Wolves aren't so big, and they're not so bad, either.

Wolves aren't so big, and they're not so bad, either.

That was the message Rachel Lauren and Matt Emmelhainz sought to get across last week during appearances at Columbus Metropolitan Library branches as part of Summer Reading Club 2016.

They're the people behind Ironwood Wolves, a small educational facility licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The couple appeared with one of their four "ambassador" wolves July 11 at the Whetstone branch and July 13 at the Karl Road branch. Ironwood Wolves was at the Northwest Library in late June.

Lucian, who was born in 2010 and was the founding ambassador for Ironwood Wolves when Emmelhainz and Lauren got the program going, was at the Karl Road appearance.

"That's a real wolf," several of the youngsters who crowded into the library's meeting room murmured when they spotted Lucian.

The children were allowed to look, but not touch. Staff members got to pet Lucian, but Emmelhainz explained before the program began that the canine is leery of men and a little frightened of little ones. Lucian is now semiretired, Lauren said.

All four of the Ironwood Wolves ambassadors were born in captivity, Lauren said during her presentation. Each has some dog in their lineage, which she said she can trace back to the 1950s.

Part of the mission of Ironwood Wolves is to debunk the many myths that exist about the animals, Lauren said -- bad press from fairy tales such as Little Red Riding Hood and Three Little Pigs.

"We use them as the evil scapegoat in our stories," she said.

Wolves in the wild actually are timid around people, and attacks are unlikely, she said. They also are not all that big; Lucian, for example, weighs 80 pounds and stands 32 inches at the shoulder.

"He looks like a weird sheep when he's shedding," Lauren said.

Wolves are known for their howls, but Lucian was taciturn during the Karl Road appearance.

In spite of much encouragement by the children and adults in the packed meeting room, and some gentle chiding from Emmelhainz, Lucian opted to remain silent.

"They howl if they're happy, if they're sad, if they're hungry," Lauren said. "They howl for all kinds of reasons. They don't really howl at the moon. They're howling because it's bright. They're howling because the moon's out. They're not howling at the moon."

Lucian wasn't howling at all, and Branch Manager Keith Hanson finally had to ask those in the audience to be quiet, since the noise was getting on the wolf's nerves.

"At the end of the day, it all comes back to reading and learning," Columbus Metropolitan Library Public Services Director Kathy Shahbodaghi said in a statement regarding the appearances of Ironwood Wolves. "Our Summer Reading Club programmers are chosen because their programs spark curiosity in children, and curiosity leads to books and reading."

Lauren said Ironwood Wolves recently added two foxes. She and Emmelhainz hope to bring them to public appearances starting in the fall.