When one young man got his hands on a puppy for nothing, he couldn’t believe his luck. So he immediately took the dog home and tried to socialize him. But despite all of his efforts, it soon became evident that he’d made a terrible mistake.
A teenage boy in Tucson, Arizona, spotted an intriguing sign adorning a local house that he just had to check out. The poster simply read, “Free Puppy,” so the young man figured he had nothing to lose. Then he went to meet the dog and instantly fell in love.
After all, the little dog was particularly cute. He boasted large amber eyes and adorable pointy ears, and there was no way that the teen could leave the stranger’s house without him. Naturally, then, he agreed to adopt the animal and took the dog home with him.
The guy named the puppy Neo. And he no doubt hoped that, one day, the dog would grow to be a loyal companion. However, it looked like the pup would need quite a lot of training before he was ready to become man’s best friend. Because not long after adopting the animal, his owner noticed that he was extremely nervous.
The puppy also proved difficult to potty train. Indeed, he would urinate and defecate all over his new owner’s car whenever they ventured out. However, taking him everywhere was easier for the teenager than leaving him in. That’s because the dog longed for his human’s attention all of the time.
This caused problems for the animal’s owner. As a college student who also worked a full-time job, he had very little time to be at home. Consequently, Neo spent a lot of time locked outside in the yard.
However, keeping the puppy out of mischief was harder than the student would have first believed. “According to his owner, Neo would dig out or jump the fence to play with the neighbors’ dogs,” animal welfare worker Cate Salansky told The Dodo in 2016. “He built a higher fence to help contain him, but Neo chewed through it and continued to escape.”
Luckily, the man’s neighbors were understanding about Neo’s surprise visits to their yards. In fact, they would take the dog into their homes. But unlike other dogs, Neo wasn’t interested in making new friends. Instead, he’d hide in the bathroom and avoid eye contact at all costs.
Yet although Neo clearly didn’t enjoy their company, he continued to visit the neighbors on a regular basis. In the end, though, they grew so tired of his unsocial calls that they took matters into their own hands. Yes, that’s when they delivered Neo to the Humane Society of Southern Arizona.
It’s safe to say, Neo was one of the oddest arrivals at the Humane Society. “I saw a couple walking a long-legged canine to the front door,” Maureen O’Nell, former CEO of the society, recalled. “It wasn’t his body composition that made me notice, but his behavior. Neo was completely avoidant of human interaction. The couple walking him seemed, as best as I can describe it, perplexed.”
O’Nell walked over to the couple and broke some surprising news to them: Neo was not a dog but a wolf-dog. And she was unsure if the shelter could take him in. Arizona law dictates that it’s illegal to own a wolf hybrid unless you have a permit or are Native American.
So it turned out that Neo was a “high-content” wolf-dog with all the tell-tale signs of being part wolf. These included his long body, lanky legs and distinctive amber eyes. Furthermore, he could have been escaping to his neighbors’ gardens in a bid to find his “pack” among their dogs.
O’Nell therefore got in touch with Wolf Connection. The California rescue organization cares for a number of wolves at its educational sanctuary. Staff from the center then contacted Neo’s owner to see if he’d be willing to hand his pet over to them. He eventually agreed, believing it was the right thing to do for Neo.
Neo’s change of character at the sanctuary was almost immediate. Yes, having gone from being a loner around humans, the animal was now keen to make friends with the other wolves on site. Finally, the animal had found his pack.
However, before Neo could introduce himself to the other wolves, he had to pass his medical clearance. So although Wolf Connection staff found him in peak condition, they had to keep him isolated. Once again, though, Neo turned to his instincts to help.
“Neo decided that he didn’t like being kept so far away from the rest of the pack, off in the isolated area of the compound,” Salansky, who works at Wolf Connection, explained. “So he escaped the isolation kennel and went straight to the habitat of Wolf Connection’s alpha female, Maya.”
And it didn’t take long for Neo to find his place within the pack. In fact, on his first night in his new home, he took part in their “nightly howl.” “He didn’t wait to see where he fit in with the pack,” O’Nell said. “He knew he belonged.”
While Neo’s owner had accidentally adopted a wolf-dog, many other people make hybrids their pets on purpose. However, this is not something Giulia Cappelli from Wolf Connection would recommend. “My advice would be ‘check your ego,’” she said.
“Why do you want to have an animal that probably doesn’t belong in a home?” she continued. “The reason why more than 70 percent of all wolf-dogs in the U.S. are euthanized on a yearly basis is because of the ego of people who want to own a wolf. No matter how good their intentions are, it doesn’t end well in most cases.”
And although wolf ownership laws differ from state to state, in many places it’s illegal to keep a wolf-dog. If Wolf Connection hadn’t saved Neo, then, there’s a chance authorities would have found him and euthanized him. Instead, he’s now loving life at the sanctuary and helping a new generation understand the wonders of his beautiful species.