Some might say that behind every good writer there’s a good dog. At least, the six local authors who contributed to the newly released anthology Literary Dogs and Their South Carolina Writers might say that. The writers wrote personal essays about their special canines, detailing how the pooches have loved, challenged, and bolstered them over the years.
Take Dorothea Benton Frank, for example. The New York Times bestselling author says her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Henry, is her real support system. Henry logs hours with Frank in her office every day, accompanies her at lunchtime and on mid-day walks, and is the one who suffers the most when she’s gone on a book tour. In her essay, “Henry Frank—Dog Extraordinaire,” Henry finally gets the credit he’s due as Frank writes about their relationship.
“Henry and I have some connection that transcends reasonable explanation, as though he’s my best friend trapped in a dog’s body,” Frank writes in her essay. “He understands me. Isn’t that what we all want from life? To have someone know you and love you anyway?”
Other Charleston-based authors who contributed to the book include Mary Alice Monroe, Josephine Humphreys, Beth Webb Hart, Nicole Seitz, and Marjory Wentworth. All will be on hand, along with their dogs, at the Charleston Library Society on Nov. 27 for a Literary Dogs release party.
Wentworth created a Facebook page for her dog Sen in honor of the occasion. The beagle-black lab mix admitted online that she failed obedience school, but still hopes to attend the book’s launch party. “I’ll be on a short leash, but plan to attend most of the events,” Sen posted on Facebook.
In her essay, “Sen not Sin,” Wentworth recalls the time Sen escaped the family’s backyard and was taken to the pound. Wentworth says she almost never found Sen again, and it showed her how close she’d become with the dog.
“That particular story when she was picked up, it just haunted me,” Wentworth says. “We hadn’t had her very long and it’s always interesting how you have these moments with an animal and all of a sudden you feel how attached you are, especially when you lose an animal. They really do become part of your family.”
For author Beth Webb Hart, the antics of her parents’ poodle Bo Peep were the true test of whether her then-boyfriend-now-husband was marriage material. Hart admits Bo Peep is not easy to warm to — she yips, humps legs, and has bad breath — but she was looking for someone who could love the unlovable canine. In her essay, “The Redemption of Bo Peep,” Hart tells of Bo Peep’s one heroic act that made up for years of bad behavior.
The book’s co-editor Betsy Teter of Hub City Press says the collection not only gives insight into the personalities of the different dogs, but also the lives of South Carolina writers. “When a writer writes about a dog, you can really see right into the personality of the author,” she says. “In these stories, you learn a lot about who these writers are when they’re not on a book tour and not in front of an audience. You see them at home.”
Local dogs are benefiting from the book, with a portion of the proceeds from each book sale being donated to the Charleston Animal Society, Teter says. “None of the writers in the book were paid,” Teter says. “They agreed to give us an essay if we gave proceeds to an animal charity. So that is what we’re doing with this book. No human is getting royalties, but dogs are getting donations.”