Publication Date: 2 March 2023
Be strong. Be fierce. Life is more than a concrete floor.
Scruffity is born into a harsh, grey world. What he yearns for most is Family. But no one wants him. Just as his chances of adoption grow thin, Scruffity is set free by a boy as unwanted as he is.
He learns how to run, to dig, to howl and, biggest of all, to love. But then tragedy strikes …
How does a dog find his way home when he never had one to begin with?
Tissues. This book should come with tissues. Breathtakingly beautiful, life-affirming storytelling.
Zana’s writing had me hooked on Scruffity’s story, told in verse, as he escapes the puppy farm and begins his life with ‘MyManPup’ until the unthinkable happens. For every heartbreaking moment, there is awe and joy found in the most ordinary, wonderful things in our world – a sniff, a scratch, each new heartstring created.
From Scruffity’s dog speak to Sean’s emotive line drawings, this is a pup that spins to life on the page and grows in your heart as you journey with him. His resilience, determination and unbound capacity for love make him utterly adorable, which is probably why this book moved me to tears of sadness, anger and jubilation as I experienced life through his eyes, and snout.
Homelessness and domestic abuse are both encountered by Scruffity as he searches for his first family, and his compassion and empathy show us all that we should all be more dog.
Scruffity will long live on the bookshelf in my heart.
The Guest Post
When Dogs Know Best by Zana Fraillon, author of The Way of Dog
The Way of Dog is the 13th book I have written. My stories almost always grow from a silence, or an absence in the world. Something that has been hidden away in the shadows, or held out of reach. So the first step in writing is always a deep dive into research. But writing The Way of Dog was different – and I think, perhaps, taught me more about the world than any of my other books.
It began mid-project – Scruffity pawpadded his way into my studio and refused to leave me alone until I had written his story. The first draft relied on mining everything that I knew about dogs from having always lived with them by my side. But by the time I came to writing the second draft, I wanted to know more about how dogs experienced things. I started with books and documentaries, but quickly learned that the best way to learn about the way dogs see the world, was by paying greater attention to the two teachers I had sleeping at the end of my bed.
Walks became long, rambling excursions into the World of Dog. I no longer hurried them to the park for a throw of the ball, but instead paid attention and let them lead me. I stopped relying only on my sight for ‘seeing’ the world. Standing with my eyes closed for minutes on end, allowed me to really listen and feel what is happening in all the different scales of living around me, and opened my mind to a wealth of information that I had no idea even existed. Squatting down to view the world from ground height allowed new things to come into focus, and enabled me to see things that from an upright perspective would have remained invisible. And I quickly discovered the joys of walking without shoes – really feeling the ground beneath my feet connects me to the earth at a very deep, very instinctual level. It is almost like a kind of meditation, and something that I look forward to doing as often as I can.
My dogs took me on a lot of ‘sniffaris’. I spent many hours noting where they would stop, why they would stop, and what would catch their interest. Together we discovered ghost paths through forests; secret waterfalls and a beach area of the creek I never knew was there; trees with nesting possums; a large assortment of dead things; and a particular tree that every single dog stops at to sniff, as though it is a living community noticeboard.
I also became aware of the different barks the dogs have – through writing The Way of Dog, I have learnt to communicate with my dogs at a far higher level than I had done previously. There is the ‘I’ve been locked out the front’ bark, which is quite different to the ‘that’s my bone’ bark, or the ‘there are rats in the garden!’ bark. I also discovered the way in which dogs communicate with other animals, especially birds – there is a particular bird call that alerts the dogs to an intruder in the garden (cats usually), and through noticing this, I am now communicating with those birds too. It is as if the world is suddenly fuller, and every time I notice something new, it makes me wonder what else I am missing, what else there is to discover, if only I pay attention.
I don’t know if the way Scruffity sees the world in The Way of Dog is accurately ‘doggy’ or not. But what I do know, is that the process of writing it enabled me to notice whole new layers of our very entangled world that had previously been outside of my awareness. Scruffity opened my senses, and welcomed me into a world full of sounds and smells and to the importance and beauty of small moments. I could have written a whole book just on those small moments – no plot, no drama, just noticing. And just like the old folktales, once that fairy dust is rubbed in your eyes, you forever have the power of that sight.
It is arguable that talking on behalf of the more-than-human world is just another step in the anthropocentrism of our species – a species that has caused so much damage to the planet as to become a physical strata in the geology of the earth. But for me, attempting to imagine the inner life of Scruffity, and to view the world from an Other’s point of view, has allowed me to better notice the vibrancy of the natural world, and become reattuned to all that is around me. It has shown me that humans are just a thread in a very tangled knot of existence. Through noticing, I found I cared more for this small patch of earth I am on. It was no longer a place and landscape in which I lived and worked, but became a living entity with a fullness, an essence of being and identity that I had been unaware of before. Learning through Scruffity’s journey, has enabled me to become a better ancestor. And in these times of climate crisis, learning how to ancestor better might just be the most important thing we can do.
THE WAY OF DOG by Zana Fraillon is out now in paperback (£7.99, Chicken House)
Find out more at zanafraillon.com and follow her on Instagram/twitter @ZanaFraillon
Huge thanks to Zana for that wonderful guest post. Chicken House for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Do make sure you check out all of the other stops.
2 thoughts on “The Way Of Dog by Zana Fraillon, illustrated by Sean Buckingham”
Great post Nicki 😊