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Part Wild

Caught Between the Worlds of Wolves and Dogs



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About The Book

An “introspective and lyrical” (Booklist) memoir about a woman and her wolfdog hybrid—a powerful combination of storytelling and science that is as informative as it is moving.

When Ceiridwen Terrill adopts a wolfdog—part husky, part gray wolf—named Inyo to be her protector and fellow traveler, she is drawn to Inyo’s spark of wildness and compelled by the great responsibility, even danger, that accompanies the allure of the wild. She feels transformed by the extraordinary love she shares with Inyo, who teaches Terrill how to carve out a place for herself in the world.

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 weigh the complaints of fearful neighbors against 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.

A gifted writer able to capture the grace and power of the natural world, the complexity of scientific ideas, and the pulse of the human experience, Terrill has written a bittersweet memoir of the beauty and tragedy that come from living with a measure of wildness.


Part Wild CHAPTER ONE April Fools
But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee.

—Job 12:7

Even in April, Tucson can be chilly in the middle of the night. Shivering in my Blue Space Monkey pajamas, I shifted into first and steered Hanna down Ajo Way toward Leda’s housing development, streetlights casting a smoky pink hue over the desert. In the glare of my headlights, a coyote crossed the road. Bad sign in the Navajo tradition. “I’m not Navajo, so it doesn’t count,” I said, but kissed my fingers and then touched Hanna’s dashboard three times just in case.

I’d ignored signs before and been sorry for it—Eddie’s thick down-turned brows and sideways look when I went on a coffee date with a girlfriend, and just a few months after we’d started dating, the late-night appearances at my apartment to make sure I wasn’t out with another man. “Sorry for waking you,” he’d say, the shadow of his Indiana Jones hat large in the porch light. “It’s just that I love you so much.”

I’d only navigated Leda’s subdivision during daylight hours, and now, at 1:30 in the morning, all the houses looked the same. I tried streets named after faraway Tennessee, Virginia, Iowa, and Ohio. “Better get over here,” Leda had said on the phone. “They’re coming.” By the time I found her house and poked my head into the bathroom, one pup, a female, had already been born, and she sucked at a teat. Loop, Leda’s wolfdog, lay on rags near a pile of towels and a heating pad, and Leda beckoned me to sit close and watch. Out came another pup, ash gray like her sister. The pups wriggled and squeaked, their flat faces dashed with dark fur under each eye. Like domestic dog puppies, they wouldn’t open their eyes for another two weeks, but those black smudges made them appear ready to battle the glare and surprise of the world.

Wolfdog puppies weigh a pound at birth, about the same as dog puppies. Born deaf and blind, and with an undeveloped sense of smell, they rely entirely on touch and taste. The first two pups found their mother’s nipples by lifting their heads and moving them side to side. When a teat brushed their tiny black noses, they grabbed and sucked. Leda handed me a dark gray male pup just born, and showed me how to cut and tie the umbilical cord with dental floss. The knot would eventually dry and fall off, she said, placing the pup on a teat.

The fourth and last sac slid out and Loop moaned. This pup had been born fully enclosed. I pinched the amniotic sac with my fingernails, opening it first around the pup’s face and then peeling away the rest of the membrane. It was another little female, but she wasn’t breathing. Handing me a washcloth, Leda told me to dry the pup to stimulate crying, which was supposed to clear the fluid from her mouth and airway. She still didn’t breathe. Leda showed me how to lay the pup flat on her belly in my palm, fingertips supporting her chin. Cupping my other hand over her back, I raised the pup over my head, and with a quick jerking motion, brought my hands toward the floor. The sudden movement cleared out the last of the fluid and allowed air to flow into her lungs. She cried as I stroked her belly and tied off the umbilical cord.

Although this last pup looked just like the others who went about their newborn business, feeding contentedly, she didn’t behave like them. She strained against Leda and me as we held her, as if human skin burned to the touch. I placed her on a teat. She skidded down Loop’s belly to the floor. I lifted her to another nipple. Again she slid off. The third time I placed my palm under her bum until she got a good grip. Her cries muted as she drank, her face disappearing into Loop’s thick belly fur.

I have always loved the creature that struggles. I whispered, “I think she’s the one.”

About The Author

Lisa Metzger

Ceiridwen Terrill is an associate professor of science writing and environmental journalism at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon. Her essays have appeared in Oxford American and Isotope, as well as the anthology What Wildness Is This: Women Write About the Southwest. Her first book Unnatural Landscapes: Tracking Invasive Species was published in 2007. To see photos and video from Part Wild and to learn more about her work, visit Follow her on Twitter@myurbanwild.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Scribner (November 13, 2012)
  • Length: 304 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781451634822

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Raves and Reviews

“This introspective and lyrical book will be an eye-opener for all lovers of dogs.” —Booklist

“A memoir that is impossible to put down, even as it breaks the reader's heart.” —Shelf Awareness

“The moments of pure wildness that united the spirits of the author and her wolfdog Inyo will touch the soul of every reader.” --Dr. Michael W. Fox

“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. The book is beautifully written, bravely honest and heart-breaking. ” --Patricia McConnell, Ph.D., The Other End of the Leash and For the Love of a Dog

“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. The book is beautifully written, bravely honest and heart-breaking. ” --Patricia McConnell, Ph.D., The Other End of the Leash and For the Love of a Dog

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