I loved the book, “It’s Just a Dog,” and not just because there’s a sweet, adorable Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in it. Let’s face it, we’re all terrified of the day we have to say goodbye to our best friend. Now that my Buddy is turning 10, I am obsessive—in a good way—about keeping him healthy through diet, dental exams and exercise. He’s got a sexy lean body and everyone who meets him thinks he’s a puppy.
I was nervous about reading a story about a dog that died but after staring at the book on my bedside table for a week, I cracked it open. It grabbed me and I read half of it in one sitting. With my gnat-like attention span, that is no small feat. From a literary standpoint, it’s hard not to notice the unfortunate number of clichés but, for dog lovers and lovers of dog stories, it’s a winner. The constant humor is a joy.
Book Sales Help Senior Dogs
During the 3-month summer launch, now through Labor Day (September 2, 2013), 50 percent of the book’s royalties will be donated to Muttville Senior Dog Rescue where they believe every dog deserves a happy ending.
Dorri Olds interviewed author Russ Ryan:
How much of your novel is autobiographical?
The main character Charlie Keefe is not based on me. He’s an exaggerated version of popular artists including George Rodrigue, the blue dog guy, and William Wegman, the famous photographer of Weimeraners.
So, you’re not really an artist who paints dogs?
Ha! I wish! I have absolutely no painting skills. But, I am a huge dog art lover.
What was your inspiration for the book?
Two years ago, my wife and I lost Petey, our first dog. Like Charlie, the dog owner in the book, I was surprised at how devastated I was after Petey’s death. I learned there’s a huge difference between your dog getting old versus being dead.
I had friends who’d lost pets but I just didn’t get it until I lost my own dog. The book idea came from thinking, wow, if this pet loss thing feels so bad for me, a normal guy with a normal dog, just imagine how bad someone would feel if their identity and livelihood were tied to their dog? That’s how I came up with the idea of the grief-stricken dog painter. I love to find the dark humor in sad situations and I’m a big fan of Woody Allen and Wes Anderson movies.
Can you describe the dogs you’ve loved?
I fall in love with dogs every day—friends’ dogs, neighborhood dogs, photos of rescue dogs online––but, of course, I’m closest to my own dogs. When I was a boy, we had a funny black Poodle-Schnauzer named Starsky. As an adult, my wife and I rescued Petey the Jack Russell Terrier, who introduced us to the joys of the dog world. Pete in the novel is loosely based on Petey, the dog pictured on the book cover. He was a cute, little curmudgeon who acted more like a cat. He didn’t respond to dogs or people. One time, we were out walking him and this elegant Indian man stopped us and said, “Your dog is royalty.” Petey was probably a reincarnated Indian prince––like “Coming To America,” except he came back as a dog, instead of Eddie Murphy.
Then, after Petey, there was Charlie Dickens, the happiest, craziest Benji-lookalike Terrier-Retriever mix who taught me how to live life to the fullest.
How did you meet your wife?
I met Sandy in a Borders Bookstore in Los Angeles back in the late 90′s. We’ve lasted longer than Borders, but the company has always held a special place in our hearts. After we got married, my wife sent the Borders corporate office a wedding invite and told them the story of how we met and a Borders exec was kind enough to send us back a $50 dollar gift card with a note that said, “We at Borders strive for customer satisfaction, but never before have we been this successful.”
Do you have kids?
No kids, just dogs, but love is love.
Where did you grow up?
Mount Vernon, Iowa. It was the perfect All-American childhood. I used to joke that I didn’t have enough angst to be a writer.
“It’s Just A Dog” is available in ebook ($2.99) and paperback ($9.99) on Amazon.
Click here to see the Book Trailer