Despite their incredible beauty and obvious similarities to our domestic companions, just about everyone knows that wolves are not to be messed with in any way.
But in 2003, Alaskan wildlife photographer Nick Jans and his labrador encountered a wolf in their backyard – and began a relationship that would defy logic and transform an entire community.
Jans was on the back porch of his Juneau home with his dog when a wild wolf appeared. With all the excitement, his dog slipped away, racing out to meet the stranger.
Nick was stunned to see the two start to play together. He managed to capture this photo of them during the encounter.
The wolf stayed in the area, and in the years since, Nick has devoted much of his time to documenting him, naming him Romeo.
Romeo became a Juneau fixture, known for playing with local dogs at nearby Mendenhall Glacier Park.
Residents were unsure at first, but they soon realized that Romeo just wanted to play.
Romeo didn’t just play with other dogs. He played with humans, too. “The wolf would bring out toys that he’d stashed,” Nick said in an interview. “One was a Styrofoam float. Romeo would pick it up and bring it to [my friend] Harry to throw. He clearly understood the same sort of behaviors that we see in dogs.”
“The amazing thing was Romeo’s understanding. It wasn’t just our understanding and tolerance. It was the combination of his and ours and the dogs’. We were these three species working out how to get along harmoniously. And we did.”
Romeo remained around the outskirts of Juneau for six years, becoming an ambassador to the wild and a powerful symbol in the community.
After Romeo’s passing in 2010, the residents of Juneau held a memorial for the wolf and had this special plaque made in his honor.
Klas Stolpe/Juneau Empire
It’s so inspiring to see three different species learn to live peacefully together in harmony. It just goes to show how wonderful the world can be.
Share this amazing story with your friends, and check out Nick’s account of this unbelievable tale, A Wolf Named Romeo.