Sunday, March 25, 2012

Dogs and the Sick

It's a joy to find a book that fits your needs and reading desires.  It's another thing, a better thing, when that book finds you.  Yesterday we had a book signing at Unleashed by Petco in Wellesley.  Some people came specifically to see us and buy the book.  Others, I guess you could say, stumbled upon us.

There was a nice man who shared that there was an illness in his family.  He wondered whether now was an appropriate time for that sick person to have a dog in her life.  My dad and I were able to share the story of how our Golden Retriever, Susie, sat bedside vigil when my mom was dying of cancer.  That meant a lot to the man.  He bought a book and remarked about how he fortunate he felt to have met us while browsing for dog biscuits, or something of that kind.  He came to the store with one thing in mind, but left with what he really needed.

L to R, Michael, Christopher, Carole and Kevin Walsh with Susie, 1988.

Similar moments in my life introduced me to books that have had such an impact on me: When Bad Things Happen to Good People, The Prophet and Tuesdays with Morrie.

L to R, Bob Walsh, Beth Faye, Susan Spielman with Poodle Ginny,  Kevin and Samantha Walsh

Plenty of other folks came into the store and bought books with good cheer.  We cheerfully signed and took pictures with them.  But the picture I have in my head the day after was the look on that man's face; and his realization that he found what he was looking for in a place that he least expected.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Kevin (left) with Zach Hill

I've said it before.  When you're an author, you should always have a copy of your book with you.  You might just bump into someone for whom it makes a most appropriate gift.  Yesterday was another one of those times.

The Philadelphia Flyers were coming to town to play the Boston Bruins.  Having grown up in Philadelphia and covering news and sports there, I know quite a few people in the Flyers front office and on the broadcast team.

Zach Hill is the Flyers media guy and he's "good people."  We always catch up whenever he comes to town.  He made it a point to let me know he'd been following the publicity of Follow the Dog Home and was very encouraging.  He wanted to know more.  So I told him the story about Beverly the German Shepherd leading us back to my father's long lost childhood home site unseen.

Bob Walsh, wearing paper boy hat, returns to his childhood home where his journey with dogs started 70 years ago.  Wellesley, MA

He loved it, and having a dog himself, he said he would buy a book.  That won't be necessary.
I gave him the signed one that I had brought with me to the Garden.

After the game, which the Bruins won 3-2 in a shootout, we took a picture in the Flyers locker room.  Zach said he'd read the book on the flight back to Philly.  I'm sure losing himself in the pages took his mind off a tough loss.  And the next time I see him, we'll have more stuff to talk about.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I Love Lucy: Family's First Dog


How can you not fall in love with a face like that?  It's impossible.  You just surrender.  Some friends of ours just brought home their first dog.  Her name is Lucy.  With three boys and a young girl in the house, they weren't sure they could handle it.  But they're giving it a shot, or as they would say, they've added to the crazy.

It had been a process that involved pressure.  Most people in our part of Wellesley walk their kids to school.  Many of them bring their dogs along.  The other children at school fawn all over them.  Naturally, some of those dog-less children want to join the crowd.  And now another family has done that.

Amanda is friends with the family's daughter, who is celebrating her birthday in style with a new addition to the family--a puppy.  Ever the creative one, Amanda put together a birthday gift bag for her pal, personalized it with Lucy the Dog's picture on the front, and a copy of Follow the Dog Home inside.   I think the book will give our friends a good look at what the future of living with a dog has in store for them.

I'm sure little Lucy will give our neighbors all they can handle.  But where there's love, there's a way.  And with a love like Lucy, you can always Follow the Dog Home.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Surprise in Store!

Beverly, star of Follow the Dog Home, outside Wellesley Books

Ever bump into someone you know, but you totally don't recognize them?  It's kind of embarrassing and it happened to me the other day.

I was in Wellesley Books, shopping for gifts for friends, and books for me.  I had just finished talking with the owner, Bill Kohli, and was browsing around the register area.  In came a customer, dog in tow on a leash, on a mission.  "Do you have a dog book about home?  It's written by someone from the area."

My ears perked up and Bill gave me a nod from behind the counter.  "Are you looking for Follow the Dog Home?" I asked the woman.

"I guess that's it, my husband told me about it.  There is a German Shepherd in it."

"Yep.  That's my book.  I wrote it.  Beverly is my dog.  She's a German Shepherd."

I suddenly recognized the woman as someone I had met earlier in the day at church.  But you know when you see someone out of their element, in place or uniform, and you just completely space out? That's what happened.

The same was true with her dog, Matilda, who I actually wrote about in Follow the Dog Home under a pseudonym.  I hardly recognized "Matty" at the register because I was so used to seeing her at the dog park with her dad.  Swap a dad for a mom, and a store for a dog park, and there you go.  I was totally befuddled.  Matty and I quickly reconnected with a few whiffs and few pats.  Matty went home with a biscuit, and her mom with my book under her arm.

