Your new dream pet has arrived.
These days direwolves are best known as the symbol of House Stark on Game of Thrones, but real dire wolves - Canis dirus - once actually existed. They've been extinct for about 10,000 years, though, and the animals the HBO series uses to play the Stark direwolves - Northern Inuit Dogs - don't always make the best pets. So, if you want a pet direwolf in real life, you're out of luck, right? Wrong.
Lois Schwarz of White City, Ore., has been breeding dogs for nearly 40 years. In 1987, she began specifically working on the American Alsatian breed with the goal of producing a large, intelligent and calm companion dog. As the breed grew more wolf-like, Schwarz's daughter pointed out that they were beginning to resemble the prehistoric dire wolves, and the Dire Wolf Project, a breeding project run by the National American Alsatian Breeder's Association, was born.
To be clear, Schwarz and her colleagues are not attempting to revive the extinct dire wolf. Even if they wanted to, there's no genetic material to help her with back breeding. They are, however, crafting a breed that's very wolf-life in appearance, though a bit broader than, say, a gray wolf or a even a husky. Alsatians are not quite the size of real dire wolves either, with a maximum weight of about 130 pounds, but they do have a temperament that makes them much better suited to life as a pet. They're bred for calmness and affection, so they'll be the sort of dog that will gently approach you rather than sprint up to you barking.
And they're also very, very pretty:
So, you can't have a real direwolf. But you can have a very wolf-like dog that has the added benefit of being calm and affectionate. The calm part is especially important. How else are you going to get it to pose for photos with you and your replica swords?
If you're interested in learning how to pick up an American Alsatian of your own, you can check out the Dire Wolf Project website for more information. It won't be easy, though. There's an ever-growing waiting list, and the dogs will run you about $3,000.