Serendipity strikes again. I stopped into my favorite small bookstore, Booktowne on Main Street in Manasquan, not realizing that there was an intimate book signing with the author, John Zeaman. I had never met John before and, as there were no other patrons chatting with him at the time (it was shortly before he was planning on taking off) I asked him if he minded if I browsed his book.
It was a polite query, the kind designed to be sensitive to the probability that I wasn’t going to buy the book, yet alone ask him to inscribe it. After all, I’m not that partial to dogs in general stemming from a childhood experience during which I was mistaken by a dog for a tree, as she unceremoniously deposited a liquid tracer on my leg. No matter, I’ve long since moved on to accepting that dogs can be wonderful companions, dating to biblical antiquity. I lightened up enough to have a go at being a dog owner periodically though our track record wasn’t particularly good. We did have one solid dog, Rusty, to whom our younger son Dan became quite attached.
Our older son Elliot was living in Richmond Hills, GA outside of Fort Stewart following his graduation from West Point, when he was deployed to Iraq. His German Shepard Ajax was a great comfort dog to our daughter-in-law Heather and grandson Carson. For a period of time when they moved in with us after welcoming Elliot back to US soil and re-locating to NJ, I learned to appreciate the dog’s warmth, loyalty and companionship.
It is these types of bonds that John Zeaman celebrates in his book, Dog Walks Man: A Six Legged Odyssey. Using my old Evelyn Wood skills, I skimmed the book and was quickly drawn in. John reviews art for the The Record newspaper in Bergen County, where I spend weekdays as an interlude from nature. I’m savoring John’s prose like fine wine, but it is already living up to the full billing of my skim and of its liner notes. The back jacket touts it as a humorous, thoughtful, absorbing narrative about the metaphysical joys of a simple daily task. Which it is. The inside jacket cover proclaims that ultimately Dog Walks Man is about a search for wholeness in an increasingly artificial world. It is that, and more.
A pleasant surprise that I hadn’t noticed in the store was the lush line drawings adorning the inside of the front and back covers by John’s daughter, Claire. As John and I chatted amiably, I decided to buy three copies, keeping one for myself and having him inscribe one of the the other copies to Elliot, Heather and Ajax, and the other to Dan, Sara and Jackson. Though I haven’t walked Ajax or Jackson, I still have memories about being dragged around town by Rusty about which John’s book does a wonderful of conjuring. As he packed up and said goodbye to the store owner, Rita, John inscribed a few more personalized copies for her. He bid farewell, heading to the Manasquan Fisherman’s Conservation area for a visit to the Dog Beach. I put that on my list of “to do”s when the boys and their families visit next summer.