Because I couldn’t make it to class last week, I missed a discussion that involved reading the stories on the author’s terms instead of your own. So I’m going to try and re-write my reaction to the reading in response to that attitude.
Terrill’s narrative tells the story of her experiences owning and raising a wolf-dog. To my eyes she seemed a bit naive at first, expecting it to be somewhat like raising a very large dog. I know she wrote all about how she knew it would be difficult going in, but reading through the stories I think that’s more of a hindsight bias coming in as she was writing. Regardless, her experiences allow us (the readers) to glimpse at just how hard it would be to domesticate a wolf in a single lifetime. Inyo is not even a full wolf, imagine how much harder that would have been!
I think that popular culture has taken wolves and given them a mythical aura, making them out to be essentially prehistoric dogs. Maybe it’s just me, but when I think of domesticated wolves oftentimes I have this image of a caveman running around with his pet wolf, much like a modern man would run around with his pet dog. This book pretty much shatters that illusion, as evident by some of my original rants below. And if that idea about wolves is hopelessly wrong, the long-held ideas of how they became domesticated would definitely change. I know we’ve been reading a few alternative theories regarding the domestication of dogs in class, and for me this book is a personal anecdote that might reinforce those scientific theories. Even though anecdotal evidence is a logical fallacy when trying to support an argument, it does tend to create a vivid picture in our minds.
I think the biggest scientific point this book reinforces for me is that the ancestors of dogs were not wolves, at least not in the sense that we think of them today. It isn’t as if we could take a modern wolf and only breeding within wolves end up with dogs as we know them. Modern wolves and dogs shared a common ancestor, one which most likely we’ll never get a chance to experience in the flesh. Perhaps if Terrill had one of those creatures and tried raising it as she did Inyo, she’d have an easier time of it. An interesting thought experiment would be wondering what might happen if we found remains of that ancient animal in the ice somewhere (similar to mammoths), and then possibly clone it. It certainly would be an exciting venture…
I’ve left the original text below in case someone wanted to read it.
So far (page 70 or so) I’m very disappointed in this book. I was excited to finally read something that addressed the issue of domesticated dogs in a way that the other readings we’ve done simply glossed over. However, instead of examining the issue of domestication and trying to explain exactly where dogs came from and how they got to their present breeds, Catherine Terrill instead simply tells the tale of her and her wolfdog. The story reads like a personal journal, which might be appealing to those who care about the author’s life and experiences, but frankly I don’t. The way I see it, there are several very good reasons that humans have dogs as pets and not wolves, and yet the author spends an enormous amount of time essentially defending the idea of owning a wolf (or an 85% wolf-dog hybrid), even in the face of repeated frustrations and issues that arise with such an animal. I understand that at this point Inyo is still a puppy, and puppies are frustrating sometimes. But even so, it sounds to me like her entire life revolves around this dog, even to the point of having Inyo sleep in between her and her husband on her wedding night. The entire story sounds like Terrill is just begging for attention and wants people to acknowledge that she’s special and managed to overcome the challenges of owning a wolfdog, with a lot of love, patience, and some good old Disney family-friendly magic (think the Beethoven movies with wolves). And talk about anthropomorphizing…
I’m very curious as to what year the author decided to move to Reno. She and her fiancé simply drove up and expected to find a place to live that would allow big dogs in one day? Also, why would owning a northern wolf be a good idea in the cities of Tucson and Reno? Both of which have very hot climates that I’d imagine would be unsuitable for wolves.
Chapter 10 is essentially 12 pages of “my beautiful, genius wolf is better than your ridiculously looking, stupid dog.” Also, Leda sounds like an extremely annoying person.
On page 119, Terrill feels guilty (but still does it) about letting Inyo free to eat vulnerable animals whose populations were declining. Yet a few chapters earlier she had harshly criticized poachers who shot wolves in the Northern and Southeastern US. Is that hypocritical?
Terrill mentions at the end of chapter 14 how money was very tight, with her husband unable to handle the finances. Yet they just adopted two puppies. I find it hard to feel very much sympathy with them when they knowingly add big expenses to their lives even when they can’t pay for things like electricity.
I did like the bit about foxes, but it seemed kind of out of place with the rest of her narrative. I wish her entire book had focused more on the type of questions she explored when examining the domestication of foxes, rather than her wonderful experiences owning a wolfdog.