I’ve been meaning to get a professional ‘author photo’ for a while now. I don’t know about you, but while I love taking photos (of water, landscapes, public art, flowers, snow), I hate being on the other side of the lens, especially if it’s to be a formal photo.
My research tells me it’s important that the photo ‘brand’ me (like a box of Corn Flakes?), and make me look like someone the reader would like to spend time with.
“Have it taken with a cat,” advises a friend. “Everyone likes spending time with a person who has a cat.”
I don’t have a cat.
“Dogs are good too,” she says. I check. It’s true – Edith Wharton, Dorothy Parker and Virginia Woolf all have dogs.
I used to have a dog.
We got him from the SPCA after about the fortieth or fiftieth visit. My daughter fell in love with a dog each time we went but I always managed to find something wrong – the dog was too large, too heavy (big dogs scared me), had too many teeth which were too pointed (their teeth scared me), was too angry looking, too slobbery… Truth was, I didn’t want a dog.
When I was a kid my mother had felt sorry for a Lakeland Terrier an old lady had kept tied to the leg of her kitchen table for more than seven years. She brought Krys home and I fell in love with him on the spot. My mother couldn’t bear to tie him up so he was always getting out. That wouldn’t have been a problem except he wouldn’t just stay in the garden or in the allotments at the back, he’d go into the fields next door and chase the cows so they wouldn’t milk properly, and go after the chickens so they stopped laying. Then he’d go further afield and chase the sheep. My mother tied him up but he somehow always managed to find ways to escape. Finally the local farmers told my mother to get a chain and keep him on it permanently – or they’d shoot him.
“That’s him,” said my daughter, pointing to a squirrely little dog trembling in the corner of his pen. He looked so scared. I didn’t want a frightened dog. “If you can get him to come to you, maybe we’ll think about it,” I said, pretty sure he’d not dare come closer.
A few minutes later one of the volunteers led us and the dog to a room. “This isn’t the right dog for you,” she said, knowing from our previous visits we had no dog experience. “He’s too nervous, too excited. You’ll never control him.” She took him from my daughter and told him to sit. He ignored her and struggled to get back to my daughter. “You see?” she said. “He’ll be too difficult for you.”
We took him home. Our place was open plan and I didn’t want him upstairs so we stacked chairs and books and so on to make a barrier to keep him downstairs but wherever we went, Brandy was right there with us. And that’s the way it was for the next seventeen and a half years.
Two nights after adopting him we went to the country. A strange sound outside made us open the door, forgetting Brandy might want to run out. I thought that would be the last we’d see of him, he didn’t know the area, it was night, and sometimes we heard coyotes. Brandy weighed nine pounds at the time. A local Jack Russell had recently been carried off by a vulture. He wouldn’t have a chance.
He turned up half an hour later, pleased as punch with himself and overpowering us and the cottage with eau-de-skunk.
Part Papillon, part terrier, part Toller Retriever (Nova Scotia Duck Dog), Brandy had been a Christmas present who’d been given up because he barked too much. I think he’d been beaten. He’d go bezerk at the sight of any male with a hockey stick or garden rake. He must have been in a family with a baby because he’d get in front of any mother and baby and prepare to defend them. I worried when he was in protective mode with myself and my daughter, especially as he didn’t like men with beards. My husband had a beard. Not auspicious, but six weeks later they were inseparable.
The only thing between our dear little Brandy and perfect obedience was a deer or rabbit or squirrel. Then, woosh, he was gone. All the neighboring dogs called Brandy (three of them) knew a treat was in store when they heard me calling in the woods and they’d come running.
If I need a new author’s photo, and an author’s photo needs a pet, looks like it’s time to start going to Adopt-A-Dog Days. No, no dog could match our Brandy. Maybe better that I follow Flannery O’Connor‘s example and get a peacock?