Valley author tells tale of dogs’ adventures
BASALT – It will come as a shock to those who know her now, but Basaltine Ann MacLeod was, for the majority of her life, a cat person. Then in her early 40s, a dog entered the household.A true convert, MacLeod now publishes the Willits Dog News, an occasional free pamphlet of puppy photos, canine news and more, and has advocated successfully for an off-leash dog park in the midvalley.MacLeod’s latest dog-related venture is “The Lost Dogs of Shoretown,” a novel written under the name Annie Mack. The novel, a prison-break mystery about a series of dog abductions, takes the point of view of the dogs.The most intriguing conceit of the book is how MacLeod portrays the characters. The dogs speak, but apart from that, for the most part they think and behave like your average Fido. The dogs organize themselves according to strict canine codes – domineering alphas Jenny and Toro, subservient sorts like Bowser and Handsome. And while the Shoretown pups can show advanced thought processes at time, they are easily distracted by the mere scent of a liver treat.MacLeod, who moved to the valley in 2000 after a career as a computer programmer at the University of California, Berkeley, has written romance novels before. But “The Lost Dogs of Shoretown” required a different way of thinking, especially since she didn’t want to anthropomorphize the characters too much.”I’m used to showing emotion with human expression and gestures,” she said. “Here, I use the dog’s tail-wagging, flattening their ears. It’s a revelation to me. I’d have the dogs laughing. And rewriting, I’d say, well, dogs don’t laugh; they wag their tails.”One human voice that does come through is MacLeod’s. A believer in giving dogs opportunities to run free, the plot centers around the dogs’ desire to be off-leash and bird watchers who find the roaming dogs a nuisance. The issue relates to an experience MacLeod had on the coast in northern California.”I felt ambivalent about it,” she said of her encounter with a bird watcher. “I knew somehow he was right; Koko” – the 10-year-old Australian Shepherd who accompanied her to the interview – “shouldn’t be disturbing the birds. But I figured, I’m a fiction writer; I can represent both points of view. I’m not a judge.”The dogs I’ve had need to run free. They have so much fun, and it’s fun to watch.”The best trick of “The Lost Dogs of Shoretown” is how MacLeod convinces readers she does know what goes on in the canine head.”When you live with a dog, something tender is touched in you,” said MacLeod, who is at work on a sequel, “The Shoretown Dogs Go Loco.” “Dogs have so many qualities I would like to have: patience, courage, some kind of wild love of nature.”Although I don’t think they’re as innocent as we think they are. They know how to play us.””The Lost Dogs of Shoretown” is available at most valley book stores and pet shops. For more on MacLeod’s canine activities, go to http://www.kokothedetective.com.
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