SoCal Wolf Rehab Program Gives Vets “Space to Figure Things Out”

"They just don't fit in society, much like the veterans coming home"

On a sprawling 20-acre sanctuary in Kern County, California, you can find a unique connection between man and wild.

Wolves and wolf-dogs rescued from around the country are rehabilitated along with U.S. veterans recovering from the traumas of war in the Warriors and Wolves program.

"It's a slow transition, but what they find here, working with the animals and getting back to nature, is that they belong," program co-founder and veteran Matthew Simmons said.

The Frazier Park-based therapy program was launched at the Lockwood Animal Rescue Center in July 2011 by Simmons and his wife, clinical psychologist Dr. Lorin Lindner.

The sanctuary usually holds between 30 and 40 animals, most a mix of wolf and dog. But they believe about a dozen are pure wolf, like one found wandering the streets of the San Fernando Valley.

Too wild for a home, not wild enough for life in the outdoors, they're given a second chance through Warriors and Wolves.

"They just don't fit in society, much like the veterans coming home," Simmons said. "They need room to roam, they need space to figure things out."

Warriors and Wolves brings the veterans and animals "pretty close" together, according to Navy vet Drew Bolli. His three extended tours of duty led to a divorce and debilitating nightmares.

"A majority of my paycheck was going into alcohol," Bolli said. It left him living paycheck to paycheck.

The program also makes therapists and alcohol and drug counselors available to the veterans, and ambassador wolf-dogs make trips to meet other veterans, according to the program's website.

Wolfdogs are illegal to own in many cities without a special permit, but they form close bonds with people at the sanctuary.

"Eighty percent of our animals are owner relinquishment," Lindner said. "They send them to the shelters."

Simmons and Lindner hope to dispel the myth of the big bad wolf -- the animals just need space, they said.

Asher Klein contributed to this report.

Contact Us