Interview Q & A
My Buddy Butch - Confessions of a New Dog Dad
Q & A with Jeff Marginean
- Why did you write this book?
I wrote this book to try and shed some light on the reality of owning a dog for single people and the elderly. Whether they are senior citizens who have lost a spouse or just everyday working people, there is a way that it can be done that will enhance the life of the individual and the pet as well.
Attending to their most basic needs is easier than I imagined it would be and I wanted to give an example to those who may be thinking of getting a pet but feel it is too much work to care for one. All pets really need is to feel loved and cared for and they will be by your side for their entire lives.
The theraputic value of a dog for someone who has lost a spouse is unmeasurable as I have witnessed in my Dad since my Mom passed away. He loves Buttons and Bosco and they give him a reason to get up in the morning.
- So getting your Dad a puppy was a good thing after your Mom passed away?
Absolutely! I think it was the best thing we could have done for him. He is a real animal lover and he has taught me to be an animal lover as well. Dad is 84 now and is still very spry and independent; you would never know his age unless he told you. When we brought Buttons home to him, it changed his whole attitude and lifted his spirits in a split second. Buttons has since had a couple litters of pups and you better believe that it really kept him hopping taking care of all those little puppies. I know he would have said 'no' to having a puppy if we would have asked him before bringing Buttons home to him, but we knew (mainly my oldest sister Judy knew) that he would really enjoy having one.
- Your Dad didn't know that he was getting a puppy?
No, he really didn't. It was a total surprise.
- What if he didn't want one and would have refused it?
Well, that was a possibility, and I do not recommend this method to others for just that reason. In our case though, we knew he would accept it without a doubt because he used to raise Boston terriers many years ago--probably 40 or 50 years ago, I believe. Before I was born and when I was very young, my family had a series of 3 or 4 Boston terriers because one of Dad's best friends, Bill, raised them and was a show judge for Bostons. He gave Dad one of the puppies that he could not use in the show ring and Dad was hooked.
- Your Dad already knew everything about Boston terriers then.
Well, I'm sure he doesn't know everything, but he does know a great deal more than many about this breed. We knew he would not have any trouble at all taking care of a Boston terrier puppy because of all the experience he has had with them.
Dad also taught me enough to be able to take good care of Butch. When I first got Butch I was terrified that I would do something wrong or not be able to take good care of him. Having Dad there to ask questions was one of the reasons I decided to accept Butch.
I have done a lot of research on the breed in the last 4 years and I have even been able to help answer a few questions for Dad. That was a switch. I even introduced Dad to the large chain pet stores. They never had anything like these when he had Bostons many years ago. The closest thing was the pet food aisle in the grocery store!
- I'll bet your Father loves those big stores they have everything. Let's talk about Butch, how did you come to have him in your life?
Butch is Button's son from her first litter of puppies. She was about one year old when Butch was born. When he was born, Dad insisted that I choose one from the litter for my own. I was hesitant but I couldn't resist. When we first got Buttons for Dad, I really loved that little pup. She was so fragile and just fun to watch walk around. I started thinking seriously about how much I would like to have a dog again. The only thing stopping me was how incredibly busy I was with work. I didn't think I would be able to give a dog the amount of attention it deserves so I never got one. Dad knew how busy I was all of the time and he knew how stressed out I would get. He thought that insisting I take one would force me to slow down and get rid of some of my stress. So I chose Butch.
- Did it work? Are you less stressed out now that you have Butch?
Yes, it did work. Butch has been a great help to me both mentally and physically. I think I am much healthier since I have had him. He has forced me to slow down and take stock of where I am in my life now. He is a great friend and companion for me. We do everything together. I have even stopped some of my other activities because of Butch.
- What activities have you stopped doing because of Butch?
Butch keeps me grounded. I don't go out partying, or even golfing nearly as much anymore because I would rather do things with Butch. He goes everywhere with me when I can take him. He loves to just be along for the ride, as long as we are together. This makes it fun for us both because I'll take him for a drive to the lake on a weekend or running errands. I can't take him to work with me, so I don't think that it is fair to expect him to sit at home alone all Saturday morning while I golf for 4 or 5 hours every weekend. He is old enough now that he has free reign of the house while I'm away, but all he does is sleep...I think. Nevertheless, I would rather take him for a walk or play frisbee in the yard with him. I know he prefers that also. As I said before, his well being is my responsibility.
- You sound as if he is like your child.
Exactly. That is how I treat him ... within practical limits, of course. Many people who don't have dogs might laugh at this because I know I did on occasion watching other people treat their dogs like kids. I didn't realize that the bond these people have with their dogs is very real and very strong, just as if the dog was their child. I would think, "Oh brother, that's a little overboard," when I would see how some people acted toward their dog. But now, having Butch, the shoe is on the other foot. He really is my buddy.
- Is that why you named the book "My Buddy Butch - Confessions of a New Dog Dad?"
