In the pilot episode of what might currently be HBO’s most popular show, Game of Thrones, members of the Stark family stumble across a litter of puppies in the woods near their home in Winterfell, causing dog-loving viewers across the country to utter a collective “Awwww!”
The pups are direwolves, an unusually large and very intelligent breed of wolf, the Stark family sigil, and the brainchild of author George R.R. Martin, creator of the A Song of Ice and Fire series of books on which the smash-hit television show is based.
With one direwolf for every one of Eddard Stark’s children — even the illegitimate John Snow — the pups quickly grow into giant-sized fluffy guardians, each loyal to his or her Stark offspring, protecting the family from those who would harm them (and, as every GoT fan knows, practically everyone is out to get a Stark).
The Stark family’s famous direwolves are not really wolves at all, though they certainly look wolf-like; they are really a group of specially-trained Northern Inuit Dogs, a crossbred relative of the Siberian Husky.
The canine actress who played Sansa Stark’s direwolf, Lady, is a Northern Inuit Dog named Zunni. Zunni came from the Mahlek Northern Inuit Dogs, a breeder out of the United Kingdom, before she was trained to play Sansa’s friend and fierce protector.
Lady, as GoT fans will never, ever forget (because it haunts their nightmares), didn’t make it past the second episode (“The Kingsroad”), as she was executed by the similarly-doomed Eddard after nipping at the evil and quite bratty royal heir, Joffrey Baratheon.
After Lady’s untimely death, four-legged thespian Zunni was left with no job and no home. That’s when Sophie Turner, the actress who plays Sansa Stark on GoT, stepped in, adopting the beautiful Nothern Inuit Dog she’d bonded with during their time on set.
“Growing up I always wanted a dog, but my parents never wanted one,” Turner tells the Coventry Telegraph. “We kind of fell in love with my character’s direwolf, Lady, on set.”
When she heard that Zunni had no place to go after her time ended on the series, Turner knew immediately she wanted to make Zunni a part of her family.
“We knew Lady died and they wanted to re home her. My mum persuaded them to let us adopt her,” says Turner.
Source: Coventry Telegraph