PART WILD: One Woman’s Journey with a Creature Caught Between the Worlds of Wol ves and Dogs
“Terrill will make you fully understand the differences between wild and domestic animals. Her riveting prose about her wolf hybrid is essential reading for everyone who is interested in animals.”–Temple Grandin
“This introspective and lyrical book will be an eye-opener for all lovers of dogs.”–Booklist
PART WILD is the unforgettable story of Ceiridwen Terrill’s journey with a creature whose heart is divided between her bond to one woman and her need to roam free. When Terrill adopts a wolfdog—part husky, part gray wolf—named Inyo to be her protector and fellow traveler, she is compelled by the great responsibility that accompanies the allure of the wild, and transformed by the extraordinary love she shares with Inyo, who teaches Terrill how to carve out a place for herself in the world. But this is no sentimentalized account of spiritual healing; Part Wild is a memoir of the beauty—and tragedy—of living with a measure of wildness.
Over almost four years, Terrill and Inyo’s adventures veer between hilarious and heartbreaking. There are peaceful weekends spent hiking in snowy foothills, mirthful romps through dirty laundry, joyful adoptions of dog companions, and clashes brought on by the stress of caring for Inyo, insatiable without the stimulation of a life lived outdoors. Forced to move and accommodate the complaints of fearful neighbors and the desires of her space-craving wolfdog, Terrill must confront the reality of what she has done by trying to tame a part-wild animal.
Driven to understand the differences between dogs and wolves, Terrill spent five years interviewing genetics experts, wolf biologists, dog trainers, and wolf rescuers in the United States, Germany, Hungary, Sweden, and Russia. The fascinating results of her investigation make Part Wild as informative as it is moving.
What readers of PART WILD are saying:
“I really admire Terrill’s bravery in telling the story of her wolfdog Inyo and illuminating the heartbreak and danger of trying to contain wild animals in human bonds. She went farther than personal memoir with a great deal of research into the challenges facing wild wolves, the still-debated origin of domestic dogs, and the “genetic tameness” experiments with foxes in Russia. She is also an accomplished writer and describes nature and its creatures in eloquent detail. Compelling and sobering.”–Lara
“Terrill raises Inyo to the best of her abilities, forms a deep bond with her “part wild” companion, and shares her experiences in a memoir that is impossible to put down, even as it breaks the reader’s heart.”–Kristen
“Amazing read, you will not forget this story once you read it. Powerful.”–Llk
“Many issues are brought to light–the wolf as a pet, environmental issues related to the wolf, the bond between “man and dog”, the monumental challenges of confining an animal with “wild” instincts. It is a great read for dog owners as well as a good introduction into wolf conservation and management.”–Susan
“Recommended reading for anyone who loves dogs and/or wolves, especially those who seek to understand the relationship between the two.”–Amber
“[Terrill] is an amazing, articulate person who is so courageously sharing the knowledge gained from her own mistakes. When an audience member told her “You’re being too hard on yourself!” Ceiridwen replied “I’m a researcher – I should have known better.” One more hero in my panel of canid writers.”–Lara
Excerpts from Part Wild:
I’d already had one breakdown of my own on the trip. In a fit of exhaustion I told Ryan he shouldn’t follow me to Reno, that this was all a mistake, we were moving too fast. He ought to turn that U-Haul around and go back to Tucson while Inyo and I continued to Reno alone. If he and I still liked each other after some time apart we’d get married the following year. It would be a good test of our relationship.
“You’re overtired,” he said. “Drink some water.”
I took a lukewarm slug from our Nalgene bottle and we drove on.
We arrived in the Biggest Little City in the World by midnight, and on a tip made our way north on Virginia Street toward the parking lot of the Circus Circus casino. Brake lights flashed ahead as a policeman wearing a Reno Gang Unit jacket waved his light stick to direct cars into the other lane while his partner hogtied a man with zip cord. Someone set off a bottle rocket, making Inyo pace the back of the van. “Easy, girl,” I said. Women holding martini glasses danced in tight jeans to a cover band doing Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be the Day.” A man on the sidewalk yelled “God bless America” and vomited into the gutter. As we rolled by the Shamrock Inn Motel with its neon sign flashing NO Vacancy, frat boys tipped back Jell-O shots on the balcony. Metro Pawn was open in case someone wanted to buy a last-minute wedding ring, and three couples were lined up to get hitched in the Chapel of the Bells. Midnight heat and exhaust from the line of cars made the red letters of the Circus Circus sign look like flames. In the parking lot, luminous as a football stadium, Prowler and Aristocrat RVs had lined up for the night in the pink glow of the halides. We parked Hanna and the U-Haul next to a Big Tex trailer, and Inyo and I squatted to pee in the shrubs along Sixth Street, below the casino’s giant neon clown. I padlocked the U-Haul while Ryan folded down Hanna’s bed, and we climbed in, throwing T-shirts over our eyes to keep out the light. Lamps buzzed and Lupe burbled contentedly from inside his travel cage. Inyo chewed my toes through the blanket. My teeth itched, and a quick glance in the rearview mirror had shown highway grit in every pore of my face. First thing in the morning, I’d find a bathroom and discreetly take a sponge bath.
Inyo was incredibly smart and could and did learn, but on her own terms. She would sit and lie down when she felt like it, would come when it suited her and the wind was blowing west. Her compliance had been much like that of the wolves I would later visit at Indiana’s Wolf Park, whose tameness was learned, not genetic. They accommodated their handlers when in the mood and rewarded with food. From Renki’s balancing act on a wooden teeter-totter to Wolfgang’s performance of “Leaping Lizards,” a duet performed by the handler and wolf, complete with a bow and a backward leap through the air, the wolves complied for strips of jerky hand-delivered to them after every fair performance. The wolves were never forced to do anything. These behaviors developed naturally in each individual wolf; the handlers merely cultivated and reinforced them. As handler Pat Goodman told me, “We demonstrated to the wolves that these are behaviors we’re willing to pay for.” Kent Weber, cofounder and director of Colorado’s Mission: Wolf, put it to me simply: “Wolves do what they want. Dogs ask ‘What do you want me to do?’”
Thelma and Argos had often demonstrated their doggy eagerness to please. When I told them “Leave it,” they would drop Ryan’s tube sock or my underpants and accept a toy in trade, and after only a few times, they left those items alone permanently. Inyo didn’t pay any attention to the “Leave it” command. No matter what I said, everything was fair game. Eat the peanut butter! Stalk the bird! Gnash the pencils! Chew the computer cords! Peel the wallpaper! Eyeglasses, toothpaste, chair, rug and fluffy pillows—feathers flying!
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