Remember Karma? The wolf-dog’s tale still has legs

Each night Karma does zoomies through Nancy Brown’s living room. She grabs her Milk Bone and buries it in the couch. And in a flash, she’s lying down under Brown’s desk, her head resting at Brown’s feet.

Karma, a wolfdog declared dangerous and vicious by OC Animal Care this summer, has a new life at Full Moon Farm, a wolfdog sanctuary operated by Brown in the Blue Ridge Mountain Range of Western North Carolina.

“Add a collar and she’s an instant dog,” said Brown, 59, who also cares for 60 other wolfdogs, 80 percent of which can’t have human touch. “She’s completely socialized and happy to go on her walkies.”

Recently, Brown, who took Karma in after plans to euthanize galvanized animal activists world-wide, sent a letter from her veterinarian to Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer, to update him on Karma and to pass on the veterinarian’s assessment that Karma isn’t vicious. When Brown took Karma in in October, she agreed to the county’s liability waiver and all of the stipulations required to house a dog declared vicious including carrying liability insurance.

Spitzer was instrumental in saving the dog’s life.He rallied fellow board members to ask a Superior Court Judge to reconsider an earlier to judgement to euthanize Karma.

Brown said this week she hopes the vicious designation might be dropped at some point so Karma can interact more with people – something Brown said Karma craves. But for now, she abides by a strict Superior-court ordered contract that she agreed to with the County of Orange.

For now, Karma, who Brown says is not a wolfdog but a Husky-mix, is under lock and key when farm volunteers or tours are at the sanctuary. She lives in a secure enclosure, wears a muzzle when she is walked and is among people, and is crated when she rides in Brown’s van.

Karma was taken from her Anaheim home in May after her owners, Joshua and Tiffany Ogle, were arrested in a domestic violence incident.

OC Animal Care declared Karma vicious because they said she had killed at least one cat and also charged but didn’t bite a woman in Anaheim. However, a report on her case obtained through a public records request in September showed an agency hearing officer determined there wasn’t enough evidence to prove Karma is a vicious dog and recommended returning her to her owners.

The report says that three of the family’s children told authorities that Karma is part wolf, which led OC Animal Care to send her DNA for testing at UC Davis. The university’s veterinary school determined the dog is 15 percent wolf.

Because the effectiveness of rabies vaccines on wolf hybrids is unknown, Hawkins declared the animal vicious and slated her for euthanasia.

On Sept. 30, after a two-week battle that galvanized animal rights activists worldwide and led to special meetings of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, Superior Court Judge Corey Cramin overruled his previous decision that Karma must be euthanized. That ruling had supported a decision by OC Animal Care that was based on the dog’s designation as a vicious animal and a DNA test showed she was part wolf. Animal activists who had rallied to Karma’s cause rejoiced across social media world-wide that day.

“It took a village,” said Danna Cruzan, vice-president of Wolf Mountain Sanctuary in Lucerne Valley, who started the online petition that gathered 400,000 signatures to spare the dog. “Karma brought all this together.”

George Stapleton, who has 20 years of rescue and captive wolf experience, drove Karma from Orange County to Black Mountain, N.C. in 72 hours. He, like Brown, says the vicious designation doesn’t apply.

“That girl is the sweetest most loving travel dog, I’ve ever met,” he said. “I knew I was already bonding with her. The more time I spent with her, the harder it was to leave her.”

Ultimately, like Brown, he says Karma would be best off in a one-dog family.

“Until then, she’s in the best place she can be,” he said.

Tracey Litaker, of Anaheim, had followed Karma’s story. When she went for a family visit in Hickory, N.C. this fall, she decided to check on Karma.

She drove the winding mountain road to the sanctuary. She saw wolfdogs roaming in their enclosures and spotted Brown’s cats; Geordie and Pearl, a black cat and a tabby, who roamed the property as if they owned the place. She spotted Karma, who at 55 pounds, is about half the size of the other wolfdogs. She was calmly sitting in her enclosure.

“After seeing Karma for myself, I know the right decision won out in the end,” she said. “May good karma follow all those who helped to save her.”

In the New Year, Karma will work with a behavorist. Brown noticed Karma fears baseball caps and is reactive around other dogs. Brown said likely her behavior comes from previous experiences and is not genetic.

Since Brown took Karma in she’s had continued interest from folks around the country. Karma has her own Facebook page with more than 1,000 likes. Brown said the dog has made her life richer. When she participated in the Black Mountain Christmas parade with a wolfdog, cheers from dozens came calling “Karma! Karma! Brown hopes to feature Karma in that parade next year if she can get the vicious designation removed. But for that to happen Orange County has to approve it. Spitzer said there needs to be at least a six month observation period before that discussion can be done.

“But based on my own personal observation of Karma at the shelter, I thought the conclusion of viciousness was incredible from the outset,” Spitzer said Thursday.

What surprised Brown most in getting Karma was the condition she was in when she arrived from OC Animal Care.

“That dog was in the best condition of any shelter animal I’ve pulled in 18 years,” she said. “Her coat was clean, her teeth were good. She had no kennel smell, no parasites. It told me a lot about the people who worked there.”

Contact the writer: 714-796-2254 or or Twitter:@lagunaini

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