The Man Who Accidentally Adopted a Wolf Pup

It did not go well.

I’ve long believed that, given the opportunity, I could rear a wild animal as my own. Personal preference would be a lion cub, for obvious reasons, but that’s a tad unreasonable given the square footage limitations of your standard urban apartment. So plan B has always been a wolf.

Turns out that is not such a great idea. Consider the below tale of an Arizona man who tried to do just that.

To be fair, he didn’t know it was a wolf when he adopted it. According to Wolf Connection (via The Dodo), the man noticed a “free puppy” sign on a house in Tucson, Arizona, knocked on the door, fell in love with said free puppy, and took him home—a totally understandable chain of events.

But it wasn’t long before the “puppy” showed some warning signs: general skittishness and a constant need for attention from its new owner, and only its new owner, at first. Then it started outmaneuvering the backyard fence and escaping into the neighborhood when left alone. When its owner built a larger, stronger fence, it was undeterred. It chewed through it. Upon run-ins with neighbors, it avoided eye contact and showed no interest in dog treats.

After one of these encounters, the neighbors took the “dog,” which was named Neo, to a local humane society. Once there, an official at the Humane Society of Southern Arizona recognized that it wasn’t, you know, a dog. As it turns out, Neo is a “high content” wolf dog—essentially, a hybrid between wolf and dog—with its behavioral and physical attributes much closer aligned with a wolf’s. That means not only a coarse coat and lanky body, but the mind of a pack animal.

Since they’re basically wild animals, they’re also illegal to own in most states, including Arizona. Only people with special permits and Native Americans can keep them. So Neo had to leave his owner, which is where Wolf Connection came in.

But if you’re looking for a happy ending, don’t worry—there is one. Originally isolated from the rest of the sanctuary’s animals upon arrival for medical reasons, Neo quickly escaped his isolation kennel and immediately found the pack’s alpha female, Maya. And then, his first night, he joined in on the pack’s nightly howl. He was no longer an oddly behaving puppy. He was a normal-behaving wolf dog.

See? A happy ending. Even if it officially rules out ever owning a wolf.