EMBRACING THE WILD IN YOUR DOG
An understanding of the authors of our dog’s behavior – nature and the wolf.
by Bryan Bailey
If I could give “Embracing the Wild in your Dog” by Bryan Bailey, ten stars in every category, I would. Never before have I read a non-fiction book that enlightens, disturbs and inspires all at once, and leaves me wondering if I even took a breath from the time I opened the book.
As I read the last page and checked Bryan Bailey’s biography, I let out an audible sigh. If the sigh could speak, it would say brilliant and breath-taking.
“Embracing the Wild in your Dog” is both of those. It is also a memoir and an instructional book. But its premise and its concepts may not be embraced or welcomed by all who cannot think of that little fluffy puppy in their laps as a wolf. But he is…at least instinctively, and Bryan Bailey makes sure you know that by the time you’re finished reading.
As soon as I’d read the first few chapters, I began looking at my little Shorkie, Duffy, through a different lens. I realized that when he first took a light nip of my grand-daughter’s lip and our gut reaction was to yell at Duffy for his bad behaviour while we wiped away her tears, that Duffy’s reaction to having his neck grabbed in a hug constituted a threat and he was merely issuing a warning…as his now very distant forebears, the wolves would have done. I have now learned that no amount of breeding these “fur covered humans on four legs” is going to breed out the wolf in him. As an Indian chief explained to the author’s mentor, “Because a dog carries a wolf inside of him, he also carries the wolf’s prints. The wolf goes with him everywhere he goes.” Sadly, today’s dog owners live in denial of this truth. As a result, children and adults are being bitten and dogs are being euthanized, while vet bills and law suits drain bank accounts because we dog lovers don’t want to acknowledge the wolf in our dogs.
“Embracing the Wild in your Dog” by Bryan Bailey is also the story of a boy growing up in the harsh Alaskan climate and learning about survival from a soldier who had learned the same from studying wolves. At one point, this soldier took an accidentally self-inflicted bullet to his neck while the two were trekking in the frozen north. Weak and bleeding profusely, he continued the journey because the wolves had taught him that to lie down was to die. Yes, this book is all about being tough and that adage: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”.
When Bailey shares stories like this or others about what happens in nature when animals face possible death, “Embracing the Wild in your Dog” becomes far more than just instructional: it is the beautifully moving memoir of a young man and his mentor. At times, readers may find themselves arguing, even outraged by Bailey’s stance on how to raise and enjoy your beloved dogs, but I guarantee that after reading this book, you will never look at your dog again in the same way. The next time little Bella is being a “naughty doggie” you will find yourself questioning whether it is Bella, or you, who needs to be disciplined.
©Viga Boland, November 2015