When someone asks me what I write about, I typically respond that I am a “dog writer,” meaning that most of what I write is centered on canines. But if you think about it, “dog writing” encompasses a subject with a scope that is wide and diverse, one that includes works of nonfiction: reference books, books about obedience training, breeding, showing, handling, healthcare, nutrition, and those that focus on service and therapy dogs and even memoirs celebrating the true stories of very special dogs. Dogs also find starring roles in all kinds of fictional works: short stories, novels, novellas, romance, mystery, inspiration. But at its heart, isn’t all dog writing in essence about humans, too?
In the mid-1930s, Captain Wm. Lewis Judy and his colleagues established the DWAA because they believed that those who wrote about activities that took place in the “Dog World” deserved a special designation in news outlets that went beyond an occasional feature in the Lifestyle section of the Sunday newspaper. Judy and his fellow writers wished to see dog-centric events given press coverage like that received by other sporting events.
Today, with the proliferation of blogs and social media outlets, it is hard to get through a day without hearing or seeing an article, video, news story or social media post about our companion animals. The public never seems to grow tired of great dog stories, especially.
Apparently this has been the case for quite some time, for in 1949, Judy, who published Dog World Magazine for decades, stated, “There are too many dog books. There never are enuf good dog books.” (Ouch, and no, that’s not a typo!). Judy’s spelling and writing style were as unique as his ideas and vision.
But Judy also wrote, “The cult of dog ownership is founded upon a warm heart, upon consideration for those who cannot speak for themselves, upon man’s best friend, and in turn, this phrase required that man be the dog’s best friend.”
Whatever the genre, or intention of our works on dogs, the unique dog-human bond is central. It is what unites us under the umbrella of the DWAA. Whether we write about “heeling” or “healing” when it comes to dogs, we are writing about the “divine reciprocity” that exists between human and canine, a term I coined while writing a book titled Dog’s Best Friend: Will Judy, Founder of National Dog Week and Dog World Magazine. From the 1920s on, Judy wrote about breed prejudice (today termed BSL for breed-specific legislation), pounds (shelters), strays (unwanted pets) and puppy factories (puppy mills). As we all know, these issues remain relevant and prevalent unfortunately, but we continue to “(Right) Write the Good Fight” anyway.
The next time someone asks me, “So what do you write about?” perhaps a better answer would be to say that I write about man’s best friend. It gets right to the heart of the matter, and most likely will lead to interesting conversation because with very few exceptions, everyone seems to have a “dog story,” and if you listen very carefully, what they relay may be the inspiration for your next bestselling dog book. May each of our days bring opportunities for talks that are filled with words and ideas that spark the imagination and encourage us to create our best writing and in so doing, create a better world for our dogs.