Hero is a German shepherd dog who belongs to Elizabeth Drury. She writes to her dog: “You are my heartbeat, my blessing…You keep hope alive within me.”
“My dogs changed me. I’m serious, they made me a better person. My dogs are my heart, and they’re a part of me,” says Emily Scott Pottruck.
Drury is homeless. Porttruck is married to the former CEO of Charles Schwab & Co., David Pottruck.
There are lots of books about pets, but few illustrate as graphically the cross over of ages and socio-economic classes which pets link. Also few, if any books, give 100 percent of the proceeds back to animal welfare organizations. “I felt I needed to do something to honor my Andy,” says Emily Scott Pottruck, who is the author of the picture-filled, self-published, coffee table book, Tails of Devotion: A Look at the Bond Between People and Their Pets.
Pottruck was on a ski trip in 2000 when Andy, her 5 ½ pound Yorkshire terrier, was attacked by a 100 pound dog. “The first veterinarian I went to wanted to put him down,” she recalls, as her voice even now quivers with emotion. “I said, ‘You’ll have to put me down first.’ Instinctively, in my heart, I knew he [Andy] had a chance.”
A second emergency clinic performed surgery, beginning Andy’s chance and what turned out to be a long recovery. The dog who attacked literally bit off a piece of Andy’s backbone. After the surgery, Andy was flown to the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California- Davis, where he was under the care of a veterinary neurologist, a team of technicians and additional veterinarians for about two weeks before he was released. While in the hospital, Pottruck visited her diminutive dog daily and read him emails, which she received from around the world.
Her friend, writer Amy Joy Tan, author of Joy Luck Club, posted the story of the attack on a Yorkshire terrier bulletin board on the Internet. “The virtual response from new virtual friends was amazing,” says Pottruck. “These people really could understand what I was going through. I don’t know if reading all the letters [email]truly made Andy feel better, but they made me feel better.”
Still, no one knew exactly what Andy’s prognosis would be, if he would ever walk again, let alone how long he would live. Pottruck cared for Andy, even helping him to defecate. She enrolled Andy in a physical therapy regimen, which to this day, she keeps up with at home. While Andy has some difficulty with one leg and can’t jump up onto the furniture, he gets around. “He’s still my ‘love bug’,” as Pottruck puts it.
She says she wrote Tails of Devotion: A Look at the Bond Between People and Their Pets to honor all of those who participated in saving Andy’s life, including newfound friends on the Internet. Mostly, it’s about raising real money for several animal welfare organizations. That’s why the book is self-published, she didn’t want a for-profit publisher to take dollars. This project is all about the charities.
Of course, you’d think, she could have simply written a check to the welfare groups. “Not quite ” a check doesn’t tell these stories,” says Pottruck. She credits the photographers (Lacy Atkins of the San Francisco Chronicle and Jocelyn Knight, a freelance photographer). “You can see what it’s all about. What I try to say in words is about what a difference pets can make in a life, if you just let them. And I’ve met amazing people through my dogs [she also has a second Yorkie, named Boomer].”
Pottruck began the project in January 2005 and over an eight-month span, attended each of the 58 photo shoots for the book.
It was raining when she arrived for the scheduled photo shoot in the park with Drury, which was arranged through a third party. Pottruck was interested to meet this homeless woman and her dog, both living and struggling on the fringes of society. Bad weather or not, there would be no re-scheduling of the photo shoot, since Drury didn’t know where she would be in a week. When she arrived, she couldn’t help but notice Drury had a gauge in her leg, a result of breaking up a dog fight in the park that past evening.
What Pottruck didn’t realize until she arrived was just how protective Hero was of Drury. This dog didn’t allow anyone to approach. Still, they were there and thought they’d give it a try. Once the photographer began to shoot, somehow, Hero became the perfect, accommodating subject.
The book is filled with the stories and photographs of ordinary people, but some of the subjects are pretty well known. Luminaries include two Hall of Fame athletes, Ronnie Lott, ex-football player and Orlando Cepeda, who played baseball, actor Robin Williams and former California Governor, current Oakland Mayor, Jerry Brown. “It didn’t matter who it was, people are people, and their pets are their pets,” Pottruck says.
Asked about her favorite photo subject, she has no answer. Asked about her favorite non-human subject, she manages to come up with a response named Guido. He’s an Italian greyhound who belongs to artist Tom Mogensen. A macaw named Poppy and a second Italian greyhound, named Dolci also participated. “It was our longest photo shoot because I fell in love [with Guido]and I didn’t want to leave,” says Pottruck. “Those two dogs look at you and melt your heart. And, you can see the love Tom gives back ” you can see it ” it’s all right there in their faces.”
Tails of Devotion: A Look at the bond Between People and Their Pets is $29.95 and available at www.tailsofdevotion.com and www.amazon.com, as well as some boutique pet stores. Proceeds benefit Pets are Wonderful Support in San Francisco, The San Francisco SPCA, Friends of San Francisco Animal Care and Control, Rocket Dog Rescue for saving dogs with no other hope and Pets Unlimited also based in San Francisco.