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Days Belong to Wolves but Night’s Her Time to Howl

Caroline Bluff’s license plate holder reads, “Zoo keepers have a howling good time,” and that’s the truth, she says.

And no wonder. At work she’s called the wolf lady.

“I may spend my days caring for wolves,” said Bluff, who works as a senior wolf keeper at the Irvine Park Zoo in Orange, “but I also like the night life. I’m kind of a city girl at heart who likes to go out dancing.”

She probably will spend her life caring for and teaching about animals, “but I’m not a recluse who likes to live in the mountains where there are no people.”

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“I need more stimulation than being out by myself. I’ve always been able to communicate with animals by feeling when they’re happy or angry and reading their body language,” said Bluff, 20, who was born and raised in Santa Ana and got her first introduction to wild animals by volunteering at the zoo.

“People are always kind of taken aback once they find out what I do,” said Bluff, a Rancho Santiago College student studying animal science and animal health. “Most of them think I play with the wolves, but that’s hardly so.”

Instead, her work with the zoo’s four timber wolves entails feeding and cleaning up after them “every day, rain or shine, and on holidays. Animals have to eat every day,” Bluff said.

She has developed an understanding with the wolves, which once belonged to the Los Angeles Zoo: “When I enter their territory (cage), they have to understand I’m coming in there not to threaten them but to do what I do and then leave.”

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Her playtime with the wolves is when she’s outside the cage.

Despite her affection for the wolves, who run to her when she calls them--they’re named Nero, Nerva, Charlie Boy and Little Girl--she says she “never tries to pet or discipline them. They’re wild animals and know what they’re doing all the time.”

Only recently, Nero underwent abdominal surgery to remove part of a sweat shirt she had swallowed, the second time her strange eating habits had gotten the wolf in trouble. She had 13 root canals after breaking her teeth chomping on the fence around her pen.

Bluff plans a career working with animals. “But I know someday I may be taking care of other animals, even though I’d rather stay with wolves. They really are fascinating, and there are so few of them left.”

She was brought to Albertson’s supermarket in an empty limousine, but when Pat Smith of Anaheim was through shopping--it took her just seven minutes--she had filled the car with $1,181.51 worth of groceries. Smith, one of 150 people nationwide who won shopping sprees sponsored by Oscar Mayer Food Corp., said she enters 10-15 contests a month, “but this is the first time I’ve ever won.”

During the allowable seven minutes, as store employees cheered her on, she concentrated on steaks, roasts, pork, chicken, turkey and ham, skipping such expensive items as lobster and crab. She said her family doesn’t like seafood.

And she was well prepared. She bought a new freezer for the occasion.

When a 1908 time capsule recovered recently from the former Anaheim Public Library building is formally opened, “we know there will be some unusual items in it,” said Herbert E. Pruett of Newport Beach, director of the Anaheim Museum.

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He said the library, being renovated as a Museum of History for Anaheim, was in 1908 the pride of the town, which then had a population of 3,500.

Although the contents of the capsule won’t be shown until Oct. 18, “we know one of the items will be a 48-star American flag,” said Pruett, who declined to reveal other items.

“Actually, it will be like opening a Christmas package,” he said.

Cathy Smith, 14, thinks her brother, Bill, 17, has a lot going for him. He gets good grades, is a top tennis player and has many personal achievements.

And she thinks he’s good looking.

So Cathy submitted his picture to Teen Magazine’s Dream Guy Contest, and wouldn’t you know, the Mission Viejo High School student was picked as a semifinalist from this region. Later this year he will compete again in hope of becoming a finalist.

In the meantime, his picture will run in the September issue of the magazine so “readers can engage in a favorite pastime: boy watching,” a magazine representative said.

But Bill is concerned. “If I won, I think I’d be embarrassed,” he said.

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