Hybrid wolves need loving assistance

Late one night, Nancy Brown received a very disturbing phone call. “A guy told me his neighbors had a four-month-old wolf puppy that they had beaten and almost starved to death. He wanted $100 to get the dog from that situation and to safety,” she recalls. “I call her Annie. It took eight months for me to win her trust.”

What happens when you breed a full-blooded wolf with a domestic watchdog? Brown should know. As the founder of the Full Moon Farm and Sanctuary, a no-kill organization just outside Black Mountain, she’s all too familiar with the ramifications of inbreeding these poor, gentle animals.

Of all the wolf dogs born each year, 50 to 80 percent will be dead or in rescue by their second birthday. And with a life span of 15 years or more, there’s no reason so many of these creatures should die from health complications so early in life. These dogs are neither domestic nor wild — they’re somewhere in between. But because they don’t fit the mold of either common house pets or fierce watchdogs, too many end up being abused or neglected.

These hybrids are sadly misunderstood. The common assumption is that they’re dangerous predators. “In reality, wolves are very timid by nature,” notes Brown. “They make wonderful watchdogs: They’ll hide under the table and watch while a burglar takes your jewelry, your refrigerator and your house!” she says, laughing. “But they’re very loving once they get to know you and feel comfortable with you.”

Dakota is a 2-year-old wolf dog whom Brown describes as “traffic-stopping gorgeous.” Like many hybrids, he needs animal-oriented people around to help him overcome his fear of humans.

Brown herself is serving as a savior to 23 hybrid wolf dogs, but she needs help. Besides loving companions, she desperately needs other kinds of volunteers, particularly an electrician, a plumber and builders who can help create safer, more comfortable environments for 20 new dogs coming in from other sanctuaries. Full Moon also needs financial contributions to help cover the cost of veterinary bills, compound maintenance and other regular expenses.

“Chain-link fencing is a big item to expand the compound. It takes about $1,500 for each section to hold two wolf dogs. You also have to lay wire on the ground and cover it so they won’t dig it out. Paul Whitson of Whitson’s Towing recently donated his time to deliver fencing for us,” says Brown.

Each wolf-dog compound costs between $3,000 and $4,000 to build. The fresh meat needed to maintain 23 wolf dogs costs $110 every 10 days. With 20 more dogs, that cost will nearly double. The shelter also uses hundreds of pounds of cedar chips and lime each month. Donations of supplies such as collars, crates, leashes and chew bones are always welcome.

People seeking to adopt a wolf dog first fill out an application. There’s no set fee for adoptions, but she screens potential “parents” very carefully to ensure that her furry charges go to good homes.

“One of our adoptive parents comes in for three hours every day and sits with his dog before he takes her home, so she’ll get to know him and feel safer,” Nancy explains. “He pets her and talks to her. I’ve even heard him sing to her. I want to be sure that someone will truly be dedicated to an animal before they take it home. There’s a lot to learn before you get a wolf dog. They need special care and attention because they are so timid,” she emphasizes.

Wolf dogs are different in other ways as well. “Their immune systems are different, and they’re resistant to fleas and ticks,” says Brown. “They don’t smell like dogs. It’s like their coats are Scotchguarded. These guys are closer to what God made than what man has tampered with.”

Full Moon Sanctuary also educates the public about wolf dogs. Visitors are always welcome by appointment.

Tax-deductible donations may be sent to: Federal Wolf-Dog Rescue, P.O. Box 9127, Largo, FL 33771. These contributions will be funneled back to Full Moon. Donors who don’t need a receipt for tax purposes can send their contributions directly to Full Moon Farm and Sanctuary, P.O. Box 1548, Black Mountain, NC, 28711.

For more information, contact Nancy Brown at (828) 669-1818, or log onto

— Larisa Harrill

And the learning goes on …

They say you never stop learning. And with Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College’s continuing-education program, you can get all the help you need. The program’s winter schedule (covering January to May) boasts more than 500 classes on everything from quilting to beginning guitar, electrical apprenticeships to digital photo editing, screenwriting to a class called “Take Charge of Your Life! From Mystery to Mastery … Structures for Getting What You Really Want.”

“Our motto at A-B Tech is that we’re the community’s college,” explains Skye Myrick, director of occupational and public service training. “I feel that is especially true in … the division of continuing education. We offer something for every aspect of our community — whether it’s an art class or someone that comes here to have their plumbing license renewed.”

Affordability is one of the program’s hallmarks, with most classes costing between $50 and $65. “The $65 could be for a course that’s over 100 hours,” explains an enthusiastic Myrick, adding, “Isn’t that amazing?”

New this year is a 12-week course called “Introduction to Equine Management — Beginning Riding, Horse & Barn Care.” “It’s really reasonable,” notes Myrick. “It’s a $65 class, and it’s over 100 hours. That will start in April.”

In the past year, she reports, the program has also started working with the local acting community. “We’re going to be offering a professional audition course and [courses in] performance techniques.”

