A teenage boy in Arizona saw a sweet puppy by the side of a house one day, and one look into the doggie’s big amber eyes and he was in love. All the better, because next to it was a sign that said “free puppy.”
He named the puppy Neo, and then quickly realized he was going to be a handful. He was difficult to potty train, and wanted his owner’s attention all the time. But he was a full-time college student, and it was difficult to spend that much time with Neo, who had to play by himself in the backyard instead.
So Neo would dig, and he would jump over the fence to play with the neighbors’ dogs. When his owner found out, he tried to build a taller fence—but Neo only chewed through it so he could go out again.
The neighbors thought Neo was a bit strange for a dog. At first, they took him into the house to let him play with the other dogs, but Neo would pointedly ignore them, going as far as avoiding eye contact and cowering in their bathroom. He wasn’t even interested in the treats they offered.
After one too many of Neo’s strange visits, the neighbors decided to contact the Humane Society of Southern Arizona. The owner seemed to be away, and something needed to be done.
Maureen O’Nell, the former CEO of the society, was there for Neo’s arrival. She remembers seeing him oddly avoidant, and took notice. She also realized this was not a normal drop off.
She went up to the couple, and said: “You know that isn’t a dog, right?”
The couple had their suspicions as well. Neo was a wolf dog, and had much more wolf than dog in his composition.
O’Nell told The Dodo that she did some research and found that in the state of Arizona, you couldn’t own a wolf or wolf dog unless you were a Native American or had a special permit. If the shelter took in Neo, they would need to report them to the authorities.
Instead, O’Nell got in touch with the wolf dog rescue center and sanctuary Wolf Connection, to see if they could take in Neo. The wolf dog’s original owner, who had picked him up off the side of a house, agreed that was the best course for Neo as well.
And Neo was ecstatic. On his very first night, he joined in on the “nightly howl” of the pack, and even though the medical team tried to keep him in isolation for the first day to do tests, he escaped and went straight to join the other wolves, greeting the alpha female Maya.
“He didn’t wait to see where he fit in with the pack,” O’Nell said. “He knew he belonged.”