Just added a new event to the book tour, a signing at Gardenworks, 2 p.m., Saturday, November 27, 2010. 518 854 3250, Salem, N.Y. Since moving to Bedlam Farm, I've done a signing for every book at Gardenworks and Meg Southerland asked me back and I said yes. Random House agrees. Thanksgiving weekends are special there, and it feels right.
I told Meg I wouldn't be bringing Izzy. It's odd how things work. My mind is sort of reeling about Izzy.
Izzy was abandoned on a nearby farm, and when I brought him home – I don't see him as being rescued or abused or feel comfortable with those terms most of the time – he then led me to hospice work (I am taking a leave from that).
I've always considered book signings his work in the same way that Rose works sheep. Izzy is a remarkable creature. I can bring him anywhere. He loves people, and people love him, and he knows how to work a room and be appropriate. Last week's Ohio/Kentucky swing made me see that I was putting him at risk by bringing him into crowded situations like that, distracting myself and others, and perhaps putting a kid or others at risk too. I mentioned this on the blog and was surprised at the nearly total agreement with the decision, so much so that I am quite bewildered about why I started bringing him to readings in the first place.
Book readings are about books, conversations and questions, and while dog lovers love to see dogs – you can't blame them for that – I was more or less saying that the dog was the point, or at least part of it. People who love dogs want to touch them, children and adults, and you can't blame them for that either. In an unintentional way, I was doing a kind of circus act.
Last week, I saw Izzy snarl and lunge at a lovely child was hugging him and who accidentally stepped on his foot. Later in the week, I saw people giggling at Izzy, pointing at him and taking out photos during my talk and Q&A's, in some cases talking right over questions and answers. It didn't look right.
I hadn't noticed that before, and perhaps it has been happening for awhile. And I was responsible for it.
But the real point is what I was thinking, and I suspect at one time I thought it necessary to bring a dog in order to get people to come. It didn't hurt, for sure. There's always a fine line for me between presenting myself as a writer, and being seen as a dog writer, or as a dog lover first, and a writer second. I guess that's a change, for me, and if you followed the tour, for some others as well. The questions were very different this time on the tour.
People ask me if I want to write a book on dogs who need rescuing. I don't. Why I chose a life bounded by the love of animals. I didn't. I chose a life writing about animals and the people who love them. I don't write as an animal lover or as an advocate for dogs in trouble. I think most of us know there are dogs in trouble, and that isn't writing, really, it's a kind of politics. Nothing wrong with it, but not what I do. I am a writer, above all, one of the focal points of life. My identity. Perhaps it scared me.
From the first, Izzy entered my life like some sort of spirit guide, drawing me to people, stretching my patience and compassion, and connecting me to people on the edge of life. I see that I was awakening now, coming to terms with my own age and mortality. Now he has guided me again.
I am coming to love this idea of dogs as spirit guides who take you places you don't know you are going, until you open up to it. Last week in Columbus, I came to see that it wasn't about Izzy and kids or Izzy and safety. It was about a dog – in this case Izzy – once again leading me to see who I am, and to understand my own evolution as a human, an artist and a writer. He just keeps doing that, in the same way Rose had guided me to a deeper understanding of the real nature of dogs. So Izzy: thanks again.