By Ceiridwen Terrill. Scribner. $25.
Sometimes even the most riveting longtime dreams can revert into a nightmare. Witness Terrill’s incredible attempt to coax Inyo, an estimated 12.5 percent Siberian husky/ 87.5 gray wolf, into the environment of everyday dogs over the course of almost four years.
That journey is accompanied with just about every emotion imaginable, from hope to heartbreak. But her story isn’t simply confined to her day-to-day chronicles of Inyo’s misadventures, but includes her quest for knowledge about the wolf hybrid and Soviets’ longtime quest to domesticate the fox. Her five years of research took her to numerous sites within the U.S., plus Germany, Hungary, Sweden and Russia for interviews with scientists, wolf biologists and dog trainers.
As the reader accompanies Terrill through Inyo’s path of destruction, an unmotivated husband and thousands of dollars in repair bills, one is left to marvel at this woman’s commitment to this animal on one hand, but how much is enough on the other.
Bottom line is a wolfdog is a dog with a wild streak and try to place it in our everyday world and you’re courting trouble.
While Terrill knows what she has, all introductions of Inyo are as a husky mix because of the public’s perception of the wolf and local laws prohibiting wolf hybrids.
In her 20s, Terrill seeks to belong to a pack and “thought Inyo and I could be a pack of two.” And she quickly learns, “Training a husky-wolf mix could only mean I’d have to strive for the patience of a Buddha.”
Terrill, her husband Ryan and Ingo live in the Reno area, where there is no law against wolfdogs, unless it bites a person, a pet or livestock, when it is immediately reclassified as wild.
But Inyo proves the ultimate escape artist despite the author’s best intents with high, electronic fences and heavy chain leads. Seven names at animal control for Inyo, four rentals, a long stint in the national forest and abbreviated stays with friends sums up the challenge Inyo presents to her owners.
“Inyo and I were supposed to be partners,” says Terrill. “She would protect me from people who wanted to hurt me and be the loyal companion I relied on to stick close. But 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.”
As housing options eventually evaporate and new housing is built in a once-remote neighborhood where they are renting, Terrill is forced to find a new home for Inyo. A newspaper advertisement produces numerous responses, two of which she tries, but Inyo escapes both.
That leaves Terrill with the only option left, a once unthinkable choice that would break up their tiny, tightly-bound pack.
Paula Watson, of WolfWood Refuge and Adoption Center near Ignacio, Colo., sums up the plight of Terrill and countless others who have adopted wolfdogs, “For some wolfdogs, not even the world is big enough.”
And if it’s any consolation, Terrill notes, the average age of a Yellowstone wolf is 3.4 years, Inyo’s age at death. Bottom line, Terrill concludes, “Dogs are not wolves. Wolves are not dogs. Evolution and domestication have seen to it.”
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.