Findhorn Press, 2009
Reviewed by Marian Van Eyk McCain
Sally Andrew is a sublime storyteller. Her brand of delightful whimsicality is so captivating that I predict she is headed for literary fame in the coming years—and not only in her homeland of South Africa, either. Meanwhile, right now, her energy and passion are channelled into raising awareness about climate change and the need for urgent action to avoid eco-catastrophe. It all began with a strange dream.
“I was in a rural African community. Not the prospering village of my romantic fantasies, in which children eat sweet jungle mangoes in front of beautiful mud huts. These people were dust—poor and their red-brick houses were patterned with cracks and crumbles. They had to coax their scratchy vegetable gardens into giving them food. … The women in this village were organized and had a powerful voice. In consultation with a giant sacred rock, they decided and acted on the needs of the community. These women decided what my job was to be, and came to inform me. ‘We need you,’ they said, ‘to read stories to dogs.’”
Intrigued, Sally tried reading some stories to Riska, her Ridgeback, but Riska was not impressed. Some years later, still not understanding the dream but still feeling it to be important, she spoke of it to a friend, who explained that they had just entered what, in Chinese astrology, was the year of the Fire Dog.
The dog, she discovered, symbolizes those who look after the collective interests of the community. They are the watchdogs and guardians of the Earth who bark to draw attention to injustices. While others sleep, they prowl the night, guarding the grounds.
That was when she realized what her task was. To read stories to the ‘dogs’ whose task it is to guard against climate chaos and re-green the Earth. “To open their hearts. Stories that help them to feel and understand so that they can think and act, bark and run together in wild places, bare their teeth and, if necessary, bite. Stories for those fighting, and those licking their wounds. Stories for those who are dog-tired, and want to go for a walk in the fresh air and wag their tails.”
The result is a clever and unusual blend of stories and well-researched ‘facts sheets’ with which Sally aims to inspire us into action and cheer us on in our efforts rather than to shock or scare us. It is a good formula and one that I believe really works. I recommend that you buy multiple copies of this little book and spread them