Wolves are truly some of the most beautiful creatures on Earth. They are strong, independent and intelligent animals that move in packs and are fiercely loyal to their companions.
They are also known as dangerous predators that should be avoided whenever possible.
In 2004, Alaskan wildlife photographer Nick Jans and his dog Dakotah crossed paths with one of these animals outside their Juneau home. This sparked a chain of events that would change their lives forever.
Nick Jans was sitting on his porch with his dog when a wild wolf emerged from the forest. Before he could do anything, his dog ran out to meet the strange animal.
That is when something amazing happened. The two animals started to play together. He could not believe his eyes.
The wolf, later be named Romeo, continued to stay in the area. Nick began documenting the animal. It was clear that Romeo was no ordinary wolf.
Romeo soon became a regular member of the community and was known for interacting with other dogs at Mendenhall Glacier Park.
People, at first, were alarmed at the sight of the big wolf.
It wasn’t long before everyone realized that Romeo just wanted to play. He meant no harm to anyone.
Romeo became comfortable with humans, too. “The wolf would bring out toys that he’d stashed,” Nick said.
“One was a Styrofoam float. Romeo would pick it up and bring it to [my friend] Harry to throw.” It’s like he thought he was one of the dogs.
“He clearly understood the same sort of behaviors that we see in dogs.” He was able to observe the way the humans and dogs interacted and picked up on how he could fit in.
“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 was around for six years, playing with the dogs and humans in the area.
During that time, he became a symbol of the community’s bond with the wild.
Romeo became a local fixture and the residents would often say “I’m going to the lake to see the wolf.”
Locals knew Romeo was very friendly, but strangers usually wouldn’t dare get close.
Romeo captured the hearts of everyone who knew him, human and canine alike.
Nick said he “was downright relaxed and tolerant from the start as if he had dropped out of the sky like a unicorn.”
Then one day, tragedy struck.
In 2010, Romeo was killed by hunters.
A memorial was held after his passing, and the residents of Juneau made a special plaque with Romeo’s likeness.
The plaque stands in Juneau to this day.
Rest in peace, Romeo.
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