It is book tour planning time. This year, for “Dancing Dogs,” and for “The Story Of Rose,” my first e-book original, I’m going to San Francisco, Corte Madera, Santa Cruz, Calif, and to Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York City, Manchester and Wilmington,Vt., Cambridge and Clifton Park (Half Moon Library), N.Y.
I love book tours, seeing different cities, room service, and a chance to meet with readers and followers of the blog. I always learn a lot and see some different perspectives. Getting out and talking about my work is a joy, valuable to me. Readings are fun for me, and the questions and answers long and lively.
I consider myself “dog-friendly.” Dogs are my work, a passion, much of my life. I love them and love to share my life with them, take them to as many places as I can – if they are invited or welcomed.
Dogs have profoundly influenced, changed, saved and helped me. Anyone who reads this blog knows that. Yet there is this odd thing about every book tour. If you write about dogs, many people think you must be writing about saving them and sheltering them. Abuse and rescue are the prisms through which the companion animal is increasingly viewed. And treated.
So quite often, shelters show up at my readings with dogs and cats in crates. I’ve seen very few people adopt animals in this way, and shelter people are rarely interested in the books. I also think there are some issues about shelters that I like to talk about – the presentation of many dogs as “abused” so that that they will be adopted. And the idea that a “no-kill” shelter is humane because dogs are unnaturally confined in crates for their entire lives.(Shelter workers know better than anyone that many people do not want happy and healthy dogs. They seem to need to see their dogs are abused, whether they are or not.) It’s okay with me if shelters come – most do wonderful work – but I’m not sure what it has to do with me or my books. Why not raise money for hospice? Or women’s health?
On every book tour, almost every bookstore describes their towns as “dog-friendly.” In my travels throughout the country I have never heard a town described itself as “dog-hostile.” I’m not even sure what either term means. In our culture, we like to feel good about ourselves, even if we aren’t always doing good. On every book tour, one or two bookstores will say that because they are a “dog-friendly” community they would like to invite people to bring dogs to my book talks.
Perhaps it is just me, and maybe I am just out of step with the world, but this always confounds me. The great irony is that the only bad book readings I have ever had are the ones where a bunch of dogs showed up. People have no sense of reality about their own dogs. They just don’t see them clearly. I’ve been nearly bitten twice at book readings, seen a half dozen other people nipped or bitten. I find it distracting to concentrate on my talk or reading or listen to questions while dogs are having accidents, getting shushed or pulled, growing at other dogs, barking, whining or pulling at their leads. Usually their owners are beaming or looking away, as if this isn’t happening. Perhaps they truly do not see it. I understand that people love to be with their dogs, but it seems insensitive to me to bring a dog to a book talk. What is the purpose? The talk isn’t about other people’s dogs, it is about the ideas or story in a book. And people’s rare opportunity to talk to a writer directly.
I bring Red everyplace I can bring him, but I cannot imagine bringing him to a bookstore to distract people from a writer’s talk. I don’t like bring my own dogs to readings for the same reason. People talk right over me and the questioners taking photos, getting on the floor, talking loudly to my dog, often in baby-talk. I recall how this horrified Rose the few times I brought her to book readings. She had good sense, that girl, she wanted no part of it.
Many people in the audience complain to me about dogs being present at readings, because it is distracting to them too. I love being a writer, and hate to see a book talk and reading so trivialized. Thank God I don’t write about alligators. For me, being “dog-friendly” does not mean being unable to leave a dog at home, or go on vacation without an animal, or go to a bookstore and just listen to the talk and discussion. I think being “dog-friendly” is understanding a dog’s rightful place in the world. Where they should go and where they shouldn’t.
So thanks, I say. I am “dog-friendly” too, but dogs don’t belong at book readings. People who are truly “dog-friendly” will get that in a flash.