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The Chet Baker Book

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Chet and me, fall 2005. We're both pretty smooth. That was then.
Photo by Bill Thompson III

Not long after we got Chet Baker in February, 2005, I looked at him and said, “Little dog, you are going to pay off our mortgage.” I knew at the time that this was an outrageous statement, dripping with hubris. And that it was almost certainly untrue. But it seemed an apt way to express my admiration for the small black and white bundle who was turning out to be a remarkable dog.

I’m well into the writing of Chet Baker’s story. It’s what I do for fun. The chapters scroll out like those Chinese paper yoyo's on a stick, snapping out to great lengths then rolling back up into a tidy cylinder. I love to write about Chet when he’s lying beside me breathing softly, or when my bare foot is running over his flank as he lies at my feet. That’s the thing, isn’t it? I have to write this while he’s here, have to get the book out while he’s still hale and hearty. I couldn’t write it with an open happy heart if he weren’t. And all of us who love dogs know that their span on the planet is cursedly brief. That’s the one thing we haven’t gotten right in all this selective breeding. You can breed a dog with a nine-inch muzzle or none at all. You can get  squinty almond eyes or googly pop eyes; you can get foot-long hair or wrinkly bare skin. But you can’t do much with that lifespan. Why is that? Must it be an immutable characteristic of dogs to delight us for a dozen years, make themselves indispensible, work their way into every corner of our hearts, then leave?

He’ll be eight in December. I started blogging in December 2005 when he was a slick skinny year old pup. It stuns me to think that I’ve been blogging for seven years, almost as long as Chet's been in our lives. I know I haven’t done nearly enough Chetposts to suit either you or me, but there are always stories and pictures I hold back—the best ones. The blog is all well and good, free to all for the consuming, but it's books that are my real product, books that keep the house lit and the refrigerator stocked, that keep gas in our cars. Well, books and speaking honoraria. 

Bill came out of the studio a couple of years ago after messing around on my computer and announced that Chet now had his own Chet Baker, Boston Terrier Facebook page, and it was up to me to maintain it. It was surprising. Making a Facebook page for our dog had never occurred to me, but Bill is smart about things like that.  I took to channeling Chet's thoughts like a wood duck takes to sycamores. Now the durn dog’s got 1,050 friends, about ten more each week. It's adding up, broadening his audience, spreading by word of mouth. It's good.

 Writing updates for Chet has helped me get inside his head, develop his own voice, think what he’s thinking and say what I think he’d say if he could speak in words. He speaks to me with his eyes, his ears, his posture, his breathing, with the angle of his tail and the set of his increasingly floppy jowls. He speaks in pictures; I put them into words. On his Facebook page, people talk to Chet like they would talk to their own beloved pet; they seem to forget that there’s a person in between, and that’s fine with me. That means the canine medium thing is rolling.

Newly minted eight month old Baker, still fitting into a 2T shirt. Halloween 2005.

It may seem like fun and games, but I take it all seriously, the sharing and building connections with people who get what’s cool about Chet Baker and the dog-human bond. I'm excited to put how I feel about Chet, all the things he has taught me, into a book. I feel lucky to be able to get books published at all, much less so beautifully, in full color between hard covers. I still like books. I don’t want to read on some kind of device. I want to turn pages, to stick a Kleenex in them to mark my place and fall asleep to the thunk of the real live book hitting the floor. Let me know if you need some personalized, signed copies of The Bluebird Effect and Letters from Eden for Christmas presents. Order forms on the right sidebar. 

I’d written 14,000 words about Chet Baker before I was ready to send a proposal to my agent. He digs  it, but then he's soft on dogs. It occurs to me that there are probably a lot more people who are into dogs than are into wild birds. We’ll see where it goes from here. If people love this book like I love this dog, it’d pay off the mortgage and buy a new tractor too. Hey, I can dream. If I didn't dream I wouldn't be writing books.

He’s licking his pawdypads again. That’s how he brushes his teef and sets his thoughts in order. I write. We all have our ways.  

photo by Bill Thompson III

Chet and me, seven years down the road. A few more angles, a little more gray, and many more miles traveled together. We're old friends. We understand each other. It's time to put that into a book.

I'll let you know when I know when the book's coming out. All I know now is that it has to come out. The Bacon wants to sign books!

To all those Internet Explorer users who've had problems loading the blog this past week: so sorry. My wonderful Web Witch has figured out that Blogger inserted some junk html code when I tried to update my "Julie in the Flesh" section last week. Firefox, Safari and Google Chrome simply ignored it, but IE gagged on it. She's cleaned it all up and it's up and running on all browsers again. Let the Chetfix continue!


I can hardly WAIT for this book. Give Chet a kiss from me and Bugs.

Can't wait to meet Chet on tour!

My wife and I look forward to Chet's facebook postings every day. Just a few days ago we were musing about what you mention above - that we feel like we're talking to a person named Chet Baker, Boston Terrier. If we get to meet you in Harlingen next week, it'll be difficult to wrap our minds around the fact that we're meeting Chet's voice and that he's back in Ohio and doesn't actually talk.

I mention that because it's a testament to the brilliance of your writing in those snippets, which in turn is the greatest homage you can give to that human/pet bond that is so difficult to articulate without turning purple. I have no doubt Chet appreciates it, but his "voice" is just too modest to say so out loud.

I kept a diary for our Lab's first year of life. It was written in her words, and described her beginnings with us. We got to know her personality and understand her so well. Now it is priceless to me, a dozen years later, and ten months since she passed away. You are correct, Julie, you have to write while Chet is still at your side.
Can't wait to read Chet's book!

Somebody's got momentum. Somebody's rolled the snowball until it rolls itself. I like somebody!

I told you, if Oprah was still on in the afternoons, I'd look up and see you sitting next to her with Chet on your lap.

I adore Kirby Adams' comment.

Sometimes Julie I'm not sure you yourself recognize how talented you ARE! And (I hope this doesn't sound too negative) I'm not sure Houghton Mifflin fully gets you or your audience either, or do the best job of marketing/promoting your work (despite being a very high quality nature publisher). I hope you have the time to shop around various publishers for a Chet book and contrast& compare (just my 2 cents).
For a non-sheltie, Chet's a pretty cool dog! ;-)

Put me down for a copy!

SOOO CUTE LOVVVVVE the tee shirt! Never thought about that before. NEED to get Buddy a few. Buddy weighs 18 1/2 pounds and he just turned 4 the 21st. of Oct.

Glad to read it wasn't my computer that refused to fully upload your blogs from last week. I should've tried a different browser.

And yes, put me down for a Chet Baker book! Hard cover, real paper, real pages to turn. Phewy on that other kind. And thanks for sharing your unwavering adoration and deep fondness for your little pal, Mr. Chet Baker, the entertainer. And thanks Bill for setting up his FB page. This all gives me hope for the future.

I am truly excited about this book, and can't wait for it to be published! I wish you great success, as you and Chet bring such joy and so many smiles into our lives!

Is Chet on twitter? I think his tweets would be awesome and hold some of us over until we get our hands on that book! Tell Chet that Amos says hi.

You have to write the Chet Baker book now because I REFUSE to read any more of those books where the beloved pet dies at the end. Marley and Me almost did me in. Long live (and love) Chet Baker!

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