Who is in the photo at right?
My name is Ceiridwen Terrill. I’m a writer and professor at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon. My dog’s name is Argos. He’ll be thirteen this year. A few years back I tested his DNA to find out what breeds went into his mix. The results came back totally inconclusive. He’s so mixed that not even a geneticist could figure him out. Based on appearances and the thickness of his coat, I’d say Argos is a mix of shepherd and husky and a few other tidbits. I call him my 100% pure American street dog.
What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?
Argos and I always get coffee on the way to teach my university classes.
We stop at Anna Bannanas in the St. Johns neighborhood of Portland, Oregon and order a Doot-da-doo, a mix of espresso and chai. You ask for it by saying "Doot da doo me."
Any treats for you or Argos on this occasion?
Argos and I get a breakfast sandwich to share. We love the organic sausage with scrambled egg on a basil pesto bagel. (Argos likes the sausage best.)
How did Argos get his name? Any aliases?
Argos is named for Odysseus’ faithful dog in Homer’s Odyssey. After being away for twenty years, Odysseus returned to his home in Ithaca, but the only one to recognize him was his very old dog Argos. My Argos is an incredibly loyal companion who has accompanied me on many wilderness adventures.
How were you and Argos united?
I found Argos in the pound in Reno, Nevada. He was a few months old and very sick. He’d been living on the streets with his mother and brother. He’d obviously been kicked around because he was nervous about having his head and ears touched, and he was clearly starving out there. When I saw him in that wire kennel, wheezing and sniffling, I squatted down for a closer look at him, and he pushed one of his paws under the gate to touch me. That was it. He was going home with me.
Who are Argos's best pet-pals?
Rooben, a dachshund, is one of his best pals. They sleep on the same giant bed. William and Donald are his other best four-legged pals. William is a thoroughbred ex-show jumper and Donald is a St. Croix hair sheep. Twice a day, morning and evening, Argos walks to the nearby pasture with me to feed and visit them. Sometimes Argos has to watch out because Donald gets playful and tries to head butt him. But mostly Donald just bounces around the pasture when he’s happy and Argos chases him and barks.
Please tell us about your new book.
My new book Part Wild is about my experience raising a wolfdog named Inyo alongside two rescue dogs, Argos and Thelma. The book is framed by my personal story and explores the similarities and differences between wolves and dogs.
Does Argos ever go to school with you?
Argos loves to go to school with me. He goes into the classroom or hangs out in my office while I teach. Students love him.
Elk, deer, beaver, and coyote live near your home. What's the wildest encounter Argos has had with these animals?
The day of my wedding, Argos disappeared into Forest Park, the 5,000-acre urban wilderness surrounding my home. With the wedding cake safely stowed in the fridge, our deck scrubbed and chairs set out, the ceremony was just hours away. I’d led Argos outside to pee when he suddenly picked up a scent and dashed into the trees. Nothing like that had ever happened before—or since. I called and called, bushwhacking a four-mile loop through tangles of sword fern and vine maple--no sign of him. At dusk, sobbing and hardly able to put two words together, I was ready to call off the wedding. Then Argos trotted happily out of the woods, a squirrel in his mouth. My old pal, ordinarily perfect on recall, impervious to distractions, had gone stone deaf in the heat of the chase. I felt terrible for the squirrel, but I was incredibly relieved to see Argos. I was reminded of how much I rely on his steady presence.
If Argos could change one thing about Portlanders, what would it be?
Argos appreciates how much Portlanders love their dogs, but he wishes they were better about picking up their dog poop, particularly in our urban wilderness of Forest Park. Sometimes, people bag the poop and forget it along the trail. Or they sometimes leave their dog’s business on the open trail for others to step in. Or perhaps worst of all, they kick it off into the brush—poor etiquette and dangerous for wildlife. Argos would really like to tell Portlanders that a dime-size amount of dog poop has about 23 million fecal coliform bacteria that when left in the woods end up in our waterways and cause serious illness in aquatic and other wildlife.
If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Argos could speak, which actor should do his voice?
Ben Stiller without a doubt. Argos is so much like Stiller’s character, the male nurse Greg Focker, in Meet the Parents. He wants to please so badly and gain approval, but no matter what he does he messes up.
If Argos could answer only one question in English, what would you ask him?
Did growing up with a wolfdog turn you into a nervous wreck?
Visit Ceiridwen Terrill's website and read more about Part Wild: One Woman's Journey with a Creature Caught Between the Worlds of Wolves and Dogs.