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Man’s Best Friend (and Woman’s Too) October 8, 2012

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in animals, memoir.

MediaMonday for October 8, 2012: The New York Times Buy the Book Interview with Jeffrey Eugenides, October 7, 2012.

Teresa Rhyne and Seamus

Teresa Rhyne and Seamus (photo: Mike Easley)

Everyone loves a good dog story. Or so we think from judging by the numerous dog memoirs published in the last decade or so. Dogs (and other pets) are important figures in the lives of millions of people. The relationship and bond between human and pet goes far deeper than non-pet-lovers can fathom. Are dog memoirs a trend? Can anyone write the story of Spot and get a book deal? What makes a great dog memoir, anyway? We’ll ask these questions and more on  Wednesday, October 10, 2012, when we discuss dog memoirs. Then on Friday, October 12, we’ll chat with Teresa McElhannon Rhyne, author of The Dog Lived (And So Will I).

Like the successful family law attorney she is, following her second divorce, Teresa Rhyne reordered her life into ABCDs (Alcohol, Books, Coffee and Dogs). Within that year the D would go silent when she lost both of her two beloved beagles to age and illness within months of each other. If a woman ever felt defeated, that was Rhyne in that year. Her memoir, The Dog Lived (And So Will I) begins here.

A longtime proponent of pet rescue and adult dog adoptions (though some would argue “sucker”), Teresa could not say no when the local no-kill shelter called her with a beagle they’d just rescued from a terminating county facility. It was love at first sight for Teresa and love at first bite for Seamus. Bite of food, that is. Teresa tells tales of Seamus’s prodigious appetite as tall as his splendid Irish name. With her ABCDs back in place, Teresa slipped into a comfortable life as Southern California cougar with adorable new dog and cute new boyfriend. Young boyfriend.

Then Seamus was diagnosed with mast cell cancer. This is when The Dog Lived (And So Will I) fully engages. Rhyne writes with humor and pathos about the year of chemotherapy and dog treats, incessant barking and neurotic separation anxiety, financial sacrifices and sacrificial love. Just as Seamus makes it successfully through the rigorous treatment, the unspeakable thing happens to Rhyne. The C in her life is devastatingly edited to Cancer when she is diagnosed with triple negative invasive ductal carcinoma—a rare and highly aggressive form of breast cancer.

Not one to take a diagnosis like triple negative IDC in stride, Rhyne began a blog: The Dog Lived (And So Will I). Already a serious writer and having studied creative writing at UCLA, Rhyne’s story of Seamus cancer victory layered with the humorous, sometimes sarcastic ups and downs of her own treatment resonated with many readers. So many, in fact, that Sourcebooks picked up Teresa and Seamus’s story for the book we’re discussing with Rhyne on Friday.

Rhyne’s story isn’t only about cancer, but about starting over. In work–during Seamus’s cancer treatments, she opened her own family law practice. In love–despite the 12-year difference in their ages and the initial disapproval of her boyfriend Chris’s family, Teresa and Chris have spun a new life together that works for the three of them. In hope–both Seamus and Rhyne are now cancer free and using their story to help raise awareness for pet adoption and cancer research.

See Seamus the Famous and Teresa in the book trailer here.

Follow Teresa Rhyne on Twitter: @TeresaRhyne.



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