Three years ago, the Sustainable Mountain Farming Program was added to the curriculum. Current offerings include “Building Healthy Soils,” “Organic Certification” and “Making Money on the Farm Again.” “What we’re trying to do is move people from traditional tobacco farming into sustainable practices,” explains Myrick.

Farmers aren’t the only ones trying to keep up with changing times, however. “With the economy being as hard-hit as it is right now, we’re finding that a lot of people are turning to A-B Tech to retrain and upgrade their skills.”

Toward that end, the Job Enhancement Program offers classes in everything from forklift operation to dental coronal tooth-polishing, from carpentry to becoming a certified dietary manager. Within the public-service sector, the program offers free classes to people working in fire services, emergency medical services and the law. “It really is an amazing state service we’re providing here,” says Myrick.

Many tradesmen, such as plumbers and general contractors, come to A-B Tech to update their skills in order to renew their licenses. “Private agencies charge $225 for the same course that they can get from us for $50,” she notes.

And for those with an eye toward the future, the program offers a wide array of computer courses, whether you just want to learn the basics or are aiming to become a certified computer technician, engineer or administrator.

The new schedule for continuing-education courses will be arriving this week in the mailboxes of more than 110,000 homes in Buncombe and Madison counties. Classes aren’t typically arranged on a semester schedule; instead, they’re offered at a variety of different times throughout the winter and spring. Most classes are free for senior citizens. Students can register at any time but, due to class-size limits, “the earlier they call, the better,” warns Myrick.

“I really want people to know that we’re affordable, we’re accessible,” she affirms. “And if there’s a program they don’t see here that they think we need to offer, then they need to contact me or someone at the college.”

For more information, call A-B Tech at 254-1921, or visit their Web site (

— Lisa Watters

Resurrecting some old-time fun

“Hooray Jack and Hooray John,
Breakin’ up Christmas all night long.
Way back yonder, a long time ago,
The old folks danced the do-si-do.
Way down yonder alongside the creek,
I seen Santy Claus washin’ his feet.
Santa Claus come, done and gone,
Breakin’ up Christmas right along.”

— from the fiddle tune “Breakin’ Up Christmas,” author unknown

An old tradition will be making a comeback when the Breaking up Christmas Party comes to life on Friday, Dec. 27 at The Watershed (207 West State St.) in Black Mountain. This smoke-free, family-friendly event will begin with a potluck at 7 p.m.; the music starts around 8:30 p.m. The cost is $3, and participants are asked to bring a can of food to donate to the Black Mountain Family Center.

Everyone is also encouraged to bring their instruments with them; the entertainment will include called square dancing, an open old-time-music jam, and a band-scramble contest.

The band scramble involves all the musicians throwing their name into a hat. Groups of names are pulled out to form impromptu bands. Each band thinks up a name for itself and goes off somewhere for 15-20 minutes to decide what song they’ll perform for the rest of the gathering. As for the results, says organizer Cliff Churchill with a laugh, “Sometimes it comes out really silly, and sometimes it comes out really cool.”

Churchill and his wife, Kelli, both play old-time music, and that’s how they first heard about ‘Breaking up Christmas’ parties. “We started looking into it,” he explains. “There are a few people around the mountains and down in the foothills who have ‘Breaking up Christmas’ parties, but I hadn’t really seen one around here.”

In researching the origins of the tradition, says Churchill, he discovered that “back in the 1800s, they would have ‘Breaking up Christmas’ parties [that] went along the lines of the 12 days of Christmas, from Christmas until the Epiphany on Jan. 6.”

“They’d gather at somebody’s house [each] night. They’d have a potluck there, everybody would eat and talk about everything that was going on in their lives — and then they’d throw all the furniture back and they’d throw all the beds against the wall … and they’d dance in the bedrooms and the living room. The fiddler and the banjo player and the other players, they’d sit in the hallway in between the rooms and play music — and they’d dance all night. At the end of the evening, they would all decide whose house to go to the next night.”

Churchill has also heard that the custom may have originated in slave times when, he explains, “The slaves, they had a tradition where they would have a ‘backlog’ [a log soaked in water and mud] that they would put in the fireplace … and until that log burned through, all they had to do around their master’s house was the little chores — and the rest of the time, they could party too with everybody. … Conceivably, this log could burn for two weeks. … ‘Breaking up Christmas’ is a kind of mixing up of the African-American culture and the settler culture here.”

As for “Breakin’ Up Christmas”, the old-time fiddle tune commemorating the tradition, Churchill says: “Who knows who wrote it or where it came from? Some say it came down from around Surry County. A lot of these fiddle tunes, people don’t know [where they came from] — they just carry on the tradition now.”

For more information, call Churchill at 686-5645 or 215-2738.

— Lisa Watters

Maggie, the counting dog

When Jesse and Arthur Treff got Maggie, a Jack Russell terrier as a puppy, “she was a challenge,” explains Jesse. “Between chewing and just everything a puppy can do, magnify that by 10 — that’s what a Jack Russell puppy does.”

