Monday, March 4, 2013

Writers who have gone to the dogs

Lord Byron & Boatswain
When it comes to wearing their hearts on their sleeves, writers have gone to the dogs. Lord Byron was enormously fond of his Newfoundland named Boatswain, whom he nursed until his death after he was infected with rabies. The poet inscribed Boatswain's headstone with one of his best-known texts, “Epitaph to a Dog.” Like Byron before him, American playwright Eugene O'Neill wrote a touching eulogy to his Dalmatian, Blemie. Sword and sorcery fiction writer Robert E. Howard’s dog Patches was named after the famous jester who disappointed the king and was sent outside to sleep with the dogs.

Reclusive poet Emily Dickinson had a Newfoundland named Carlo. Together they roamed the meadows and woods surrounding her home in Amherst, Massachusetts. Dickinson remarked that dogs are better than people because “they know – but do not tell.” New England novelist Edith Wharton’s husband suffered from acute depression so she found companionship in her six lapdogs, including Chihuahuas, Pekingese, and Poodles. Emily Brontë kept a ferocious canine brute named Keeper. It was she who tamed him of his aggression and it is widely believed he changed her life.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning & Flush
Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Cocker Spaniel, Flush was her devoted friend while she was confined to her sickbed in London. Browning wrote about Flush’s adventures in letters to her friends. Her beloved dog was dognapped twice and ransomed. She eulogized Flush in a slushy poem, “To Flush, My Dog.” Virginia Woolf’s first published essay was an obituary of her dog. Years later, her tribute to Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her famous canine companion, Flush: A Biography was published. Though largely ignored in her bibliography Flush remains Woolf’s bestselling book to date.

Dog lover and psychologist Maureen Adams wrote about these wonderful women writers and their dogs in Shaggy Muses: The Dogs Who Inspired Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edith Wharton, and Emily Brontë.

In the 21st century you will find the likes of Jon Katz, Ted Kerasote, Dean Koontz, Julie Klam, Merrill Markoe, Mark Doty, W. Bruce Cameron, Cynthia Rylant, Ann Martin, and Alexandra Day (to name a few) writing about dogs. One of my favorite books, The Quotable Dog Lover (edited by Patricia M. Sherwood) contains memorable dog quotes from dozens of writers.

For your enjoyment here are photos of writers and their dogs:

Jill Krementz Photo Journal -- Top Dogs

Adorable Pictures of Famous Writers and Their Pets


Love dog stories?

"Crazy Bitch tells the story of the deep love that can exist between humans and dogs, as well as the intense - and sometimes very complicated - love that can exist between two dogs."

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Crazy Bitch ~ a dogoir
Letters to Juniper ~ 2012 Colorado Book Award Finalist
PFC Liberty Stryker ~ “a wild ride like no other”

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  1. I think I have gone to the dogs too! Just got a new puppy after 4 years of waiting.

  2. Congratulations! Puppies are so much fun -- a lot of work -- but still fun.