WATCH NOW: Huskies Are Being Abandoned by Game of Thrones Fans
Season seven of "Game of Thrones" has already seen huge ratings, but those aren't the only numbers that are going up.
The HBO show, "Game of Thrones," first made its debut in 2011, and each subsequent season has drawn more die-hard fans. The fantasy world has everything from kings and queens to epic battles with dragons, but it's the appearance of the direwolf that's causing the biggest problems for animal rescues.
The giant wolves in the show are the Stark family's faithful companions and protectors, and they're many people's favorite characters. So when huskies started showing up to shelters with "funny names," fans of the show were able to connect the dots.
Randee McQueen from Bay Area Siberian Husky Club told SF Gate that the names Lady, Ghost, Nymeria, Grey Wind, and Summer kept coming up in their registry. McQueen doesn't watch the show, but he couldn't help but notice the trend. Other staff members were quick to point out that those "funny names" are the names of the direwolves in "Game of Thrones."
Even the timing makes sense. While the show based off the popular book series, A Song of Ice and Fire, started off well enough in 2011, it wasn't until 2014 when it really started to take off. It reached 20 million viewers and toppled "The Sopranos" as the most popular HBO series. Last year, the sixth season saw numbers rise yet again to a record-breaking 25.7 million viewers per episode.
More and more people are joining the "Game of Thrones" fan group, and a good amount of them are carrying their HBO obsession into their real lives. Desperate for direwolves of their own, fans of the show are adopting the next best thing: huskies. Huskies are independent, intelligent, and stubborn, and those traits can make them difficult dogs to own. They're adorable as puppies, and people fall in love with their wild, wolf-like look, but many new dog owners aren't ready for the adult dogs those puppies grow to be.
The huskies being surrendered to rescues across the globe are usually two to five years old, which is just the right amount of time for "Game of Thrones" fans to realize owning a real-life husky isn't the same as watching direwolves on TV.
Northern California Sled Dog Rescue has seen the number of monthly rescues double in recent years. A major British animal charity reported a 700% rise in abandoned huskies in 2014, and San Francisco Animal Care & Control reported only 14 surrendered huskies in 2012, but they took in 30 last year and 33 the year before that.
Movies like "Snow Dogs," "Eight Below," and "Twilight" have also contributed to the problem, but with seven seasons throughout the last seven years, "Game of Thrones" is an ongoing problem. The series will come to an end in a few years, but there's no knowing whether the husky craze will die down.
A spokesperson for the Contra Costa Animal Care Services explained that rescues aren't discouraging people from adopting huskies, but they want people to do their own research about the breed. He told SF Gate:
"Bringing an animal into your house is a great improvement in your quality of life, they become members of your family and we certainly encourage everybody to find that companion for them. We want to make sure that people just don't jump into it, that if they're interested in a particular breed, that's awesome."
Huskies can be great companions, but they're usually not recommended to inexperienced dog owners. They require routine training and exercise, and they can be more temperamental than other breeds. Before you fulfill your "Game of Thrones" fantasy by getting your very own Nymeria, be sure you're ready for the kind of commitment a husky requires.
Are you a fan of the direwolves on "Game of Thrones?" Let us know in the comments below.
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