Monday, April 22, 2013

A girl and her wolf

After escaping from an abusive relationship, Ceiridwen Terrill adopted a female wolfdog puppy she named Inyo. She wanted a wolf/dog mix in part for protection from the abusive guy. But more than that, she wanted a wolfdog because she’d heard they were independent, aloof, still partly wild. Terrill wanted to imbibe a little of that spirit for herself: she would become a free, unfettered creature, only giving love where it was truly deserved.

Turns out, Terrill's reasons for wanting a wolfdog were all the wrong ones.

Terrill’s memoir, Part Wild: Caught Between the Worlds of Wolves and Dogs, is extremely informative about wolves, dogs, the differences between the two, and the serious challenges faced by people who try to live with wolves as companions.

It’s also an honest and intimate memoir of Terrill’s mistakes. And she makes a lot of mistakes: with men, with the law, and most of all, with Inyo.

Inyo grows from a charmingly precocious puppy into a powerful adult: beautiful, intelligent, independent, and impossible.  Inyo fails obedience classes, escapes constantly, and terrifies neighbors.  Terrill lies to animal control, conceals evidence of destroyed property, gets evicted, and almost ends up homeless.  Eventually, things get violent. Loving a wild creature who simply cannot adapt to a human’s world, and saddled with a charming husband who is not as much help as he could be (to say the least), Terrill’s options dwindle.

Terrill now teaches at Concordia College in Portland, and Part Wild, her first book, was nominated for an Oregon Book Award. I enjoyed the intelligent and well-informed discussion of exactly why wolfdogs (who are, after all, very closely related to dogs) so rarely make good companion animals.

Even more than that, I loved the way the author fearlessly exposes her own bad judgement and desperation, humanizing what could be a dry subject. I shook my head over Terrill’s mistakes, but my heart went out to her, too.

Part Wild is a terrific book. I recommend it if you love dogs, or if you've ever found yourself in a trap of your own making.

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