SHE bounds along on all fours through long grass, panting with her tongue hanging out. When she reaches the tap she paws at the ground, drinks noisily with her jaws wide open and lets the water cascade over her head.
Up to this point, you think the young woman could be acting — but the moment she shakes her head and neck free of droplets, exactly like a dog when it emerges from a swim, you get a creepy sense that this is something beyond imitation. Then she barks.
The furious sound she makes is not like a human being pretending to be a dog. It is a proper, chilling, canine-like burst of aggression and it is coming from the mouth of a young woman dressed in T-shirt and shorts.
This is 23-year-old Oxana Malaya reverting to behaviour she learnt as a young child when she was brought up by a pack of dogs on a rundown farm near the village of Novaya Blagoveschenka in Ukraine. When she showed her boyfriend what she once was and what she could still do — the barking, the whining, the four-footed running — he took fright. It was a party trick that went too far and the relationship ended.
Miss Malaya is a feral child, one of only about 100 known in the world. The story goes that, when she was three, her indifferent, alcoholic parents left her outside one night and she crawled into a hovel where they kept dogs. No one came to look for her or even seemed to notice she was gone, so she stayed where there was warmth and food — raw meat and scraps — forgetting what it was to be human, losing what toddler's language she had and learning to survive as a member of the pack.
A shameful five years later, a neighbour reported a child living with animals. When she was found, at the age of eight in 1991, Oxana could hardly speak and ran around on all fours barking...