H is for Hit By a Flying Wolf

Here’s a book recommendation brought to you by the letter H.

Hit by a Flying Wolf by Nicole Wilde


Yesterday, I quoted from Nicole Wilde’s blog post about growling. As a follow-up to that and my post on the Evolution of Dogs and Wolves, I decided H-day was a good opportunity to tell you about her latest book.

Since Wilde is a dog behavior expert, and I screwed up so many things with our first dog, I didn’t expect Hit by a Flying Wolf to so closely echo my own experiences. How reassuring to learn that an expert has struggled with a dog as much as I have!

The first half of the book contains stories about four of the dogs Wilde has lived with, and the second half concerns wolf rescue. The first dog, a long-haired German shepherd, had the same fear of high-pitched noises that Mia has. Mojo, Wilde’s “soul dog,” was the crossover dog who helped her learn that positive reinforcement training is more effective than using old-fashioned choke collars.

I have a special affinity for Bodhi, who came from a shelter and shared my dog Leo’s penchant for doing things like “grabbing a trailing hand and chomping down, or jumping up in front of me and placing teeth around my arm, exerting a disturbing amount of pressure.” Bodhi’s story hit home the most for me, because it illustrates how much dedication is needed sometimes to get through to a troubled dog, and shows that it’s worth it.

A major highlight of this book are the color photographs. I read a lot of books about dogs, and it bums me out when the photos are grainy and black and white, or worse, when there are no photos at all. I want to see the dogs! Wilde is an accomplished photographer. Not only are the animals described vividly in prose, but the images of the dogs and wolves also are stunning.

I learned about the risks of keeping wolfdogs as pets from Ceiridwen Terrill’s Part Wild. Terrill’s story was heartbreaking, but Hit by a Flying Wolf demonstrates how wolves and wolfdogs can be safely contained and cared for after living in a home hasn’t worked out for them. While not an endorsement of keeping wolves as pets, Wilde’s stories about the wolves are touching, suspenseful, and entertaining.

H is for Hit by a Flying Wolf


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Evolution of Dogs and Wolves

Do you think Noah had two of every single dog breed on the ark? Or do you believe that dogs evolved from wolves?

wolf town_3

The latest research from PLOS Genetics suggests that today’s dogs and gray wolves share a common ancestor in an extinct wolf lineage that lived thousands of years ago. The researchers found no clear genetic link between the modern dogs and wolves studied, so dogs and wolves likely diverged from the same Stone Age wolves between 11,000 to 16,000 years ago.

We still don’t know how dogs were domesticated. We don’t even know when precisely, but one estimate is between 18,800 to 32,100 years ago. Could someone please write some historical fiction about this? I would love to read a Paleolithic-era novel about a European hunter-gatherer in the Stone Age and the very first pet dog.

To me, dog breeding is strong evidence that evolution happens. I compare a pug to a Great Pyrenees and wonder, How are these even the same species?

I also wonder, What would happen if we stopped breeding dogs?

The dog welfare community seems universally opposed to puppy mills and pet store dogs. These days, the politically correct, animal friendly way to acquire a dog is to rescue one from an animal shelter.

But “dog breeder” is not synonymous with “puppy mill.” Each dog breed was created for a reason, and responsible breeders exist. Isis and Leo both came from breeders committed to preserving the qualities that make German shepherds so loyal, intelligent, hard-working, and really, really, ridiculously good-looking.

Abandoning dog breeding means saying goodbye to the distinctions between Labradors and Belgian Malinois and border collies …

The dogs studied in the aforementioned PLOS Genetics research were basenjis from central Africa and dingos from Australia. These smallish, pointy-eared breeds bear some resemblance to the dogs I’ve seen in the streets of Thailand and India. Most street dogs, I’m fairly certain, are not bred by people.

I wonder, if people stopped breeding dogs to have longer coats, and flatter faces, and floppy ears, would all dogs evolve to look like this one?

E is for Evolution.

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I don’t eat Paleo, but my dogs do

Have you heard about the potentially controversial research that dogs, through evolution, can now digest carbs in a way that wolves could not?

When I heard, and decided to blog about it, I was astonished to see how little I have written about raw feeding. A mention here or there, sure, but nothing significant since I first started feeding Isis raw meat in 2009.

I’m a believer in the nutritional benefits of feeding a dog raw meat. Humans are the only creatures that cook their meat, after all. Based on the information I had at the time, I fed Isis a prey model of 80 percent muscle meat, 10 percent bone, 10 percent organs. She seemed to thrive on the diet with a glossy coat and nonstinky breath.

She died very suddenly within two years of being put on this diet, but I have no reason to believe the diet had anything to do with her death from a thymic hemorrhage. I had recently added vegetables and nuts to her diet, at the suggestion of a holistic vet. I don’t think the vegetables or nuts killed her either. She had seen both the holistic vet and our regular vet within a few months of her death, and neither found anything medically wrong with her as a result of her diet, or otherwise.

Leo has eaten raw meat since I brought him home. Because he was extremely lean at about seven months, the holistic vet suggested I supplement the meat and bones with a grain-free kibble. He has eaten a combo of raw beef, deer/bison/llama bones and Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream formula ever since.

As a puppy, Leo works on a bison neck

As a puppy, Leo works on a bison neck

Mia was a little smelly and dull-coated when we got her, but shortly after transitioning to this same diet, her coat glistened and her breath got fresher. She did gain some weight from overfeeding, but otherwise is terrifically healthy.

So I won’t change my dogs’ diets based on the news reported today in the Los Angeles Times, NPR and the BBC. (I offer you three links to give the choice of reading, listening or watching the report).

The way I understand it is that dogs are capable of digesting grains. That doesn’t make it more nutritious than their historical diet. That doesn’t mean that they will live healthier, longer lives by eating a corn-based processed kibble.

I’m amused by the paradox between this research and the Paleo Diet, which is based on the idea that humans should still be eating the things they ate before the agricultural revolution. So, dogs have evolved to eat grains, but humans haven’t gotten there yet?

I don’t dispute the health benefits of going paleo, but I digest cake, bread and french fries just fine, thank you very much. I do know that I would be better off eating more vegetables. And I believe that dogs are better off eating a diet primarily consisting of raw meat and bones.

I think I haven’t blogged much about this before because I wanted to stay out of the fray, but I’m ready to stir the pot. So let’s hear it: My fellow raw feeders, what do you make of this news? Other dog lovers, where do you stand on a high-protein versus high-carb diet for your pooches?