GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Hidden by fences reaching 10 feet high, with zero publicity, just as its owner intended, sitting in between Palatka and Green Cove Springs is a sanctuary and safe haven for …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Hidden by fences reaching 10 feet high, with zero publicity, just as its owner intended, sitting in between Palatka and Green Cove Springs is a sanctuary and safe haven for five dozen wolves and wolf dogs.
You can’t pet these wolves. You can’t even see these wolves as they are not on exhibit. You might hear them but beyond that, you’ll likely have zero interaction with these wolves.
Although different from many wolf sanctuaries around the country, there’s a reason for such seclusion.
“To have strangers enter their home, to have people they don’t know try and interact with them, it would destroy the sanctuary they have and feel,” said John Knight, owner and operator of Big Oak Wolf Sanctuary. “That’s why we are closed to the public.”
Knight’s story began in his early years, when his life consisted of what he calls browbeating from his mother. Condemnation and a fear of God forced him into a life burdened with guilt and sin. According to Knight, it wasn’t until after he was 18 that he began to understand God and his relationship with humans.
“Jesus died for us so that we don’t feel condemned,” said Knight. “He endured the punishment for us so that we can live without constant guilt.”
Simply put, Knight refers to this as grace. This is what the entire message of Big Oak Sanctuary centers itself around – grace, unwavering and infinite. It’s this grace that allows the wolves to be who they truly are, without fear of punishment for acting as they are meant to, according to Knight.
It’s this lack of grace, though, that leads to a wolf without a proper home. The surge in popularity of wolves from the likes of the Twilight movie trilogy and more recently, Game of Thrones, is what has led to so many wolves being kept as pets. However, wolves are not meant to be pets and will never behave like a pet, said Knight.
“These young people are more concerned with looking cool and how they are perceived by owning a wolf than they are concerned about the well-being and happiness of the wolf,” Knight said. “They act as wolves do and are punished, even though they shouldn’t be, and here at Big Oak, our goal is to teach the wolves that they won’t be punished for being what they are.”
“When these animals get here, they’re confused when they do something and look at us expecting punishment, and nothing happens, because we extend them the grace to be who and what they are until they realize that nothing they do will cause us to treat them with any feeling other than love and nurture,” Knight continued.
Despite the love and nourishment Knight pours into these wolves, Big Oak Wolf Sanctuary has run into some problems that desperately need fixing.
As much of Florida received destruction and devastation from Hurricane Irma, so too did Knight’s wolf sanctuary. Needing to replace more than two miles of 10 feet high fence, Big Oak Wolf Sanctuary needs $200,000, but because Knight chooses to keep his sanctuary closed to the public – for the safety and sanctity of the wolves – a steady flow of income is hard to come by.
“We need donations,” Knight said. “With 100 people committed to donating $50 a month, I could hire help. Any donation, of any amount, will help though.”
For Knight, hiring help is no easy task as for the past 12 years, he hasn’t received a single paycheck and has completed all operations and repairs by himself, except for the help of a handful of volunteers.
Just days before Hurricane Irma hit the area, Knight fell off a 12-foot high ladder, an accident that left him with five broken ribs, a broken clavicle and a punctured lung. For obvious reasons, Knight isn’t able to complete the repairs he had planned, which is where the need to hire workers arises.
Despite the rising need for fence repairs, Knight is confident in getting the job done. While certainly slowed down by his injuries, he still manages to get new fences up and that’s because of his dedication and passion for these animals, which shines through with everything he does and says.
“If I won the lottery, I’d still be doing this,” Knight said. “After doing this for so long, you can’t think of anything else other than what you have to do to meet these animals’ needs.”
To donate to the sanctuary, go to bigoakwolfsanctuary.org and click on the word ‘donate’ on the left side of the website. If you prefer mailing a check, the sanctuary’s address is there as well.