Written by JJ Barnes
I was delighted to interview Rosie Lowry about her new book, The Tale Of A Big Dog. She describes her life with her dog, Hagrid, what motivated her to write the book, and offers advice to inspire others.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
There have always been animals in my life. I grew up in the countryside and have never been without an animal companion. They have been fabulous teachers especially now that I know how to understand their communication much better.
Initially I trained as a nursery nurse and started working with children, then fter having my own children I switched to training in animal care and management. After several years of running my successful pet sitting business I had a real interest to learning more about their behaviour and how to understand them. I found simply the best course run by Sheila Harper in Staffordshire. Then came a lightbulb moment and suddenly I understood all my past animals and relationships – goats, pig, ducks, chickens, chinchillas, rabbits and guniea-pigs as well as cats and dogs.
At that point I started writing as I could see that understanding how animals communicate was something every animal in the care of humans would need and want to be understood, listened to and treated as an equal. And I thought everyone involved with animals would love to know.
As I’d always had an interest in human behaviour and child development those elements helped my learning and so I translated most of child development, behaviour, emotion, in fact many scenarios, into dog behaviour although at the time that was a ‘no-no’. I felt the two were most certainly linked, we’re all animals and so a few of my thoughts came out in my first book ‘Understanding the Silent Communication of Dogs’ and still more of those thoughts can be found in my new book ‘The Tale of a BIG Dog’, which incidentally is intended for all sizes and shapes of dogs.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
As far back as I can remember, from a young child, I’ve always wanted to write a book/s about animals. I had a passion to live with a lion, write books and wear glasses. Guess what? So much of that has turned out to be very close. Although Hagrid wasn’t a lion, he was big and lion-coloured!
When did you take a step to start writing?
As a child I wrote a short book – simply and factually about animals but none of it really resonated with me, I just thought people wanted to know facts, and then in 2008 I began to write from the heart.
The first book started as a booklet, actually it was supposed to be a series of booklets but soon Understanding the Silent Communication became a book in its own right.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
Understanding the Silent Communication took three years to write which I thought was a long time!
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
Now this new book, ‘The Tale of a BIG Dog; a holistic guide to life with Hagrid” took six years until we published that and that was a long time!
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write The Tale Of A Big Dog?
The day after Hagrid’s death I woke up in the early hours of the morning and went downstairs to write to process the previous day’s events and jot down my thoughts.
Later, a lovely person suggested I turn this into a book about Hagrid’s life and so the seed was sown and I wrote about Hagrid.
What were your biggest challenges with writing The Tale Of A Big Dog?
The sad, emotional parts, the parts where I had let Hagrid down in life and had SO wanted to stand up for him. It makes me sad to this day. Now I do stand up for my dogs and am not prepared to give in and not be listened to.
What was your research process for The Tale Of A Big Dog?
Reading back on the years of Hagrid’s diary and entries.
I was careful not to research too much as I wanted the book to come from MY heart, my feelings and experiences that my animals and I had had together. Empathy and emotions led the book rather than facts.
How did you plan the structure of The Tale Of A Big Dog?
The structure of the book was largely led by Hagrid and the way his life went, from the day we first visited him and then brought him home with us, also from our other dog Jaffa a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, who chose him from all the Mastiffs we went to see.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did The Tale Of A Big Dog need?
So many kind people gave up their time to help me edit this book and I appreciate all their input. There was lots of editing that went on at various points, it’s such an interesting and varied journey.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
If you really want to write a book, do it. I have learning difficulties but have managed to learn and write a book with quite a bit of support and the best thing is there are so many beautiful people that I have met along the way and you will too. Some great relationships have formed.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I feel there needs to be more awareness bringing to the issue of children and dogs, another topic that I wrote about a number of years ago is ‘dogs and exercise’. I may expand on those themes in future books.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
I’m proud of my efforts to keep on going through all the waves that came and went throughout Hagrid’s life and again while writing about his and other dogs’ lives.
Completing a book means it can be out in the wider environment and I’m always interested in peoples comments and that’s another area for learning. That’s worth the effort.