Last night I was assigned to host an author event where Elena Mannes read from, discussed, and signed copies of her second book, SOUL DOG; a story of her unexpected spiritual connection to her first dog, Brio. I had no idea what to expect, but set up the chairs, confirmed the microphone was working, placed a vase of peonies and irises from my garden on the table next to her books to be signed. It was a good hour early when Stephanie, our Manager on Duty, introduced me to a tall, soft spoken woman in a neat, black suit; a sharp contrast the hugely popular children’s author we’d hosted earlier in the day, who was dressed to please the hundred plus kids waiting excitedly in line to show her their t-shirts, and stuffed animals, and share their ideas about what story to write next (StacyPlays was a great event). Elena Mannes came with no entourage, fresh from a two day writers conference at the DIA hotel, where she said she’d felt like she had been hermetically sealed in that strange building in the middle of nowhere. She was glad to be out, opened her umbrella, and walked down the mall to grab some fresh air, and coffee. It was going to be a good night.
We had no RSVPs for the event, so had no idea how many would be in attendance. We had one pre-order awaiting her inscription “To Deb” sitting on the table. Elena returned from her walk, and spent some time looking around the store, spoke with each of the four of us working last night. I found her sitting in one of the comfy, old settees, just relaxing. I took the chair next to her, and we wondered, as you always do before an event begins, if anyone would come. They did. Not in droves, but as we sat there, first three good, ol’ friends of Elena’s arrived with big hugs, and their two keeshonds. Then came Donna, a lady who’d had similar experiences with her dog, and an animal communicator. She sat at the far edge of the second row, looking forward to the start. Then two ladies, one named Carol, came up to us, “Is that!..are you the author!? So excited…” They took two seats right up front. I warned them about being trouble in the front row. Carol laughed – trouble? her? Next came a lovely, red haired lady with a story of her Tillie, followed by a man and his good ol’ dog. They sat in the back, far right. The ol’ dog checked out the other pups, whimpered once, then just sat down and waited. Finally came another couple, friends of the friends of Elena, with their big, mellow, black lab, Molly – a definite leaner. The more you scratched her ears, the more she leaned against you, ha. They sat third row, middle; Molly stretched out at their feet.
So, in all, about thirteen people – all dog lovers, all believers in their connection with their animals – sat to listen to Elena. Four dogs mellowed out, and lay quietly during the entire reading. Elena told how she thought getting a puppy (Brio) would settle her life a bit, but after the first day or so of screaming and chasing after him in Central Park, she called the breeder to come take him back. The breeder suggested she give it another week. She gave it another fifteen years, it seems. So the reading, and discussion progressed with heads nodding in acknowledgement, laughter at similar catastrophes shared by the group, and a good give and take in the Q&A about what is to be believed.
This was an evening about more than people and their animals. It was an evening of connecting with people around you. Elena told how she had worried that if she, a renowned, award winning journalist, admitted to experiencing this connection to and with her Brio, her career might be compromised. That will not happen. She is not a song and dance person. She did not write this to convince, or influence anyone. She wrote it for Brio…and I am glad. And I am very glad I had the chance to spend a short evening with her.
Read her book, SOUL DOG, A Journey into the Spiritual life of Animals, and then, like some of our guests last evening, buy a copy, or two, or three for your friends (I was surprised when Elena called from the table, “Roxie, I need more books!” People who had bought their copy, were asking for more). It will give you pause to listen to, and see you animals in a different light.
As an aside: Elena loved the fresh garden flowers, saying her Brio loved flowers, and she took a picture of the flowers with a stack of her books. I offered her the flowers to take with her, but she’s traveling today, so passed on that. She enjoyed the reading, relaxed a bit from the hustle of her tour. I’m glad we shared it with her.