Photo: Becky Parman


Lost and Found


Marty Wilson learned about wolf dogs starving in a nearby backyard from one of the students in her fifth-grade science class. She wished aloud that she could open a refuge for unwanted, neglected animals. “Why don’t you?” her class challenged. Wilson’s students wouldn’t let her forget her mantra, “Never say can’t!”


Within weeks, the neglected wolves – Topanga, Kia, and Couie – found sanctuary on a parcel of land Wilson purchased with the help of her family. “We hired a fencing company to quickly put up two specialized runs,” Wilson said.


That’s how the 250-acre Refuge Ridge in Emlyn, Kentucky, was born. Ten years later, more than 43 animals – including 14 wolf dogs – have found permanent homes there. Almost all of the wolves here have been sent due to court rulings, she said.


Now retired from teaching, Wilson resides at Refuge Ridge. It offers at-risk youth a series of adventure-based day camps, animal-assisted empathy training, and animal clicker training. “Every animal here has experienced abuse or neglect,” she added. “Their resilience encourages camp participants and their families to see that it’s not what happens to us but how we respond that determines the final outcome.


“All the programs promote respect for people, animals, and the environment. Our focus is to help the children develop greater self-esteem, self-reliance, compassion, and empathy.”


On-site, the Roger and Phyllis Sherman Learning Center is under construction to house the camps and programs. Plus, fundraising is under way for a natural wolf habitat with large viewing areas for visitors. 


“When I have finished daily tasks – feeding and paperwork – I can just sit and be with the wolfers,” Wilson said. “Having them lean against me as I smell the flowers and trees and listen to the birds and frogs cannot be beat.”


Find out more about the Refuge Ridge Environmental Learning Center and Sanctuary at

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