Monday, August 22, 2011

Dorothy Hearst & Jude

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Dorothy Hearst, the author of Promise of the Wolves and Secrets of the Wolves, the first two novels in a trilogy about how the wolf became the dog from the wolf's point of view. The trilogy is based in the science of wolf-human coevolution and born of my love of dogs. The handsome fellow in the picture with me is Dante, a wolfdog who lived at Never Cry Wolf Rescue. Dante left us a few months ago after a long and full life.

I'm getting my own dog in December/January, after Emmi the Labradorable returns to my sister after a visit. For now, I borrow other people's dogs: Emmi the beautiful, Burrito the cylindrical, Jude the dashing, Sasha the Sasquatch, and Inna the warrior princess.

So hard to choose who to talk about. I miss Jude since he's in Australia now, so let's talk Jude.

[Editor's note: a week before this posting, Jude passed on. R.I.P.]

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I usually spend a good portion of my writing day in one of the many cafés in Berkeley. But when someone is looking at me with big brown eyes, wondering how I could possibly leave him all alone for hours at a time, I tend to bring the caffeine into my home. Jude snores loudly as I work, letting me know that naps are vital to the writing process.

I call Jude "Baloo" because he reminds me of the bear from the Disney Jungle Book film in that he always seems so happy with the "bare necessities" of walks, pets, love, snacks, and a human's bed to take over as his own. One time I was walking on what I thought was a deserted trail in Tilden Park, singing "Bare Necessities" to Jude when a woman came onto my trail from a side trail. I explained to her that Jude reminded me of Baloo, and she understood perfectly.

What's brewing?

I switched to tea several years ago because coffee was making me squirrely. At first it felt like deprivation, but now I'm as discerning about my tea as I used to be about coffee. The time release caffeine of tea usually works best for me, but when I need a quick jolt, iced latte is my poison.

Any treats for you or Jude on this occasion?

Jude would be happy to take any tuna, sardines, or duck off your hands and will settle for dog treats should better snacks prove unavailable. Kibble will be spread throughout the domicile. You can feed me almonds, pistachios, biscotti, dark chocolate, and Trader Joe's five layer dip.

How are you and Jude connected?

Jude lives with my friends Johanna and Fred, who used to live about two miles away from me and now live on the other side of the world. I Skype with Jude whenever possible.

How did he get his name? Any nicknames?

I believe he was named after Jude the Obscure rather than Jude of Beatles fame. However, he is quite accustomed to having me sing "Hey Jude" to him off-key.

When you get a dog of your own, any idea what kind of dog you'd like?

I plan to get a rescue, and have a soft spot for mid-sized mutts. That being said, I have a feeling my dog will find me.

What's the greatest challenge--or opportunity--presented by telling the story from the wolf's point-of-view in your novels?

The biggest challenge became the biggest opportunity. I struggled, at first, to describe the world from a wolf's perspective. If I had been completely accurate about how a wolf perceives the world, it would have been difficult for my human readers to understand the world, but I didn't want to make the wolves seem like humans in wolf suits. I spent a great deal of time on this, and in the end, it was what shaped the entire world of the book and much of the action.

I had to think not just about how a wolf perceives things, but about what is most important to a wolf. What does she care most about and how is that different from what a human would care about? It also kept me from using clichés. I couldn't say there was a blanket of leaves on the ground because wolves don't have blankets, so instead I used "a pelt of newly fallen leaves." I think it made the books much richer.

Squirrel, postman, cat...?

Jude says yes, please.

Who is Jude's best pet pal?

His mom and dad, definitely, with the bed coming in a close third. Though he and Emmi had a marvelous time playing tug of war [photo above left] a few Christmases ago.

What is the dog's best quality?

His joie de vivre and the fact that he keeps me humble by making sure I don't forget who really owns the bed.

If Jude could change one thing about Berkeley, what would it be?

Berkeley is one of the best places to be a dog. Tilden Park and Point Isabel for long walks, and store owners who leave out treats and water bowls. Jude is most concerned with keeping the Bay Area open spaces open, and continuing to allow dogs off-leash in parks.

What's Jude's proudest moment? His most embarrassing?

His proudest moment is successfully laying claim to the four-fifths of the bed that is rightfully his.

Most embarrassing would be the time I got more of the bed than he did.

Visit Dorothy Hearst's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Promise of the Wolves.

--Marshal Zeringue