More than anything else, what draws me to writing about animals is that they mirror society so much, and tell us so much about what we feel.
I have been having fun on my blog and Facebook, writing about a vibrant part of publishing, tough dog redemption stories that take breeds like Pit Bulls (and dogs like Frieda) and offer up uplifting stories about their struggles and return to life. These books are hot, and some of them are very good.
Any writer who says he or she doesn't check the Amazon numbers is perhaps stretching the truth, and I have also noticed another publishing trend, the cute dog names – "Pukka" and "Oogie" that are outselling me, often by wide margins. I definitely pay attention to these things, and have stopped pretending that I don't.
I joked on the blog that I needed to give my dogs' cuter names to compete, and we had a good time of it, although I was astonished at the number of people who thought I was serious.
There is a serious part to the discussion, and that is that literature follows, and doesn't often lead. I think Americans are playing out some of their best instincts – love, forgiveness, loyalty, empathy – on animals, even as those traits vanish from politics and the workplace.
There are many different approaches to writing about dogs. I try hard to be faithful to what I believe is the true nature of dogs, as other writers celebrate different things. I focus much of my writing on working dogs, sometimes but not necessarily rescue dogs. And especially, I am drawn to the emotional connection that increasing binds dogs and people to one another.
The rise of the Pit Bull books is compelling, and it is inevitable that good writers would focus on this passionate subculture in the animal spectrum – Pit Bulls are among the most exploited and mistreated creatures in the animal world, used by drug dealers, dog-fighters to frighten or fend off the outside world. And they have some of the most impassioned guardians and defenders.
The rescue and rehabilitation of these animals makes powerful read, and even though he has an odd name, "Oogie's" story "Oogie: The Dog Only A Family Could Love," is an affirmation of the empathy and love and patience that seems to sometimes be vanishing from the outside world. "Rose In A Storm" is a very different kind of story, focusing on the interior life and mind of a dog, not on issues of redemption and resurrection, also powerful religious themes.
These stories, I have to confess are not close to my world (at least, not until Frieda). I'm not sure I have what it takes to protect them from the world. But the "Oogie" phenomenon speaks to the different ways writers approach dogs, and the things they represent. That's what literature is supposed to do, I think, and even if I love joking about names, I also see the interesting – even serious – side to it.
It makes me think that one day I would like to write about Frieda, not so much because Maria and I helped bring her back to life, but because she did the same for us. And that, I think, is what binds the dog books together.