Imagine if you picked up a free puppy, only to later learn that the "dog" you brought home was actually a wolf.
Well, that's exactly what happened in Tuscon, Arizona.
When a college student saw an ad for a free puppy, he decided to go see the puppy, thinking it could be his next companion. The puppy was adorable, the student fell in love, and the puppy came home with him. Simple, right?
Well, not necessarily. You see, that free puppy became highly attached to his owner, but he wanted nothing to do with anyone else.
The puppy, named Neo, was highly anxious during car rides. And since his owner went to college full time while also balancing a full-time job, Neo spent a good deal of time alone out in the backyard.
Neo took to jumping the fence to play with the neighbors' dogs. When his owner built a higher fence, Neo jumped that, too. In fact, it was difficult to contain him at all.
The neighbors tolerated Neo's escapes initially, but he wasn't interested in interacting with them. Finally, when Neo continued to escape, they took him to the Humane Society of Southern Arizona.
And that's where things got interesting. Because Humane Society CEO Maureen O'Neil instantly realized that Neo wasn't a dog. He was a wolf.
Neo's being a wolf explained his unusual behavior, from his incredible fence-jumping talents to the fact that he wasn't comfortable around humans. But O'Neil couldn't just take Neo in - laws in Arizona forbid anyone who isn't Native American or who doesn't have a special permit from owning a wolf.
O'Neil contacted Wolf Connection, a rescue in California. They offered to take Neo, and O'Neil contacted Neo's owner to inform him of his dog's true identity. Neo's owner agreed that Neo should go to Wolf Connection.
Now, Neo lives with his own pack in the safety of Wolf Connection. He's able to roam, howl, and exercise in the way that he would in the wild. And chances are that he's pretty darn happy about his new habitat.
While Neo's mistaken identity has a happy ending, this isn't true in all cases. Wolves are sometimes mistaken for dogs, but in many states it's illegal to own a pure wolf. Some states even have laws against wolf-dog hybrids, and the dog must be DNA tested for wolf content. If you ever adopt or buy a puppy from a private owner or breeder, be sure to make sure that you're not buying a dog who is actually a wolf. There are distinctive features you can look for, like hair inside the wolf's ears and unusually long legs.
If you're looking for a new dog, your best bet is to adopt or buy from a reputable shelter or breeder. You'll know what dog breeds you're getting and won't have to wonder if your puppy or dog may have a case of mistaken identity.
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