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Mutual Memoirs

by | Mar 8, 2017 | 0 comments

Today would have been Kelso’s 16th birthday. He lived 14 good years, and I wasn’t about to let him live any bad ones, so I celebrate today without his physical presence. Though his body is gone, his legacy lives. When you have a dog so special, they are everywhere, always.


Kelso, photo by Tori Self

When I first heard of Patricia McConnell‘s new memoir, The Education of Will, I was giddy–I could not wait for it to come to print. When most 11 year old girls were fawning over boys on the cover of teeny-bopper magazines, I was watching Dr. McConnell talk about dog behavior problems on her call-in TV show. I had found my career path! And her stunningly-handsome black and white border collie, Cool Hand Luke, who accompanied her on the show was the dog I wanted.

When I realized that this memoir was about more than her dog Willie, whose behavior problems I was familiar with because of her blog, I was even more intrigued. A “mutual memoir” it is called: trauma and recovery from both a human and canine perspective. Willie’s behavior problems are really familiar to me; Luke may have been the dog I wanted but Willie is the dog I got. Funny that Kelso’s middle name was in fact, Willie.  So when Dr. McConnell was in Seattle for a book signing I eagerly attended; bought my book, listened to the writer speak, and got it signed. It was magical for me; to meet someone who has influenced you for so long always is. More magical was reading and learning the depth of not only Willie’s troubles (more and more like Kelso with each turn of the page) but the history of trauma and immeasurable bravery behind the woman I’d looked up to for so long.


Me and Dr. M in Seattle!

If you haven’t gathered as much already; I highly recommend grabbing a copy, snuggling up next to a good dog, and reading it cover to cover. As soon as possible.

There is a “mutual memoir” in me begging to be written, too. Why haven’t I? It’s not time yet, as Glennon Doyle Melton (another brave woman I admire with every cell in my body) perfectly states, “Make sure you’re sharing from your scars, not your open wounds.”

Kelso was given to me by my parents when I was 14 years old. I was a severely depressed teenager grieving the sudden and traumatic loss of a dog I adored. The black and white ball of fur was like chemo to a cancer patient; I needed him but I didn’t want him. He saved my life; of that I am certain. But our relationship–one that was as deeply woven as any threads on this earth–was hard-fought. I didn’t know how to let him be himself any more than I knew how to let me by myself. We were both lost. Through sweat, blood, and tears I came to love him more than I knew possible; and he showed me–in the immeasurable way only dogs can–that I was worthy of love, too. It’s a story worthy of telling, in due time.

So you can see why I am so in love with this book, The Education of Will. I hope you’ll grab a copy and love it too.


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