2015-11-12 / Top News

Controversy separates man and canine best friends

BY LINDSEY NESMITH


LUCAS LUCAS Vietnam veteran Mike Coslet is seeking a new home in either Collier, Lee or Charlotte county that will allow him to be reunited with his large dog, Lucas. The two were separated six weeks ago, after Mr. Coslet’s condominium changed hands and the new landlord decided Lucas would have to be relinquished if Mr. Coslet were to continue living there.

The main complication: The 6-year-old,

100-pound pooch is technically classified as a wolf dog (though local experts disagree with Mr. Coslet about the breed). In addition, Mr. Coslet is disabled and lives on a fixed income, which further complicates his house hunting.

He acquired Lucas from friends in Indiana who bred wolves with large domesticated dogs and believes Lucas to be one of the offspring, though staff at Shy Wolf Sanctuary in Collier County, where the dog is currently housed, don’t see any lupine resemblance in Lucas.


A Shy Wolf Sanctuary volunteer gets an enthusiastic greeting from Lucas. 
COURTESY PHOTO A Shy Wolf Sanctuary volunteer gets an enthusiastic greeting from Lucas. COURTESY PHOTO “Our assessment is that we don’t see any wolf in him,” says Deanna Deppen, president of the nonprofit sanctuary. “He’s just a big, mixed breed dog. But because he was labeled as a wolf dog, he was referred to us.”

Lucas was barely a month old when Mr. Coslet acquired him. The two were constant companions, the dog becoming increasingly dependent on and protective of the Navy veteran.

“I guess I’ve been the only person he’s ever had,” Mr. Coslet says. “I raised him. We get along really well together because we’re always together. I protect him and he protects me.”

Mr. Coslet says when he was told on Aug. 1 that his canine companion could no longer reside with him in his rented east Fort Myers condo, he approached a number of shelters to take the dog but was refused when he referred to the animal as a wolf dog.

“I took him just about everywhere there was to take him,” he says. He eventually took Lucas to Shy Wolf Sanctuary, which specializes in providing refuge to wolves and wolf dogs.

Ms. Deppen is hoping someone in the community has a home with a fenced yard to offer Mr. Coslet so the pair can be reunited. Also, because staff at the shelter doesn’t agree that Lucas is a wolf dog, but rather a shepherd/malamute mix, he falls outside their service parameters.

“(Coslet) showed up at our gate with Lucas in tow saying he had to get rid of his wolf dog,” Ms. Deppen says. “How do you turn someone away when they’re at your gate and other places have said no?”

She says Lucas seems to be adjusting to his new surroundings, though it took some time because he obviously missed Mr. Coslet and was accustomed to having individual attention.

“The dog wants to be with people,” she says. “He’s very lonely at the sanctuary even though he gets attention from volunteers. He’s used to being with this guy who’s retired.”

For now, she is focused on reuniting man and dog in a home that Mr. Coslet can afford and where Lucas has room to spread out. The alternative would be to adopt the dog out to someone else, though Lucas has some habits that are particular to his lifestyle with Mr. Coslet, she says.

Wolf dogs are legal in Collier County once owners obtain a captive wildlife license from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Ms. Deppen estimates that expenses for Lucas could reach up to $3,360 before Mr. Coslet finds a new home for himself and his dog. Lucas is fed the same raw meat diet as the rest of the wolves and wolf dogs at Shy Wolf, but he has a private space of his own. Staff is also concerned about the state of Lucas’ ears; they say he will need to be anesthetized soon to assess the problem. He has become more active in the time since Mr. Coslet left him at the sanctuary, which has resulted in a trimmer, friskier pet.

Anyone who wants to contribute to the cost of Lucas’ care or who has information about rental property for Mr. Coslet should call the sanctuary at 455-1968 or email info@shywolfsanctuary.com. For more information about captive wildlife permitting, visit myfwc.com. ¦

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