Long, long ago, when my writing career was just starting, I
sold a book to Doubleday called Dog
Tricks, co-written with that young, upstart Capt.
Arthur J. Haggerty. In fact, I was the young upstart.
He was the most famous dog trainer in the country, possibly in the
world, and I had written to ask if I could interview him not
because the interview was important but because I was dying to meet
him. Haggerty saw through the ruse immediately, but instead of
ending the interview, he asked me to have dinner with him. We
talked for hours, and that became the beginning of a long and
wonderful friendship. It wasn’t too long after that that I balled
up all my courage and asked him to write a book with me.
I even had the title, which said everything: Dog
Tricks. We were having dinner that time, too, paella, as I
recall, and his response was less than warm. What
do I need you for? he asked me. I dug into my
paella but held the fork aloft before eating. Where
are your books? I asked him. And then I ate.
And ate. And ate. It took him about ten minutes to
respond and when he did, we began working on the outline, both of
us excited about what we came up with to include in our book. I had
only one book out at the time. Luckily for me, it was one
book more than Arthur had written back then and so I got write a
book with my hero. I had no agent and while Arthur was away
on a trip, I got in touch with a young editor at Doubleday named
Jim Menick and with my considerable charm and Arthur’s credentials,
sold the book. The book was illustrated with photos and
drawings and to my utter surprise, Jim called one day to say that
the art department wanted me to do the cover. The art
department at Doubleday. Wanted me to do the drawing for the
cover. I nearly fainted at the thought. Any
instructions? I asked, trying to sound professional,
trying to sound grown-up, trying to breathe.
Yes, Jim said. No
mice. I have to confess, I heart mice. OK, not so
much the ones that infest your apartment, eating the edges of your
books and shitting all over the towels in your linen closet.
The mice I heart are cartoon mice and I was so fond of them, I had
slipped a few into my drawings for the book. Despite my
instructions from the art department at Doubleday, or perhaps
because of them, I slipped not a mouse, that was forbidden, but a
mouse hole on the back cover of the book. Any of you who have
the old original Doubleday trade paperback can flip it over and see
what a brat I was back then. And you might as well know, I
still am one today. I guess mice became my good luck charms
and while they aren’t everywhere, I still slip in a mouse here and
there when I draw. Sometimes they speak for me.
Sometimes they just look cute. In a way, they are like the
Greek chorus of dog training books, at least of mine. And so, over
30 years after I was given my instructions, no
mice, here is a page from my newest book, an ebook
called Dog Smart, The Art of Training Your Dog.
You know what they say, don’t you – the more things
change, the more they stay the same. All these years later, I
still like doing things my way, I still love dogs and care deeply
about their welfare, and, you guessed it, I still heart mice.