In an attempt to curb Maggie’s misbehavior, the Treffs thought they’d try redirecting her energy into learning tricks. It was immediately apparent that she was a natural. “She was picking up new things every three or four minutes,” says Jesse. “She’d get it. I’d come back and she’d still have it. It just accelerated from there.”

From basic dog tricks like sitting and rolling over, Maggie soon graduated to more elaborate moves like saying her prayers, fetching a tissue from the Kleenex box if someone sneezed, and standing up on her hind legs in response to “Stick ’em up” and then falling down dead at “Bang!” She also proved to be quite an acrobat; one of her routines consists of Jesse lying on her back with her feet up in the air as Maggie climbs up to sit and then stand on the bottom of her shoes.

When Maggie was about 6 months old, a friend of Jesse’s said to her jokingly, “I bet she can even count.”

Not really expecting anything, Jesse held up four of her fingers for Maggie — who proceeded to tap her right front paw on the ground four times. Over the next couple of weeks, Jesse continued showing Maggie varying numbers of her fingers. “She was getting it right about 80 percent of the time,” says Jesse.

Next, she tried calling out numbers for Maggie to count out. Along the way, Jesse discovered that Maggie could not only count, she could perform simple addition, subtraction and multiplication, as long as the answers didn’t come out to more than 10 or 12. “She picked up division at about 9 months,” notes Jesse.

Initially, Maggie would respond only to Jesse, but eventually she began to answer mathematical equations from strangers as well. Sometimes, Jesse says, she still can’t quite believe that Maggie is able to do what she does. “I think she’s not going to be able to do it one day — it’ll go away. Someone will ask her something and she’ll just stand there.”

This summer, WLOS-TV did a short segment about Maggie’s ability to count and the piece was picked up by other stations nationwide. Since then, says Jesse, “I can’t go down the sidewalk in Asheville without someone saying, ‘My friend doesn’t believe your dog can count — can you show him?”

And Maggie’s celebrity status shows no sign of dissipating any time soon. She’s slated to make an appearance on The Tonight Show in a talent competition tentatively planned for mid-February. Jesse is also looking into the possibility of finding advertisement or film work for Maggie. “She needs to do something like that to keep her brain cells going,” she says.

But Maggie isn’t strictly chasing fame and fortune; she also has an altruistic side. Recently she made an appearance at Evergreen Community Charter School to visit a class full of fourth- and fifth-graders at the bequest of their math teacher.

Overall, says Jesse, Maggie — who’s now 18 months old — has been a great boon to her life. “I’ve met a lot of people I wouldn’t have otherwise,” she notes. “People just love her — in restaurants, walking down the street. It’s amazing. Four or five people come up to me a day and ask, ‘Is that the dog?’ It’s connected me to the community.”

When asked about those sceptics who believe Maggie’s counting is some kind of hoax, Jesse says: “In Asheville, there are very few people who don’t believe Maggie can count. The few people who don’t believe it … I use to work hard at trying to change their minds. Now I feel like, ‘That’s fine. I couldn’t care less.’ … And I really understand: You have to see it to believe it.”

And, as a fellow Mountain Xpress staffer commented after seeing Maggie do her thing, “Who cares if it’s a trick? I can’t even get my dog to sit!”

— Lisa Watters

Good news for library patrons

How do you spend your lazy Sunday afternoons? Do you like to curl up with a snack and a good book and get lost in another world while the whole day goes by? When Pack Memorial Library resumes Sunday hours on Jan. 5, getting lost in a book will be easier than ever.

Due to state budget cuts, Pack Library hasn’t been able to offer Sunday hours for the past several months. Now, with renovations under way at the South Buncombe Library, staff from there are available to work at Pack to fill vacant positions. Hours will be 2-5 p.m. Sundays. All other hours remain the same.

Public demand for Sunday hours has been profound. Library system Director Ed Sheary comments, “We want to do all we can to provide library services for the citizens of Buncombe County when they want and need them.”

Pack Memorial library is at 67 Haywood St. in downtown Asheville.

For more information or a schedule of library events, contact Pack Memorial Library at (828) 255-5203 or log on to

— Larisa Harrill

Spreading e-joy

One great way to dispose of a used computer or peripheral is to donate it to someone else who can put it to good use. The Mountain Area Information Network (MAIN) is leading a partnership, the Reboot Coalition, which makes such donations easy and effective.

“What may be a useless old machine to one person could change another person’s life,” said Tess Johnson, coordinator of the Reboot Coalition for MAIN. “Last year’s computer may not be as fast as the latest models, but it can still help a child in need do their homework or an unemployed worker find a job.”

The Reboot Coalition has already helped a number of WNC residents access the computer age. Coalition member Partners Unlimited, which matches disadvantaged children with adult mentors, has placed four computers with clients and is using another to train adult volunteers.

“Many of the kids in our program have very little experience with computers, even though they’re growing up in the ‘information age’,” said Anderson Davis, founder of Partners Unlimited. “Computers are going to play a huge role in their lives, and by helping them get comfortable with technology now, they will be much better equipped for the future.”


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