Every one of the millions of people who watch Game of Thrones instantly fell in love with direwolves when they first made their appearance in the show’s pilot episode. In the fantasy story, the direwolves are eternally linked to the Stark family. Ned Stark gave each one of his children a direwolf puppy, including the “illegitimate” Jon Snow, after stumbling upon an orphaned litter in the forest.
The direwolves are extremely attractive dogs, not only because of their physical characteristics but also for their personalities. In the show, they are portrayed as courageous and fearlessly loyal dogs. They instantly became one of the most beloved aspects of the show. For these reasons, Game of Thrones fans started adopting similar looking dogs in real life to live out their own personal direwolf fantasy.
Randee McQueen of the Bay Area Siberian Husky Club said that he could tell the dogs were GOT-related because of their names: Lady, Ghost and Nymeria. "People were doing more microchipping and we'll get an ID on the dog, we get their name, we get their age and then suddenly I'm going, 'God, those are funny names,'" McQueen told SFGate. "One of the other members will say, 'They're all from 'Game of Thrones!'"
People are adopting these dogs, like the massive Alaskan Malamute (pictured) because they are fans of the show, but they don’t realize how much work goes into taking care of these animals. "It's really becoming a huge problem," said Angelique Miller, president of the Northern California Sled Dog Rescue. "These people, they watch these shows and think how cool these dogs are. People can't even tell the difference between a husky and a wolf because they're always asking us at adoption fairs if these dogs are wolves — and it's clearly a husky. They're just following the trend of what they think is cute."
Miller went on to say that the number of rescues her organization is taking in is staggering and that they simply don’t have the space for these abandoned dogs. "In previous years ... we on average would have about 20 huskies a month in our rescue," Miller said. "Now, on an ongoing basis, it's anywhere up to 45 and that is really putting us over the top because we don't have a facility, so we have to rely on fosters and we have to actually pay to board the overflow. That's not even taking all the dogs that people contact us about. So, on an ongoing basis, our numbers have doubled and sometimes more than doubled."
The UK reported an even more astonishing rise in the abandonment rate. A British animal charity reported a 700 percent increase in huskies and other wolf-like dogs being abandoned over the past five years. The charity blames the popularity of Games of Thrones and Twilight for spiking interest in the breeds.
People are giving up these dogs because they simply didn’t realize the amount of work it takes in raising them. They are very vocal dogs, which may not suit a quiet household. They shed like crazy and require a lot of exercise.
“While huskies and similar breeds might look like cuddly toys, they are far from it as adults,” said Mandy Jones, head of rehoming at the Blue Cross. “Huskies were bred to live in cold climates and pull sleds for hundreds of miles, so they don’t enjoy living in centrally heated homes and it’s very hard for the average pet owner to meet their very high exercise needs.”
This isn’t the first time that pop culture sparked interest in animal adoption, only for it to lead to unwanted and abandoned pets. The same thing happened after the live-action version of 101 Dalmatians was released in 1997. Some rescue centers across America saw a 35 percent increase in Dalmatian returns. These people didn’t realize the work it would take to raise these dogs, which are known for their temperamental personalities and health issues.
There is also evidence to show that the Harry Potter series affected the black-market owl trade in Indonesia. While owls seem like a great companion in the film, they make notoriously bad pets and are better suited in the wild.
After Finding Nemo came out in the early aughts, sales of clownfish and blue tangs skyrocketed. But some of these purchases led to some well-intended, but fatal consequences for the fish. Children were reported actually “freeing” the fish by flushing them down the toilet.
While a fish may not garner the same sympathy as a husky, it still shows a lack of responsibility on the pet owner's part.
The dog that was used in Game of Thrones to play the direwolf is a Northern Inuit Dog. They are a crossbreed of the Husky, German Shepherds and Malamutes. These Northern Inuit Dogs were specially trained to appear in GOT.
Zunni is the name of the canine actress who played Lady, Sansa Stark’s loyal companion. However, she was murdered in the first season after she bit Joffrey, and he had her executed. But the real-life Sansa, Sophie Turner, couldn’t say goodbye to her furry friend. She decided to adopt Zunni after the two hit it off on set.
“Growing up I always wanted a dog, but my parents never wanted one,” Turner told the Coventry Telegraph. “We kind of fell in love with my character’s direwolf, Lady, on set.” Turner said that after Lady was killed-off on set, the facility that trained her wanted to find her a new home. Turner knew she had to step in and adopt her.
Turner adopted her dog responsibly and she had the money and time it took to take care of her. But, so many others didn’t, which led to thousands of abandoned and heart-broken dogs. Please do your research into a dog breed before you make the very important decision of adoption.