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Wolf Within - Sean Ellis

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Genre: Biographies / Non-Fiction / Author: Sean Ellis / 288 pages/ Book is published 3 Feb 2011 by Harper / Previously published as The Man Who Lives With Wolves / ISBN: 000732717X

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      14.03.2011 12:29
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      could have been better

      Sean Ellis has always had an affinity with animals, as a boy growing up on his grandparent's farm in Norfolk he learned to live on the land and respect the natural world. As a child he slept with the farm dogs and grew to love the foxes that other farmers hated after sitting out under the stars to study their behaviour. This early interest in animals developed into an obsession with wolves and he has devoted much of his adult life to observing their behaviour in order to be accepted as one of the pack.

      Ellis has travelled the world to study wolves; he even spent two years living as part of a wild wolf pack in the USA. In order to integrate himself into the pack he studied their behaviour and then imitated it in order to be accepted. These two years were spent without washing or even changing the special outdoors suit that he wore. He ate with the wolves, surviving on a diet of raw meat supplemented with the odd berry which is a diet that most of us would find pretty disgusting.

      Most animal researchers have degrees in biology and keep their distance from the animals they study. Sean Ellis is different, apart from his stint working as a dog trainer for the army he has no formal training or qualifications and has learned from his own experiences. Whether he is a bit of a maverick or a true expert is up for debate, personally I think he is part expert and part show off. His methods bring good results; he currently has his own wolf enclosure in Combe Martin wildlife park where he still lives as closely as possible to his animals. His closeness to the animals has meant that his human relationships have suffered as he feels more at home in the animal world than human world.

      Most of us have grown up hearing tales of wolves being sly and dangerous animals who dress up as grandmothers to eat little girls and Ellis has a real passion about educating the public on the true character of wolves. He has devised some ingenious methods for managing wild wolf behaviour where people and wolf clash and has some interesting views on whether or not wolves should be released into the wild in the UK.

      Ellis wrote his book with the help of ghost writer Penny Junor, a journalist who is perhaps best known for writing a book about Princess Diana. I found the writing to be fairly stilted and flat and did not always flow smoothly. The book was structured fairly well in a largely chronological fashion but some chapters, most notably those on dog behaviour, seemed to be just thrown in. The subtitle of this book is "How I Learned To Talk Dog" and the original has been reprinted to include these chapters no doubt to appeal to the dog owning market but there is very little to learn about canine behaviour in here.

      I did learn a bit about wolves and their behaviour by reading this book but would have liked to have learned more. The book focuses on Ellis far more than the animals and I think it could have gone into far greater depth about wolf relationships and hierarchies rather than how Ellis related to the animals.

      I have always been interested in the natural world but "The Wolf Within" is not a particularly good book to learn about wolves and certainly not a canine behaviour guide as advertised. It is reasonably interesting reading about the experiences of the wolfman even if he seems like a very odd person but overall the book is slightly disappointing.

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