Later I took Beverly to Wellesley Books to kinda sorta relive the Matty Moment.  We didn't go in for a snack, instead settling for a picture outside.  Someday soon, we'll bring Bev inside the store.  And  I can't wait for the day when someone with their nose buried in a book with three silhouettes walking across the cover says, "You know that looks like the dog from the book I'm reading now."

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Go Greek

Therapy Dog as puppy.  More on Him Below.

Why not go Greek?  We did for a casual Sunday lunch and a party broke out--sort of.  My dad, and fellow Follow the Dog Home author, Bob, needed some books.  Apparently his popularity is increasing around Ledyard, Connecticut and his supply had run out.  Samantha and I decided to meet him halfway between our homes in Wellesley, Massachusetts and Ledyard.  The plan was to sign a bunch of books, divvy them up, and return to our respective homes.  

Samantha and Bob Walsh signing books.  Ni Ni managing boxing effort.

In between bites of the biggest Greek salad on earth, we penned our names on the inside covers.  The pile of books on our table at the Golden Greek Restaurant in Webster, Mass attracted quite a bit of attention.  Other diners came over to talk, and everyone had a story to share.

Father Adam (left) and Dog Therapy Trainer Friend

Catholic Priest Father Adam, seen above, got the clergy discount.  That's free for the church challenged.  His friend was a dog therapy trainer, so he too got a similar discount--free!  Hey if you're saving souls and soothing the hearts of the sick, I don't have the heart to charge you any money.  My dad thinks everyone should pay, and he may be right, but a  lot of good comes out of extending goodwill too.  It's almost impossible to see in this picture, but the trainer is holding a small picture in his hand of his puppy.  The bigger version of the picture is at the top of the blog.

Our waitresses were dog people as well.  Jill had and lost a German Shepherd named Buddy.  He really did live up to the name, she says.  I told her I could relate having had, lost, and written about German Shepherds too.  Marsha has two dogs: a Dachschund named Charlie; the other a Beagle/Dachschund mix named Dolly.  Marsha considers her pets family.  So do we.

Waitresses Marsha Bates & Jill Klashka with authors Kevin, Samantha & Bob Walsh at Golden Greek Restaurant
Considering that we took over their restaurant, and because they took such good care of us, I just had to give them a book too.  And the young lady next table over who took our picture with my iPhone, yep another dog owner times two.

People often ask, where do you find all these cool stories?  I don't.  They find me.  Good stories are everywhere.  It's just a question of whether you're receptive to the creativity and curiosity that is constantly around you.  We found it in spades at Golden Greek Restaurant in Webster, and we found the food to be terrific too.

The Golden Greek Restaurant, Webster, Massachusetts

Friday, March 2, 2012

Simple Art, Super Ending

You finish what you started.  That was instilled in me by my parents, coaches and teachers.  Well, here's the photo finish and happy ending.

Breanna Richard (left) with Super Bowl Host Committee Communications Director Dianna Boyce

A month ago I walked into Dianna's Boyce's booth at Super Bowl 46 Headquarters in the JP Marriott hotel in downtown Indianapolis.  Dianna is the Super Bowl Host Committee's Communications Director.   I had Breanna's colorful welcome card in my hands, and a copy of Follow the Dog Home under my arm.

When you're an author, you should always have a copy of your book with you, or in the car.  You just never know who you're going to meet, and when you might want to give one as a gift.  After finding Breanna's card in my hotel room after a very long day, I just had to give one to her.

I wanted to say thank you to her, and return the gift of art, with the gift of reading.  I naively thought there might be a ballroom full of Indiana school kids coloring away, making tokens of kindness to be left in Super Bowl visitors' hotel rooms.

Not exactly.  The 36,000 cards were culled and mailed in from all 92 state counties.  The cards weren't marked, so there was really no easy way to track where they came from.  I asked Dianna, "If I can find Breanna my own, would you deliver the book to my Super Bowl Super Kid?"

"Yes," she said.

So I left the book with Dianna, and used my reporter's instincts.  More than 70 phone calls, almost as many emails, dozens of sources, and thousands of eyeballs because of Stacia Matthews and WRTV 6, here we are four weeks later.  We finished what we started all right.  I discovered, Dianna delivered.  Breanna looks as bubbly in real life (below),  as she did in her colored self portrait (above).  One simple act of kindness led to another.  And that makes for a super ending.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Here She is! And She Has Two Dogs.

Well here's the video of our Super Bowl Super Artist, Breanna.  Breanna is 11, and a fifth grader at an Indianapolis area elementary school.  She is darling.  Her conversation with WRTV Reporter, Stacia Matthews, aired yesterday.  Today, the Super Bowl Host Committee is delivering the original copy of Follow the Dog Home that I left behind Super Bowl week.

Based on her animal drawings and love of the Indianapolis Zoo, I had a feeling she might have a dog.  Animal lovers typically do.  Well guess what?  She has not one, but two dogs!  Oh, this goes my heart good.  More reason to believe, and I do, that her welcoming card--one in 36,000--was meant for me, and Follow the Dog Home was meant for her.