A new book arrived in my mailbox entitled Love Can Be with a color cover photograph of a big dog staring out a window, ostensibly waiting for his master. The subtitle of the book is A Literary Collection about Our Animals and is edited by Louisa McCune and Teresa Miller, a Quality Paperback published by the Kirkpatrick Foundation. This anthology includes thirty essays, poems, and stories written by well-established authors like Joyce Carol Oates, Delia Ephron, Dean Koontz, S. E. Hinton, and Michael Wallis. There are also 30 splendid photographs of the celebrity authors, each with their beloved pets. Out of the 30 photographs, 17 are of dogs. There are four cats; horses number three; and there are donkeys as well as one each of a frog and a grouping of backyard geese. A photo of a massive elephant is startling, as is one of a woman oddly sporting an outfit with big butterfly wings. Michael Wallis, the noted author of Route 66 and other books about the Wild West, some of which are super bios of outlaws like Pretty Boy Floyd, writes about his encounter with a Monarch and poses with his two cats, Martini and Jupiter. Bears, birds, rhinos and bobcats are all included in this book.
In the introduction editor Louisa McCune, who has been a long-time friend and ally of myself and John Gilman, lists her favorite animal books as Old Yeller, Charlotte’s Web and Beautiful Joe. She writes about Ernest Hemingway in Key West, who had a house filled with cats, and tells us there are now 54 descendants of these felines prowling the streets and beaches. Louisa is Editor in Chief of Art Desk, a top glossy art magazine, as well as being Executive Director of the Kirkpatrick Foundation which contributes to many animal charities, including the proceeds of this book, which sells for $19.95 on Amazon. McCune began her career as editor of Oklahoma Today—the official state magazine to which I myself contributed several illustrated articles on cowboys, cowgirls and Indians drawn from my book Box-Office Buckaroos published by Abbeville Press, NY.
A personal note: In the town of Irvington, New Jersey, where I grew up in the ’40s and ’50s, everyone I knew had a dog; and often these canine pets ran freely around the town, sometimes in packs. In Greenwich Village where I live now there are pure-breed and mixed dogs on leashes everywhere. In the 1840s building I live in my neighbor James has two pug dogs named Swee’pea (from Popeye) and Sebastian. A dog owner friend of mine told me, “A dog gives us the unconditional love we can’t get from humans.” In my hometown the little gang of kids I ran with all had dogs. Lois Hausman had a beagle named Bubbles; Norma Edgar and her brother Richard, who lived on the same block I did, kept a big black dog named Inky. The dog I grew up with and loved most was named Jiggs (after the comic character drawn from “Maggie and Jiggs”). He was a combo-mix wirehaired terrier and rat terrier. Jiggsy often ran wild, and apparently sired many puppies in his day.
Later in life, in The Village, I had a Boston terrier named Buster whose officially registered AKC name was Gaylord Buster of Christopher. No one knew the streets better, so I dedicated my Greenwich Village guidebook to Buster, who lived to be 14 and had many admirers on Christopher Street and Grove Street.
Dogs were always an important aspect of my life. I wrote dog stories for my grade school magazine and read and reread Lassie Come Home and Lad: A Dog, both by Albert Payson Terhune. I saw the 1943 MGM movie of the Lassie book with Elizabeth Taylor and Roddy McDowell several times. Later in the 1950s I liked to sing along with Patti Page’s signature top hit recording of How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?
In The Village the top-selling breed in pet stores seems to be the French bulldog. Matthew Broderick has often been seen walking his Jack Russell terrier on Charles Street. Probably the most famous dog to live in The Village is Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Scottie Fala, who after the president’s death went with Eleanor to 29 West Washington Square where, to the delight of many, she walked Fala in the Park practically every day. A plaque on the building says she made her home there from 1942 to 1949.
Robert Heide is a frequent contributor to WestView News, and his new book, Robert Heide 25 Plays, is prominently featured on the shelves at the Whitney Museum Bookstore, Three Lives Bookstore, Drama Bookshop and Amazon.
DOGNOTE: Charming everyone at the monthly meeting of WestView News contributors and editors is the paper’s official mascot (pictured and quoted in every edition on page 2), Traffic Manager Liza Whiting’s little fuzzy-white, deaf, 16-year-old Maltese poodle mix named Mia, who, after serving for years as a therapy dog at St. Vincent’s and Cabrini Nursing Home, is now working as a volunteer at the Children’s Reading Room at Jefferson Market Library.