Bruce Weide and Pat Tucker never saw it coming.
Fate had thrown them together with a wolf. Sure, it was captive, but it was still a wolf and it was now their responsibility. Should they euthanize her as their instincts told them to? Or could they somehow create a meaningful life with this beast? Living with a wolf would certainly not be easy, in fact, they shared the same fears as society at large; the wolf is a dangerous beast that has no place around humans.
But Koani changed everything. She allowed them to see the true nature of the wolf and it literally changed Bruce and Pat’s story. It was this revelation that set this unusual pack on a path to tell a new story about wolves and challenge the age old perception of the Big Bad Wolf as well as the New Age portrayal of the wolf as a noble savage.
True Wolf: The Story of Koani and Her Unusual Pack weaves the story of Bruce and Pat’s life with Koani into the larger issue of humanity’s relationship with the wolf and wildness. Through 16 years of archival footage, supplemented by provocative interviews, stylized re-creations and stunning wolf footage, this contemporary film explores the highly polarized and contentious period before, during, and after our nation made the historic decision to return wolves to the homelands from which they’d been exterminated in the Northern Rockies.
Koani became an ambassador for her species. She had changed Bruce and Pat’s story about wolves and they hoped that she could do the same for others. So they decided to take Koani into classrooms, museums and venues across America to give people a face-to-face experience with a wolf. It was a dangerous proposition. Many things could go wrong. She was a wolf after all. The stakes were high. The wolf issue was highly contentious and one false move by Koani and her unusual pack could potentially put a black eye on wolf recovery.
Against all odds, they set forth on a journey with Koani and Indy, Koani’s dog companion, and traveled across the continent on a quest to change people’s attitude and story about the wolf. It was an odyssey that challenged their conventions and beliefs. And while they were successful beyond their wildest imagination – they would present 1,400 programs to 200,000 people – to this day they are haunted by the question, “Did we do the right thing?”
The film explores a much more personal side to the story – Bruce and Pat’s relationship with Koani. Born in captivity, Koani could only be a captive wolf. She never roamed wild nor could she be allowed to run free. For Bruce and Pat, despite all their efforts to provide for Koani’s needs, they would have to face the painful truth that they could not provide for her greatest need – to be free – and as she would prove time and time again, she was a wolf – and wolves belong in the wild.
In the end, Koani taught Bruce and Pat an unexpected lesson in their own truth – the truth about being human.
True Wolf: The Story of Koani and Her Unusual Pack explores the power of story, challenges all conventions on how society views the wolf and, perhaps more importantly, how we view ourselves in relationship to the natural world.
Director/Producer, Rob Whitehair, shares his thoughts about the film in this special message.