Part Wild named a finalist for the 2013 Oregon Book Award!
Part Wild now out in paperback. Includes a new essay and teaching guide for the classroom.
Latest Reviews of PART WILD
Part Wild: A Book About Wolf-Dog Hybrids
Many books I receive from publishers I do not review because they add nothing new for the benefit of animals, or are simply warm and fuzzy sweet nothings. ‘Part Wild: One Woman’s Journey with a Creature Caught Between the Worlds of Wolves and Dogs’ Scribner, NY $25.00) is author Ceiridwen Terrill’s deeply moving and disturbing saga of her dedicated and valiant attempts to share her life with a purpose-bred wolf-dog hybrid pup. Interwoven with well researched information about wolves and domestication, with visits to several breeding facilities and sanctuaries for abandoned hybrids, this book should be read by all who might contemplate purchasing one of these poor misfits of which there are some 300,000 in the U.S.. Their conflicted natures almost invariable lead to a tragic end, and yet the moments of pure wildness shared that united the spirits of the author and her wolfdog Inyo will touch the soul of every reader who feels her pain of a loss deeper than the one life she briefly shared with this beautiful creature.
From Shelf Awareness:
Readers who believe wolves are really just dogs–only wilder–will be enlightened by Ceiridwen Terrill’s experience raising Inyo, a “high content” wolfdog whose father was 100% wolf and mother was 75% wolf and 25% Husky. Terrill illustrates the challenges of raising a creature outside of its natural habitat and integrates fascinating research into her tragic love story.
Terrill, an associate professor of science writing and environmental journalism, narrowly escaped an abusive relationship and sought a canine companion that would not only share her passion for rugged backcountry hiking, but could serve as a protector. More important, Terrill wanted to find a canine partner with a strong instinct for self-preservation, unlikely to please or to forgive harmful intentions, as Terrill had done in the past.
Enter Inyo–a wolfdog pup whose first breath came as a result of Terrill’s assistance. However, Terrill soon realizes, “Inyo could not be my guardian. Instead I was hers. Not only did I have to shield her from the world, I had to shield the world from her.” 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.
Terrill uses extensive research to provide a well-rounded portrait of the realities of wolfdog ownership. Eventually, she realizes that “to love dogs is to keep them close. To love wolves is to leave them wild.” —Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics
Discover: A heart-breaking adventure story about the joys and challenges of owning a wolfdog.
Crossing Canis familiaris, literally the “familiar canine,” with Canis lupus (the wolf) creates an animal that can vary tremendously, even within the same litter, as to appearance, temperament, and behavior. Science writer and professor Terrill (UNNATURAL LANDSCAPES, 2007) adopted Inyo, whose father was a wolf and mother a wolfdog, and realized that she would have to rely on the pup’s doggy part to help the wolfy part settle down as a domestic pet. In this painfully honest memoir, the author writes of the highs and lows of living with an animal that is neither a dog nor a wolf, too wild to be a pet, too tame to live in nature.
Trying to find a home where Inyo can be herself, while she tries to make a marriage to a clinically depressed manchild work, Terrill writes of how she felt she could never give up on either relationship, and how she based her expectations on flimsy mythologies instead of on science. This introspective and lyrical book will be an eye-opener for all lovers of dogs.
— Nancy Bent
A lifetime dog-lover experiences the pleasures and pitfalls of domesticating a wolf-dog hybrid.
In order to claim her from a breeder, Terrill (Science Writing and Environmental Journalism/Concordia Univ.; UNNATURAL LANDSCAPES, 2007) frantically drove through the night to claim her newly born female “wolfdog” from a local breeder. “Inyo” became a welcomed distraction after narrowly escaping an abusive relationship. The breeder was quick to educate Terrill on owner-specific etiquette and common misperceptions of wolfdog ownership. However, as the author details in her richly descriptive narrative, upon moving to Reno, Nev., with financially challenged new husband Ryan, she learned these lessons personally after much time spent grappling with precocious Inyo’s unwieldy behavior and the intensive training and domestication rituals involved in establishing herself as the “alpha.” Terrill knows her territory extremely well (she’s formerly a Northern California Forest Service wilderness ranger), and she peppers the narrative with interesting knowledge about the nature of wolves, their interspecies behavioral traits, diet and the serious consequences challenging this type of unorthodox pet ownership. In the good-natured attempt at making Inyo suitable for human companionship, the author adopted two more dogs, and things worsened uncontrollably. Vicious, unprovoked attacks on neighborhood animals, coupled with evictions, irate neighbors and serious bodily injuries, finally necessitated drastic measures against a breed who “neither need nor want a bond with humans.” Complimenting each chapter—and, at times, surpassing the main narrative for its sheer factual noteworthiness—are the informational asides found in the author’s generous 18-page Notes section, which includes expanded research material on the Canis species, observations from other wolfdog owners and breeders and the statutory regulations concerning the care and protection of the breed.
Readable, cautionary and dependably informative for staunch animal enthusiasts.
You know I love Willie; sometimes I think almost too much. But I’ve never loved him more than I have this morning, after finishing the book, Part Wild, by Ceiridwen Terrill. Willie is a dog. Inyo, the focus of Part Wild, is a wolf-dog who Ceiridwen adopted as a puppy. The book is a brutally honest testament to the differences between dogs and wolves. I can’t think of anything I’ve read lately that made me more grateful to have dogs, Canis lupus familiaris, as domesticated animals, in my life.
