Games of Thrones' Jon Snow with a direwolf cub (Image: HBO)
The stark reality of the highly-acclaimed fantasy series is a phalanx of unwanted dogs bought by fans enchanted by the idea of having their own direwolves. Dogs Trust says it witnessed a massive 420 per cent surge in “wolf look-a-like” breeds coming through its doors since the HBO epic first hit screens nine years ago. Alaskan malamutes, Siberian huskies and Japanese akitas, breeds which all bear a striking resemblance to the pack of direwolves that have played a major part in the unfolding television odyssey, have found themselves being handed over by dog-loving viewers who found they had bitten off more than they could handle.
Dogs Trust say that when Game of Thrones was first aired in the UK back in 2010 only 79 wolf-like pets were being cared for by its rescue teams. Last year this figure had risen to a worrying 411 individual dogs. By contrast, the number of other large dogs coming into centres, such as rottweilers, German shepherds and weimaraners, has fallen by 22 per cent.
With Game of Thrones’ final season being premiered on Sky Atlantic on Sunday, April 14, the animal welfare charity has a message for fans who might be beguiled by the idea of having their own direwolf.
Dogs Trust’s operations director Adam Clowes warned today: “Since the start of Game of Thrones we have seen a huge increase in the popularity of wolf look-a-like dogs, but we urge owners to remember a dog is for life, not just the duration of a TV series.”
It is easy to see how any dog lover cannot be enthralled by the size and power of the loyal direwolves devoted to the Stark dynasty. Each of the Stark heirs has had one of the huge beasts as a bodyguard, but the animals have taken a terrible toll in the battles and brutal intrigue that have unfurled during the seven previous seasons. Only two survive: Jon Snow’s faithful Ghost and Arya Stark’s Nymeria.
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Snarling Game of Thrones direwolves have bewitched dog lovers (Image: HBO)
The likelihood of dog-loving fans being bewitched by the idea of parading their own direwolf along the high street only to find them a handful back home is behind the Dogs Trust’s plea for fewer of these handsome animals ending up being surrendered by their hardpressed owners.
With 28 akitas, malamutes and huskies currently being looked after across the charity’s 21 rescue centres, the operations director explained: “They are beautiful, large, powerful dogs and they make loyal companions but as they were originally bred for more physical past-times, such as pulling sledges in cold climates and hunting, they need a lot of physical and mental stimulation every day and not all owners are able to provide that.”
“We love looking after these dogs and owners have done the right thing bringing them to us so we can find them their forever homes. However, with the end of the series, we really hope we see fewer of them coming to us in the future.”
One of the hundreds of wolf-life dogs that have been looked after by Dogs Trust (Image: Dogs Trust)
Potential dog owners have a duty to ensure they can provide any pet coming into their home with all their welfare needs.
As Mr Clowes continued: “Dogs of all shapes, sizes and ages can bring so much joy to our lives but we would urge everyone to do their research before getting a dog so they don’t risk finding themselves in the heart-breaking position of having to give them up.
“Understanding what a particular dog needs and being confident that you can provide that from the moment they come into your life, gives us all the best chance of having wonderful lifelong relationships with our dogs.”
To find out more about the animals at Dogs Trust waiting for their special someone to give them a forever home, pleasevisitwww.dogstrust.org.uk
Zen is being backed by a Valentine's Day appeal (Image: NAWT) “Either the potential owners have pulled out, or their circumstances have changed and they could no longer give Zen a home.” Despite being feted on social media, coached by top trainers and having sleepovers and days out with animal charity staff, he awaits his forever home.