Video by Maggie Schutt
The sound of rain hitting freshman Harrison Bechtel’s roof echoed through his house, Tok slowly found his way into Harrison’s room and nudged him out of his bed and onto the floor.
“He’s protective of Harrison and shelters him during thunderstorms,” Harrison’s mom Amy said. “It’s sweet, but not fun to have Tok standing over him or trying to lay on top of him.”
Although Harrison refers to Tok as his dog, he is actually a 15 year old full-blood wolf.
Tok is from a small dog shelter in the North Pole, more specifically Tok, Alaska. Harrison’s mom knew she wanted a hiking dog and a retired sledding dog; after multiple visits to different rescues she was connected with Tok through Petfinder.
When she got to the shelter, she told the owner she had come to see Tok. The woman who worked at the shelter shouted his name and claimed he would run around the corner in a second as she went inside to go get the adoption paperwork. Harrison’s mom knew Tok was the one for her the second he came racing around the corner.
“His sweet face and gentle eyes won my heart,” Amy said. “He came right up to me and I’ve loved him ever since.”
She would make the five hour flight to Alaska to visit Tok about once a month, but Harrison didn’t meet him until he was seven. Harrison’s mom and grandma came to pick him up after school one day with Tok eagerly waiting to meet his new companion in the back of the car.
“I remember just loving on him and sitting there with him,” Harrison said.
They never thought too much about Tok’s wolf-like behaviors and looks until they moved him to Kansas and people and cars would slow down to ask if he was a wolf or what variations of dog species he had in him.
Tok’s first veterinarian claimed he was a mutt, who possibly had a wolf as a distant relative.
At a more recent vet visit, to check out a bump on his leg a veterinarian who used to work as a zookeeper, spotted Toks black pointy ears and nose and knew he was different. She immediately grabbed him and started doing a check up.
“She started checking him out and then came back and said, ‘you know your dog is a wolf right?'” Harrison said.
The vet and ex zookeeper pointed out that Tok’s toes are longer than an average family dog and his legs were built for distance running.
The news confirming Tok was a wolf didn’t scare them, they didn’t think twice about living amongst a normally wild animal: Tok was a part of their family and never showed aggression towards anyone.
“I think the worst thing he has ever done is picked up a bunny and barely put his tooth into it,” Harrison said. “He won’t harm you, he’ll be more scared of you.”
If anything Tok is very shy and quiet. He hates loud noises and doesn’t enjoy playing catch or running around with toys. Tok puts his ears back when he’s being shy but when he wants something puts them up and looks right at you with his big brown eyes.
“He never barks,” Harrison said. “He howls sometimes, but rarely.”
Tok acts as a guard dog. People are scared to approach him but he wouldn’t hurt anyone. In the past 10 years he has only growled once. A man tried to approach Amy, and Tok was doing his job protecting her.
“Tok must have sensed something because he had never growled and shown his teeth to strangers,” Amy said.
At a recent vet visit around August, Tok was diagnosed with blood cancer. Although Harrison and his family didn’t see a drastic change in his mood, they decided it would be best to move Tok out to Blue Springs to stay with Harrison’s grandma where he would have a bigger yard to run around in.
Tok now lives with two small dogs, Opi, who is 15 is more of Tok’s speed. Harrison describes them as grumpy old men. Sophie is four and plays the role of the teenager.
The commute for Harrison to get to Blue Springs is around an hour, so between school and homework Harrison doesn’t make it out to see Tok very often.
When Harrison does make it to Blue Springs Tok gets up from the spot he was napping in and comes to lay by him, despite his bad back legs that are beginning to give out because of old age and arthritis, just like he used to when it rained.
“Tok just lives that vibe so really he’s always technically with me,” Harrison said. “Everywhere I go, I feel him.”