Yes, it is. I'm really confessing some of my character issues in this book that Butch has brought to the front of my mind. I think I'm showing a softer side of myself than anyone has ever seen before. I can now understand why those people I thought were nuts treat their dogs the way they do, because I treat Butch the same way. Butch has changed me a lot since his arrival, and I'm still a work in progress. But, he thinks I'm doing much better now!
- Is Butch still trying to change you?
He sure is. He seems to think that I need more development in the social arena and has even suggested that I take a class or two on communication.
- Does Butch talk to you a lot?
All the time! I even write about it in the book. There are many times he has a great idea for something to do on the weekend or even what movies he wants to watch. He watches a lot of TV so he sees the previews of what is coming out on DVD. He hasn't started smoking cigars or drinking or anything like that but he does seem to like his movies.
- It seems like you have a pretty vivid imagination, is there much of this in the book?
There are many instances where Butch is doing some thinking and I write about other things that he is thinking. I really have no trouble at all carrying on the conversation for both of us. I guess it comes from the way my mind works. I could just be sitting here like right now and all of a sudden just burst out laughing. People around me think I've flipped my lid but really I'm just remembering something funny that I've seen or heard somewhere. I apply much of this type of humor throughout the book. I guess I'm developing a style of my own here.
- Speaking of your writing style, this is your first book right?
You're right. It is my first full length book, but I have always been writing in some fashion.
- When did you decide to become a writer and what other things have you written?
That's an interesting question because I have been writing things for years but most of them not very interesting. I have mostly written technical things and legal contracts ... stuff for business dealings with the record label mainly. It's funny because I was always in advanced English classes through high school and college and I hated it. I hated writing and anything to do with it, and here I end up writing a whole book and actually enjoying it. I have written many articles that have been published on our blog and I'm really having fun with it. It's pretty easy with Butch around. He is a never-ending source of good material.
- Who is the audience you were writing for with My Buddy Butch?
I'm glad you asked that. I have had many questions about this. Generally I wrote this book for an adult audience. However, while writing the book I was very aware that children would also be interested in it just by seeing the cover with Butch staring at them. When we did the copyediting, I made sure that my editor knew that I wanted kids to able to read this book as well as adults of all ages. Parents shouldn't worry about their kids reading anything in this book. Naturally, I would like for parents to read the book first just to be sure, but all-in-all I think we did a nice job of making it acceptable to everyone who can read.
- In the book you write about the time will come when Butch will no longer be with you. He's just a youngster. Where did that come from?
It's not an easy subject to discuss, the passing of a loved one, but it is a big part of everyone's life. Everyone has lost someone at one time or another. Having lost Mom not that long ago, now having Butch, I guess I started thinking about the subject a little more than usual. I'm not the type that sits around thinking, "Oh, Death, where art thou?" As time goes on, Butch and I become more and more bonded together. I can see and feel the size of the spot in my heart that he is occupying. One day he will be gone, leaving a hole in my heart that he used to occupy. This is something many people feel for pets that have died. I'm just discussing these points of view from a spiritual aspect and trying to answer the question in my own mind, "Will I see Butch in Heaven once we are both gone?"
- That is a very serious topic for most dog owners. Where does the humor come into play?
It is serious and I don't take it lightly in the book. I try to look at it more objectively and introduce some of the spiritual aspects of it. There are a few serious spots in the book but mostly it is a light-hearted look at some of the funny experiences that Butch and I have gone through over the last few years. I have had a lot of fun caring for him and watching grow up.
- Give me an example of a funny experience you and Butch have had that you write about in the book.
Wow, it's hard to pick just one. There was the time I ripped the seat of my pants at a training class. Another one was waking up staring at Butch's butt. Just all the noises he makes in the normal course of a day is funny. There was another time when a skunk was stuck in my garage that I mention. Overall, aside from the few serious spots, the book is a humorous, fun read.
- Now that the book is finished, what other things do you have planned?
I will be hosting a radio show which is currently in development, and naturally we are working on the national release campaign for the book which will include more interviews, radio and TV appearances, and some other items in the works.
- Is Butch appearing with you?
He has a tough schedule so it's hard to get his agent and publicist together on an appearance schedule. I'm sure he will make a few appearances with me but not all of the stops. Seriously, we have to see how he does in front of a crowd. Once we do that I can gauge where and when he will appear.
- Any new books in the future?
Yes, as a matter of fact, there are. I am working on a series of short stories that will be illustrated by Janet Priborsky, a remarkably talented artist. I have outlines for a couple of fiction books I want to write, and of course there is My Buddy Butch!
- Sounds like you have a good plan in place, are you saying there will be a sequel to My Buddy Butch?
Well, I will say that he is still giving me great ideas, but I think that Butch might be gearing up to write a book of his own as an answer to this one. I think he is mad that I talked about his flatulence and wants to offer his rebuttle to this book!