Publication day: Good Dog! anthology

Today marks the publication of Good Dog! New Zealand Writers on Dogs, an anthology edited by Stephanie Johnson, and produced in glorious hardback by Vintage / Penguin Random House New Zealand. It has writing — poetry, fiction, essays, old and new — from a cast of New Zealand writers, including Fiona Kidman, Charlotte Grimshaw, Tina Makareti, Paula Morris, Michele Leggott, Steve Braunias, Sam Hunt … and Captain James Cook.

I too have a piece in the collection. Titled ‘At the Bay’, it’s a chapter (and the first published extract) from my forthcoming novel The Hope Fault. Dogs don’t play a great part in The Hope Fault — in fact, ‘At the Bay’ is just about the only place where dogs appear in the novel. But the dogs in ‘At the Bay’ do a lot of work, when they do appear, and I’m really pleased and proud that editor Stephanie Johnson found it doggy enough to include in this beautiful collection.

The book is peppered with lovely photos of many of the writers with dogs. Sadly, the photo that my mum was going to send through for me to provide for the book went missing in the post between Perth and Wellington (it showed up too late, returned to sender, so we decided that Mum’d keep hold of it until my next visit home, rather than risk it again in the mail). It’s a photo of my brother and me on the beach at North Cottesloe with our dog, Tully, a black-and-white spaniel we had for several years before he unaccountably ‘went to stay with a nice family on a farm’ (and no, we couldn’t go and visit him). In the photo, as I remember it, I’m about 8 or 9, sporting my signature look: Dame Edna glasses under a dead-straight fringe. Mum was describing the photo to me over the phone when she found it, and the two of us were in fits of laughter over the detail I had forgotten: I’m wearing a tie-dye t-shirt tucked Harry High-Pants-style into tight, short, dark blue towelling shorts (Tracy: keeping’ it style-y since 1960-mumble).

So, that photo didn’t make it into the book, nor can I share it with you now (though I will add it here when I have it).

Tully was the last dog I had as a pet; I confess, I’ve always been more of a cat person than a dog person. But we (especially my brother) often seemed to find dogs to hang out with on holidays. Here’s a photo from about the same era as the missing tucked-in-t-shirt photo, with a random friendly holiday dog hanging out with my family (Mum, my little brother, me, my dad) on the beach at Siesta Park (where I spent every Christmas and New Year between the ages of about 8 and 18, most of them in this very ‘chalet’, when it was brand new and seemed pretty flash). And here’s me, many years later (but still a good few years ago — 2008, I think), with Coco, the dear dog (recently departed, and much missed) of good friends.

Good Dog! New Zealand Writers on Dogs (Vintage NZ, 2016) is, as they say, available now from all good bookstores (details from Penguin Random House NZ). As the anthology’s editor, Stephanie Johnson, said on RNZ yesterday:

[I worried that] really I should be pouring all this energy into an anthology about climate change, or the rise of the neo-liberals…but I think that in this pre-apocalyptic world we live in, to have a treasure like this…full of things that’re going to make your heart swell — we need that sort of thing, don’t we?

Read Good Dog!, and feel your heart swell.


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