking a stance for one part of nature. Beautifully said Kate!

    1. My mother-in-law believes that every person should perform one civic duty for their country when they turn eighteen, not necessarily joining the armed forces but something that aids our country. (She’s very patriotic. 😉 ) Along those lines, I think it would be great if we all did something to aid earth. Even better if we didn’t need laws to enforce it, but that people did it because they sincerely cared. Earth Day is a great start, but I think we really need to go further than that.

      1. That’s a fantastic idea your mom in law has. Seriously, I hate how laws are needed to motivate people, where common sense and an internal moral compass used to suffice. Being invested in the world around us is important and doing something, anything, to help matters.

      2. I agree. I think that’s why it’s important to involve kids in things like fundraisers and volunteering, so that they can see how we all can positively impact another life.

    1. Oh, me too. When we did make our effort to help them, they rebounded well. I just wish that people would stop resorting to killing them over working around them. I think this world is big enough for all of us.

      Thanks for commenting.

  14. What a beautiful story, Kate! I love to hear how a writer’s research and passions come together. So cool. And I consider myself just a little more educated about the wolves. Thanks!

    1. Wolves have a job to do, just like we do. If we can figure out a way to live alongside each other, it is a win-win. Writing about them is truly invigorating. If I was a little bit younger, and free to roam, I wouldn’t mind doing the research a little closer to them.

      Thanks for swinging by.

    1. I don’t understand why it is so easy for some people to hate first. I would be absolutely miserable if I led that kind of life. Kudos to those who have given their lives to protecting wolves, and any other creature or natural specimen that is in trouble.

  15. Phenomenal post ladies!!! We had no idea how badly Wolves had been killed off!! What a disgrace! These are such beautiful creatures that add so much to the wild! As for you Kate, that was the cutest thing we’ve ever read! Though the spirit & heart was willing, the flesh was weak! No worries, Inion & I come close to fainting at the sight of blood!!! lol 😉 Sharing this post now in hopes of making people aware!! 😉

    1. Haha, thank you. Even as a mom I get a little grossed out with those bodily fluids. But, I persevere. I guess I could have been okay as a vet if I had given it a chance. Maybe. 😉

      Thanks for the awesome comment!

  16. I love Kate too! I’ve always been fascinated with her fascination with wolves 🙂 They are beautiful creatures and all the more so when Kate writes about them.

  17. What a brilliant share Kate, and I totally totally resonate with all you have to say about these magnificent creatures who are so often misunderstood. I too am a big wolf fan. Wolves, horses and elephants.. they seemingly have nothing in common except for the fact they’re herd animals with a high sensitivity for taking care of their family. One of my totems is a wolf – the other is surprisingly a whale but I know she’s there to support my vocal ambitions 😉
    Do you know Hélène Grimaud? She’s a famous French pianist, author and wolf advocate.
    You should check out her book “Variations Sauvages”- I believe it is translated now to “Wild Harmonies” in which she talks in large part about her life as a musician and about her environmental work with wolves.

  18. Thanks for the book suggestion. I will add it to my list. I believe the wolf is one of my totems, too, although I never found out “officially”. I think that is pretty darn cool that your other totem is a whale. Have you ever gone on a whale watch? I live near the Atlantic, and there are lots of places that offer whale watches throughout the summer. Even if you don’t spy a whale, the boat ride is phenomenal.

    1. Great to see you here, Scott. I enjoyed writing this post as it gently reminded me that nature and wildlife are worth talking about, anytime, anyplace.

  19. Dear Kate,
    These are amazing photos, and an eloquent piece of writing. How wonderful that you could go with your mom and share that experience. In Washington we have a place called Wolf Haven that does wolf rescue and tries to raise awareness of the plight of wolves, which we have gone to as a family and as field trips from the kids’ school.

    1. I would love to visit other wolf rescue centers. Actually, not just centers for wolves, but any place that protects wildlife. Everyone should enjoy an experience that such places offer. You are lucky to have Wolf Haven. Thanks for swinging by and commenting, Naomi.

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