Fair warning: It’s not always a happy story, as wolf-dog stories often aren’t. Ceiridwen gets herself a wolf-dog pup for all the wrong reasons–primarily to protect herself from an abusive ex-boyfriend who is stalking her. She makes a lot of bad decisions, both related to boyfriends and Inyo, and I will honor her honesty by saying that at times I wanted to reach into the pages of the book, pull the author out and yell “WHAT were you thinking?” When her wolf-dog kills a neighbor’s beloved cat I almost had to put the book down.
But I didn’t, I finished it at 6 AM this morning, (still on UK time) because the book is so good and so honest and so very, very important. She is flat-out honest about her own problems with OCD, hair pulling (her own), and enabling bad boyfriend behavior. And she is equally honest about her inability to provide a good life for an animal always torn between being wild and living a domesticated life. What comes charging out of the book, page after page, is the profound difference between a wolf and a dog. Typical of a wolf, Inyo is relentlessly active, never ceasing to paw, dig or chew anything and everything around her. She escaped from everything that Ceiridwen built (in part because Inyo was a wolf, and that’s what wolves do, and in part I’m guessing because Ceiridwen made the classic beginner mistake of underestimating what it takes to confine a wild animal, and thus continually taught Inyo that she could get out if she just worked at it hard enough.)
I haven’t worked with wolves much, but I will never forget the wolf-dogs I’ve worked with. One was a five-month old “high percentage” wolf owned by a young couple who lived in a second-story apartment. (The “high percentage” label is often a claim used to increase the selling price of a wolf-dog, but all I can say is that this one looked as wolfie as the wolves I met at Wolf Park). They were having some “obedience” problems. The animal, a gorgeous, yellow-eyed, long-legged sprite, literally bounced off the walls of the tiny apartment when I came out to do a house call. She ran up the walls and somersaulted off, she lept up and over all the furniture with abandon, she chewed my shoes, my hands, my pen, my hair–all with a sparkle in her eyes and a huge grin on her face. It broke my heart, because the couple had no money, no land, no space, no knowledge of what this gorgeous animal needed and nowhere to place this poor animal who could never be happy without a hundred square miles to roam. I tried to help them find a wolf rescue facility for her; but I don’t know what eventually happened. Most wolf rescue groups are relentlessly overwhelmed with wolf-dogs who have continually escaped, killed livestock or the neighbor’s dog, and/or bitten a person.
Speaking of biting, that’s the other experience I had working with a wolf-dog. A gentleman (I use the word loosely) came in for an appointment because his wolf-dog had begun biting his wife and was escaping the “fool-proof” pen he had constructed. He seemed far more concerned about the escapes than his wife. I talked at length about the challenges of keeping a wild animal happy in a domestic setting, and my concerns that at five months of age (note the similarity of ages of the client’s animals?) the wolf-dog was already attacking his wife. It was obvious that my words were having no impact, so I finally gave up and attempted to show him how to use counter classical conditioning to treat resource guarding (which was the context of the bites.)
Like many wolf-dogs, “Sierra” was all over me with licks and kisses. After a greeting ceremony straight out of a National Geographic special, I gave Sierra a chew bone, one of moderate attractiveness. Once Sierra took possession of it, I threw a chunk of real chicken 4 feet away, and picked up the chew bone myself. After Sierra inhaled the chicken he came back for the chew bone that I was holding in my right hand. As he approached I moved the bone toward him in an offering. “See? If you give something up you get something better, and still get the first thing back anyway!” I’ve done this with thousands of dogs, and with few exceptions they catch on right away. “Trade Chew Toy for chicken? Yes! Good deal! Let’s do it again.”
But Sierra wasn’t a dog. Instead of taking back the chew toy he stopped and looked straight up into my eyes with a cold, hard stare. I remember every pixel of his face as he, like lightening, bit down hard on my right hand. It was the second most painful bite I’ve ever had, but it was more the calculated message behind the bite that shook me most. “Don’t you EVER touch my stuff again.” That’s how I interpreted the behavior anyway, accurately or not. The man thought it was funny that I’d been bitten, so much so that I found myself wondering if working in a small room with a dangerous wild animal and a sadist was a good career plan.
That pretty sums up the two primary differences I’ve seen, and that Ceiridwen experienced, between wolves and dogs: 1) a wolf’s energy level is off the charts; Inyo and Ceiridwen hiked miles and miles to little effect, and 2) Dogs are, at least compared to wolves, motivated to let humans drive the system. Like most wolf-dogs, Inyo came when called, if she felt like it. She sat or lay down when asked, if she felt like it. No amount of training treats or positive reinforcement made any difference if she had another agenda. What was hers was hers, and she was willing to use her teeth to underscore that arrangement.
The book is a beautifully written, bravely honest and heart-breaking. I hope it has some effect on discouraging the breeding and purchase of wolf-dog pups, I am sure that’s one of the reasons it was written. She acknowledges, as do I, that there are indeed some exceptions, some wolf-dogs with just the right mix of genes can be happy and safe in a domestic environment. But they are the exception, not the rule. And as Ceiridwen says, what about their siblings? Where are they? I expect that the book will generate no small amount of criticism–as I said, the author makes no attempt to candy-coat her problems and mistakes. But I for one applaud her for her honesty, and for writing a book that will stay with me for years to come.
From the Seattle Kennel Club:
Terrill’s thought-provoking examination brims with history and analysis, complemented with a colorful sharply etched portrait of living life on the wild side. That sobering challenge is captured passionately in this empowering read.