If you love dogs, chances are you love dog hikes. I've spent countless hours in the woods in my life walking my dogs- and other dogs, over the years. The calm and clarity these walks have given me make them near and dear to my heart. Which is why I am so smitten by this book, Zen and the Art of Dog Walking. It's made even better as my longtime friend Ray Sullivan wrote and photographed it. Ray was my sidekick on many TV shoots around the world back in the mid 90's and we have a particular fond memory of sitting on bar stools in Juneau, Alaska, writing funny poems on cocktail napkins (which I still have). I should of known a book was in his future...
As a television producer, I'm attracted to story first and foremost and this book has a good one. Ray moved to the rural woods in Georgia and became friendly with an abandoned puppy in 2011 that his son named Bocephus. Ray, "After Bo came to us, while my wife was at work and son at school, the two of us began to take walks through the woods and around the lake that was nearby. I needed the exercise and Bo, being a puppy, needed to burn off energy. As we both began to become aware of our surroundings, the whole process became more enlightening to me and opened a whole new sensory world to Bo." Like any healthy relationship, it was symbiotic. Ray, "Bo has taught me many things; I have opened my mind to new thoughts; we have shared many experiences and I see the visual world in a whole new way."
A couple of months ago, I drove down to LaGrange, Georgia to visit Ray. It had been over ten years since we last connected in person but like any good, longtime friend, we just picked up where we left off. I wanted to hike in the woods around his home where he found Bo, where he found his own calm and clarity. (Sadly, Bo died in May of this year from liver cancer at just 4 years old) We hiked all around West Point Lake with his two current dogs, Calpurnia (Cali) and Waylon, which he also rescued. These lucky souls know this terrain well and ran around us in circles all day long, wild and free. Just like they're supposed to...
I really enjoyed seeing all of Ray's beautiful photographs of Bo during their hikes- from puppy to adult. As you can see, Bo was a natural fit for the clay and rock and southern waters that became his home. Bo's camouflage is on full display here- a hint that he was exactly where he was supposed to be. Ray too.
Often, after his hikes with Bo, Ray would sit and write a few verses of inspired text- thoughts he gained after finding a bit of peace and quiet in the woods. The book is filled with these verses and offer a glimpse into the unique and deep relationship that has existed for thousands of years between human and dog.
Zen and the Art of Dog Walking is truly a beautiful and inspiring book. Ray reminds us that dog walking is an art form- a simple act with complex meaning if you let it. I have one book for myself and I got one for my mom for Christmas. Oddly enough, she found an abandoned black lab puppy in her garage one day a couple of years ago. All skin and bone she took him in and named him Bo as well. Unleashed walks around a lake and in the woods of South Carolina are an integral part of her daily routine. You could call it all a coincidence but I don't believe in such things. Some things are just meant to be. Buy the book, which makes an incredible holiday gift, here.
See a lovely video Ray made that includes footage of Bo on his daily hikes and hear a bit of his thoughts on the making of the book, here.