On the ground floor of the Georgetown Barnes & Noble stands a notice of a book signing for Heeling: The Canine Within, a new title by Max, a black Labrador-German shepherd mix, and Scooter, a short-haired dachshund. The sign says that authors’ “human pets,” Liane Leshne and Sharon Armstrong, will be on hand to interpret their remarks and answer questions about their “self-help book for dogs.”
The paperback contains advice for coping with feelings of mixed-breed inferiority, “Breaking the Cycle of Passive-Aggressive Chewing,” and “Avoiding Tennis Ball Dependency”; it tells how to “Master the Seven Habits of Highly Successful Dogs” and helps readers rediscover “the puppy within you.”
The authors insist that the content is based on real experiences: If a canine reader finds him- or herself in the prickly position of having chewed up an owner’s Italian pumps, Max and Scooter suggest ways of converting the shoe into an open-toed sandal. If a pound pooch is looking to get adopted, Max and Scooter recommend strategic scratching”It makes you look more pitiful,” they write.
Heeling came about as four-legged response to The Rules, a guide on how women can manipulate men. The authors realized there was nothing to help dogs deal with their owners. A collaborative effort was born.
“It just literally wrote itself,” the authors say. Soon enough, they found a literary agent, who got them a deal with Ballantine and a $20,000 advance.
Now, with a 12,000 first print run, they’ve launched a Web site (http://members.aol.com/wisedogs) where humans and pets alike can consult Max and Scooter for their thoughts on issues ranging from food to bathing.
What with the book and all, this fall is already looking busy. In October, Armstrong says, Scooter will be blessed by a priest on St. Francis Day. Most Sundays, Scooter is not allowed in church because of his “dogged” behavior, she says. The little guy barks fiercely in protest. Armstrong looks at him sternly and asks, “Can’t you take a joke?”Guy Raz
The authors will appear at the Georgetown Barnes & Noble on Thursday, Aug. 20, at 7:30 p.m.