Pulitzer Winner Writes Novel
Former Point Reyes Light Publisher Cathy Mitchell writes novel about animal rescue
By: Cathy Mitchell
“I wrote the book to show people the difficulties a rescue dog faces. It’s dumped at an animal shelter leaving behind everything it has known. If it is to survive, it has to learn to adapt to new people and their ways,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell drew on her five years as a volunteer with Boykin Spaniel Rescue to write the novel. Mitchell taught journalism at UNC-Asheville for 23 years. Before that she was co-publisher of the Point Reyes (Calif.) Light where in 1979 she shared in a Pulitzer Prize for an expose of a cult called Synanon.
The Boykin Spaniel heroine of “Save a Spaniel,” is a prime candidate for euthanasia, said Mitchell. When the dog faces a frightening situation, she urinates, leading people to believe she’s not housebroken. She also has heartworms. The ailment is not fatal if treated but most publicly-funded shelters do not have the resources to handle the time-consuming treatment, said Mitchell.
Fortunately, an animal rescue group takes the dog from the shelter. But that’s only the beginning of her adventures, traveling through several homes which do not have patience with her problems.
The dog eventually finds an understanding home where she survives and thrives.
“I wrote the book in the first person from the dog’s point of view for a reason,” said Mitchell. “So many dog books end with the dog dying. ‘Marley and Me’ is a really entertaining book about a dog, but as you’re laughing at the funny stories you know that when you get to the end you will be crying.
“I wanted to make clear, right from the start, that since the dog is telling the story, she must still be alive,” said Mitchell.
As research for the book Mitchell read several studies of dog behavior.
“Dogs can’t talk so they are reduced to communicating through mime. They have to act everything out. For instance, when a dog wants to tell you to calm down and to show you he is not a threat, he looks to the side and licks his lips,” she said.
One of the themes of the book is miscommunication. The dog heroine keeps trying to signal things to people, which they miss, and people keep telling the dog to do things, but she doesn’t understand, said Mitchell.