I am a Master Wolfkeeper and Dogman, a dog lover, protector, and trainer, and mentor to those humans who want the same designation themselves. What is a Wolfkeeper? If you have a dog you can be a Wolfkeeper; this means you are a caretaker of one of God’s greatest gifts to humans—the domesticated dog. We often trivialize how a dog can shape our lives and bring us joy.
I feel it is important for you to know that the book I wrote, which this comes from, was written while lying in a bed for 68 days in Stroger Hospital. On June 22, 2008, I crashed my Lexus IS250 while trying to avoid hitting a motorcycle that cut me off in traffic. As a result of my car accident, I ruptured my right patellar tendon, broke my right femur in half, cracked my left acetabulum and greater trochanter, fractured my sternum, and, incredibly enough, suffered only minor head injuries. I had never experienced that level of pain in my life— I thought I was going to die. Lying in my hospital bed was a mental exercise every day, as I just watched the clock turn. I suffered multiple blood clots and had to teach myself how to walk again.
Raising and training a dog is an art, like any other discipline. People get dogs without thinking about the full responsibility of ownership, and this is quickly manifested in the behavior of the dog. Every year 800,000 people are seriously injured by dogs, and 10 to 20 people die every year as a result of dog bites in the U.S., with the majority of the victims being children. I consider this to be 800,000 untrained dog owners or people who should just not have a dog. My goal is to inspire the 48 million-plus dog owners in the United States to shed the label of “dog owners” and become “Wolfkeepers.” Once you consider yourself a Wolfkeeper and start studying canine behavior and training your dog, you will find yourself transforming in the process as well, and becoming more in tune with nature.
Almost as a form of therapy, I decided to write. What this became was more than a dog training book; it became a testimonial that anything is possible if your desire and passion are strong enough. Seven years ago, some senior dog trainers told me I wasn’t good enough to train dogs. My entire life has been about defying the odds and powering through any obstacle. If it weren’t for my accident, I would never have written this book. During that 68-day hospital stay, all I could think about was training my dogs and being around my dogs. I came to the realization that the reason God spared my life was to help train people to train their dogs. I also realized that the relationship between humans and dogs can go much deeper than the superficial “owner/dog” relationship. I thank God for my family and my dogs—without my love for them I might have given up and died right there in my hospital bed.
My best friend and advisor, Timothy Lawler, suggested I journal to keep from going crazy in the hospital. The manuscript started out as a journal, but turned out to be so much more. My accident gave me three months to think about my life, my family, love, the complexities of dog training, and their importance to me. I have met so many beautiful dog lovers over these last seven years and I hope this book makes them all want to become Wolfkeepers.
Tim, who wrote the foreword to this book, is from Minneapolis and was with me when Soldier, my Boxer puppy, was killed. Tim, like any true dog person, realizes that losing a dog is like losing a family member. Tim has been on the national heart transplant list for over two years, patiently waiting for a brand new heart while carrying 15 lbs. of equipment around on his hip. He was one of my many inspirations in writing this book, because one of the many traits of a Wolfkeeper is someone who has mastered the art of patience; he has truly proven to be a patient wolf while waiting for his heart.
Dogs can detect cancer and can reveal when people are near death; are used for search-and-rescue, guide dog, police, and military work; therapy, herding, guarding, hunting, and finally, most of all, to just be a companion. I know my dogs helped save my life, because I thought about them all the time while I was hospitalized. It would be great to have dogs in hospitals helping our ill, and we could if we utilized all the ancient and primal powers that dogs possess. Dogs have been integral to the lives of humans since the caveman, but we do not always treat these creatures with the respect that they deserve.
Almost every President in the United States has had a “first dog”; celebrities and socialites have for years paraded with their dogs on the red carpet; and over 48 million Americans are living with a domesticated “wolf” in their den. Most humans love their dogs, but we must now unlock the deeper essence of this love and transform it into the miracle it was always intended to be. Dogs can help change and save this world we live in, because they show unconditional love to their owners. Dogs don’t care about anything except being loved and accepted by their pack; this simple concept needs to be adapted by human packs.
A Wolfkeeper is a human who, with kindness and purpose, has mastered the art of being Alpha in his pack. Our dogs yearn for the affection of their Alphas to guide them through the wilderness of our concrete jungles and navigate them to a place of serenity, while living in environments unnatural to the domesticated dog. It is my belief that as we train our dogs to change and to find their place in our crazy, mixed-up world that we will change ourselves in the process. I have trained a wide range of various breeds, from Yorkies and Affenpinschers to Korean Jindos, Black Russian Terriers, and Akitas, and have developed a multitude of training techniques and concepts to deal with any dog behavioral problem that may exist.
Wolfkeepers are those who have accepted a dog or dogs into their lives and have committed to offering their “wolf” the ultimate care, love, and training. There are dog owners and Wolfkeepers. A dog owner is a person who has a dog, but doesn’t invest time, energy, or love into their dog. Dog owners just provide their dogs with shelter, food, and sometimes their attention, as long as it doesn’t interfere with their favorite TV show. It’s very easy to neglect our pets or take them for granted, just as it’s easy to take our families for granted. However, when we break through and find love for and practice patience with our dogs we can also do the same with the humans in our world, and perhaps change our culture and how we treat each other as well.I can always tell when people don’t really love their dog or don’t care what’s best for their dog. This is why I wrote this book—if we can find love for our dogs we can find love for those in the world around us.
TORIANO A. SANZONE
2747 West Cermak Chicago, IL 60608
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