The most popular show on television today, Game of Thrones needs no introduction. Based on George R. R. Martin’s fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, this brilliant saga of dynastic conflict, betrayal, violence and death is expansive in scope and vision. One of the first things fans fell in love with were Summer and Grey Wind, the adorable yet fierce direwolf pups rescued by Jon Snow and Eddard Stark. Grey Wind ended up with Robb, while younger brother Bran adopted Summer.
Although their stint on the popular show is now over, Odin and Thor (the pups’ real names) have become somewhat of an internet sensation. In the last two years, these Northern Inuits have been visited by over 100,000 tourists from across the world. In keeping with the Game of Thrones frenzy, the dogs now have their own Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.
We recently got in touch with William Mulhall, the Belfast-based owner of Summer and Greywind, and asked him a few questions:
Tell us a bit about Odin and Thor. How did they originally come into your possession?
I first heard about the breed when a cousin of a friend owned the mother and when I found out I had to see them. I then met their mother “Cookie” and that was when I decided to have one in my possession. She was in the early stages of pregnancy then. In a few short weeks, the pups were born and I was visiting most days to see the new “Wolf” Puppies. When they become 7 weeks old, Odin choose me and I took him home. Shortly after I went back and brought Thor home also.
Odin and Thor’s breed is known as a Northern Inuit; they are a rare breed. Their parents were brought in from England, making my guys the first of their breed to be born in Ireland. Usually when you see a wolf on a TV show or film, it is this type of breed because they are so highly intelligent and so wolf-like in their appearance. That is why I got them, I wanted cool dogs.
How did they end up getting cast as the direwolves Summer and Grey Wind on the Game of Thrones?
One day around three weeks after taking the pups home, I got a phone call from the breeder to say some TV show wants to use my dogs in it. I said “Cool what’s it about?” and she replied “I don’t know. Swords and Shields and stuff?” and my reply to that was “Cool I’m into that!”
The dogs played the young pups in the first episode of the first season. They were held by all the cast in that scene and were chosen as Bran and Robb Starks’ Direwolves, Summer and Grey Wind. They filmed on location at Tollymore Forest (Haunted forest/ Wolfs wood) and Castleward (Winterfell). As they were pups and house dogs, they lived in the apartment with the trainers, which was great as we got Odin and Thor back fully trained and, they would sit and bark on command.
Having the pups featured on such an immensely popular television series must have been an amazing experience. Tell us a bit about that.
In the beginning nobody in Ireland thought that Game of Thrones was going to be as big as it has become and in some sense people here still don’t understand, which I think production enjoys. Our family however became fans of the show from the beginning, not only because our pet dogs featured in it, but also our Artist Father actually played a Dothraiki slave master in season 1. It didn’t really hit me that the show was this popular until I was travelling New Zealand and people I would meet would lose their cool when I told them my Family pets and my brother and father were all in the show. Now our whole family is in it except mum but we are waiting for her call to come. We have become a Game of Thrones family by accident and it’s great because we are surrounded by filming locations where we live and hundreds of tourists come every week to see the home of Game of Thrones.
What did their training entail? And have they managed to retain the things they were taught during the show?
The pups ate normal dog food diet and were treated with chicken when performing on the day. The people who trained them also trained the animals used in Harry Potter, like Hagrid’s dog ‘Fang’ and the owls also I think the main trainer, Jim Warren, had also trained all the dogs used in the film Marley and Me. There was one time the pups disappeared in between set changes and the trainers searched the set only to find them in one of the trailers the young actors used to rest in. A member of cast jokingly said to me once how the CGI (computer generated image) Direwolves were harder to train than the real Direwolves.
The dogs being trained so well at an early age made it easier to handle as they grew up. Odin and Thor still remember their tricks like sitting on certain points and howling on command. Over the years they have become spoilt and will now howl for treats because they want them not because we asked, which is funny.
How has this experience changed your life? Tell us about the popularity Odin and Thor have gained among tourists from across the world.
Odin and Thor became a part of a Game of Thrones location tour that would visit memorable filming locations. The tourists coming to see the locations were always amazed they got to meet the actual Direwolves owned by Robb and Bran Stark. In the last few years, Odin and Thor have easily met 100,000 tourists. They have become one of Ireland’s largest tourist attractions and, all they do is meet tourists for an hour a day.
While Odin and Thor sleep or eat treats, tourists pose beside them and take pictures to post on the internet and make their friends jealous. When they get home they go back to being our normal house dogs that sleep on our sofa and play with our other dog Yoda. Odin and Thor by popular demand have now got their own Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. We just fill them with cute pictures of Odin and Thor being dogs its great!