Bad news, Game of Thrones fans. A rescue wolf-dog by the name of Ghost — named by George R. R. Martin himself — has passed away. Ghost was one of 10 wolf-dogs from Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary's "Westeros pack" in New Mexico, each and every one which was named by Martin and his wife, Parris.
According to the sanctuary website, Ghost was "by far the bravest of his four companions". He passed peacefully in his sleep. Martin, a financial sponsor for the charming canine, posted the following touching tribute to his twitter:
Despite the close resemblance, this was not the same animal you've seen next to Jon Snow on #GameofThrones. The on-screen direwolf has been played by Quigley, an actual white wolf owned and trained by Canadian company Instinct Animals For Film, since Season 5:
Where Are The Other Direwolves?
News of Ghost's passing is incredibly saddening, especially considering the dwindling numbers of wolves in the wild. But where are all the other real-life Game of Thrones direwolves now?
Apart from Ghost, the direwolves in Game of Thrones aren't actually played by wolves at all. Instead, a breed of dog called Northern Inuits are used due to their likeness to real wolves. This is most likely due to the limitations regarding ownership and importation of wolves in countries where Game of Thrones has previously filmed. Not to mention a dog is far easier to train than a headstrong wolf, or even wolf-dog hybrid.
Thankfully, the "direwolves" of Game of Thrones are living very happy lives— unlike the characters they play. In fact, one of the pups from Season 1, Sully, is now a renowned show dog.
Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark) actually adopted Zunni, the dog who played Sansa's direwolf, Lady. Now around 13 years old, the retired dog is now living quite the cushy lifestyle:
Isaac Hempstead Wright, who plays Bran, was unable to adopt the dog who played Summer (bran's Direwolf), as his family already owned too many dogs to accommodate another. The animal actor joined on-screen sibling (and Robb's direwolf) Grey Wind, and both dogs — whose real names are Odin and Thor — continue their legacy as part of the Game of Thrones Tour just outside of Belfast. That's right, you can meet the direwolves in real life— though don't be surprised if they're not quite as giant as they're depicted on Game of Thrones!
Game of Thrones Season 7 returns to HBO July 16.