Every so often, I'll be walking with my dogs in the NC Arboretum or in Bent Creek Forest, and there'll be an older gentleman calmly strolling along beside the largest, most magnificent animal I've ever seen.
Of course, the first time I saw this sight, I had to stop and ask the man about his unusual pet, which my two dogs observed rather warily. Turns out the animal is a wolfdog named, appropriately enough, Tom Wolf (unlike the famous author, this one is spelled without the "e"). Tom Wolf has been with his owner since he was a pup. Last time I saw him, a week or so ago, Tom Wolf was fourteen. This gentle giant is as nice and mellow as any big ol' dog could be.
Wolfdogs are not uncommon here in the mountains. We are fortunate to have a local sanctuary for these beautiful creatures, Full Moon Farm in Black Mountain, NC. Full Moon Farm says a wolfdog is a dog with recent wolf heritage -- an animal with a pure wolf ancestor within the last five generations. Interestingly, the domestic dog is thought to be a domestic variant of the gray wolf.
Wolfdogs, says Full Moon Farm, are "domestic animals with special needs." They were bred by humans and combine characteristics of both dogs and wolves. Most wolfdogs are a combination of wolf and German Shepherd, Siberian Husky, or Alaskan Malamute. They typically have a high prey drive, but they can certainly make good pets in the right household -- Tom Wolf is proof of that. However, owning a wolfdog takes a special breed of person, and these animals are not legal as pets everywhere.
For more about wolfdogs, visit Full Moon Farm's website, www.fullmoonfarm.org. Tours of the facility must be scheduled, but the next tour open to the public is Saturday, October 3 at 3 PM. Check their website or call 828-669-1818 for more information.
(Photo from www.thundafunda.com.)