Part Wild[Part Wild cover image]
You think you love dogs now? Wait until you read Part Wild.
Capturing the beauty of the natural world, the complexity of scientific ideas, and the pulse of human experience, Part Wild is the bittersweet memoir of a woman living with a wolfdog whose spark of wildness carries heavy responsibility, even danger, and leads the author to a deeper understanding of the miracle of ordinary dogs.
Excerpt from Part Wild:
In the ensuing years, I learned that the Smithsonian Institution’s reclassification of the domestic dog as a subspecies of the wolf had prompted companies selling raw-meat products for dogs to peddle their wares more vigorously with the claim that dogs are domesticated wolves and should eat like their wild relatives. Even companies selling kibble eventually cashed in on the reclassification, declaring that their products also emulated the “ancestral diet” of dogs, one dictated by their genes. Some dog owners have added unwashed green tripe—the stomach and its contents, the partially digested grasses and grains of cows and other ruminants—to their animal’s diet with the assumption that the dog’s instinct is to mimic wild wolves and eat the fresh steaming gut contents of a prey animal. But when wolves bring down a large ungulate like a moose, bison or caribou, they eat the organs, muscle meat, fat, connective tissue, hair, and bone—just about everything except the contents of the stomach and intestines. In fact, wolves shake out as much of the actual contents of the intestine and stomach as they can before eating only the lining. According to L. David Mech, plant material makes up a very small part of a wolf’s overall diet, “perhaps as little as 1–3%.”
It may also be hazardous to assume that since wolves eat raw bones, dogs can do the same. The wild wolf’s intestinal tract and organs are better protected from punctures than a dog’s because the prey animal’s hair (or fur) wraps around bone fragments like a cocoon and acts as a buffer down the short but delicate chute of the intestinal tract. Besides, the action of the digestive tract is only one part of the process. Dogs’ skull shape and jaw structure (of even the most wolfy-looking northern breeds) differ from those of wolves and vary radically from one breed to the next. And while both dogs and wolves have forty-two teeth, those teeth aren’t of the same size nor spaced alike in the mouth and will grind bones differently. In other words, safety has as much to do with what happens to bones before they reach the stomach as it does when they get there.
Not only are dogs designed for a different diet from wolves, they don’t share the wolves’ eating schedule. In fact wolves don’t have a schedule because their hunting efforts aren’t always successful. When they do make a kill, they eat all they can, for tomorrow they may go hungry. According to educators at the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota, a wolf is capable of eating 20% of its body weight in a single sitting, which for the average human would be the same as eating 133 McDonald’s Happy Meals. The design of a wolf’s stomach allows it to expand to hold that enormous quantity of food. Dogs don’t have that capacity, and vomit if they eat too much at once. Anyhow, dog owners don’t limit their dogs to one giant meal every few days.
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