Part Wild:
One Woman's Journey with a Creature Caught Between the Worlds of Wolves and Dog

by Cieridwen Terrell

Scribner, 2011. ISBN 978-1-451-63481-5.
Reviewed by Martha Meacham
Posted on 03/08/2013

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Nature/Place/Environment

Have you ever taken some bad advice when you were in a desperate situation? Ceiridwen Terrell ended up sharing her life with a wolf-dog, mainly because she didn't know any better. In her memoir, Part Wild, Terrell captures the enigma of raising a wolf-dog, neither domesticated nor completely wild. What is unusual is that she weaves in serious science about animal behavior, the study known as ethology. For the casual reader there may be too much exposition on the differences between dogs and wolves. However, like Temple Grandin, who is known for bringing animal research into to the public domain, Terrell masterfully educates the reader by citing seminal research in this field. Temple Grandin wrote the solitary back cover review for this book, which I interpret as a seal of approval as to the accuracy of the information.

In my opinion, in a good memoir the author confronts hard truths that lead to healing. Usually that reflective path to wholeness leads through stinging reality. The author seeks out the wild places to run, hike and rock climb to get lost in nature's beauty and to sooth her soul. With an artist's viewpoint and scientist's detail, she vividly portrays her adventurous escapes. Her intention was to have a fierce wolf-dog to be her guardian. What evolves is that she finds the strength to be her own protector.

This story is distinctly hybrid—written from heart and head. It seems that Terrell is more comfortable writing from her "head" than from the difficult places of her wounded heart. She discloses her personal demons, but it is the plight of misunderstood wolves and the numerous wolf-dogs to which she directs the most attention. She dispels the popular, yet erroneous, myth of the need to dominate your dog or wolf with an "alpha role." Modern methods to teach canines are rewards-based. She adds in a loud and clear voice that dogs are not wolves, and she sadly discovers that wolf-dogs are not domesticated enough to live around people and livestock. Given the so-called expert advice she received from the breeder, Terrell did the best she could.

I admit I am drawn to the mystique of wolves. I can imagine myself making the same mistake if I had not had access to the research that she makes available in this book.

Terrell's writing style is accessible and humorous. I devoured this book. Dog enthusiasts and professional dog trainers would learn a great deal from Part Wild. The information on wolf-dogs in the US, as well as wolves, is fascinating. A person who is looking for some armchair adventure may enjoy this book as well. If you know anyone even remotely considering taking on a wolf-dog, please share this book.

Ceiridwen Terrell is an educator, writer and adventurer. She lives in Oregon in an urban/wilderness area that abounds with wildlife. She is an advocate for living with and protecting wildlife. She tweets and blogs. Visit her website.

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