Wolf-dog Terk is gentle giant

sgilman@newsobserver.comFebruary 24, 2014 

His long legs, pointed ears and intense gaze are enough to make you feel like you’re about to be lunch.

But sit down on the brown leather couch inside his owner’s house, and “Terk” will softly lay his great head in your lap. He’ll half close his eyes and wait for you to pet him.

Terk is a wolf hybrid, an exotic pet that is illegal in some states but not North Carolina. His owner, Cindy Read, made sure of that before moving here from Colorado in 2006.

Despite being half-timber wolf, Terk is laid back and friendly. “I think it was how he was raised,” Read said.

Terk was conceived in 2001 in the woods of Alaska when his mother, part German shepherd and part malamute, sneaked into the woods for a midnight fling with the locals. The offspring were all hybrids.

At that time, Read was working at a Walmart in Colorado Springs while her now ex-husband was stationed at Ft. Carson. Read said her coworker approached her and said he had a litter of puppies to get rid of. Read asked what kind they were.

He told her they were half timber wolf, but that didn’t stop Read.

When Read was a girl, her mother owned a wolf hybrid. That was back when her father was stationed in Japan with the U.S. Army, before a car accident in 1986 took his life and left Read with a long scar on her forehead.

She went and looked at the litter of puppies. Terk was the runt of the litter, and love came at first sight.

“I said, ‘I’ll take that one,’ and I pointed to Terk,” Read said. “He looked like the dog we had.”

Read remembers fondly how tiny Terk was. “When I first saw him, he was about as big as his head,” she said, measuring the air with both hands.

Terk traveled with Read on her multiple cross-country trips. She would take him to a dog park where he would “run and run and play with other dogs.” When her new husband’s work brought them to North Carolina, Turk came took.

He turned 13 on Feb. 1. That’s right on the edge of ancient for wolf-dogs, which can live in captivity for up to 16 years. Terk’s hind toenails drag when he walks, and about a month ago, he started licking his hindquarters. They have begun to lose much of the hair that was once full and thick.

Though he can still “shake hands” for the crackers Read uses for treats, Terk now has difficulty performing the tricks like “sit pretty” that he could do as a pup.

“I can tell he’s getting worse,” Read said. “I’m thinking it’s not going to be much longer. And when he does go, it’s not going to be very nice in the house. And I’m not going to get another dog, because I’ve had him since he was the size of his head.”

Terk makes an impression on people, especially on children. When Read takes him downtown, people will say, “Oh, he’s so pretty,” Read said. But children notice him more.

“A lot of little kids will say, ‘Oh, Mom, it’s a wolf.’”

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