By Maggie Mae…with Ronni Diamondstein
When I was a puppy my owner got lots advice on raising a dog. There were trainers, the pet store owner and the veterinarian, and she had books of advice all over the house. One of them was How to Talk to Your Dog, by Jean Craighead George. I liked the idea that my owner was going to talk to me and to understand what I was trying to say to her–even when I didn’t make a sound.
When I discovered that Mrs. George, who’s an award winning author of children’s books, lived in Chappaqua, not very far from my house, I knew I had to meet her. I wanted to know how a human could know so much about dogs. So, on my next walk into town I walked a little farther to her home.
I could tell this was the home of someone who loved animals and nature. It was nestled in woods, and I could hear birds chirping and a bullfrog croaking in the pond. I saw a chipmunk scurrying in her garden.
Mrs. George, who is 91 years old, has lived in Chappaqua for 51 years. She told me she’s working on a new book about an ice whale. She said she wasn’t going to go to Alaska again to observe the whales. Instead, she’s using research by her son, John Craighead George, who has studied the bowhead whale for more than 30 years. On Mrs. George’s working table were her notebooks and sketch books and a stack of letters from children. I was glad she read her fan mail. While we were talking, I heard a funny sound from her dining room. It was her pet African parrot Tocca. Mrs. George said his name means “Sunshine” in Swahili and that Tocca is good company for her.
I asked her how she knew so much about us dogs and how we think. She told me she had had five dogs and had studied wolves. Her dog Qimmiq was the most wonderful dog and the inspiration for How to Talk to Your Dog. “After I studied wolves I realized Qimmiq was talking to me the way the wolves do,” she said. “He howled ‘Ah oohh’ just like a wolf. My granddaughters would call in the morning and say, ‘I want to speak to Qimmiq.’ I’d hold up the phone and he’d howl. And then they would hang up. They didn’t want to talk to me.”
Dogs and parrots are not the only pets that Mrs. George and her three children, Twig, Craig and Luke have enjoyed. She once wrote a book called The Tarantula in My Purse and 172 Other Wild Pets. It tells a dozen stories about their unusual pets from crows and raccoons to a screech owl. I was surprised when Mrs. George added, “Skunks make wonderful pets. They’re friendly like kittens and curl up in your lap.” My nose twitched and I wondered about that.
I liked the way Jean George talked to me and was very intrigued by the way she spoke about Qimmiq. I wished I could have met him. We could have been good friends. When I got home, I turned on the computer to write my story. But first I went to her website www. jeancraigheadgeorge.com. There I found a video of Jean George and Qimmiq talking to each other. I could hear the love in Jean’s voice and in Qimmiq’s howl.
Before I left, Jean George gave me some good advice: “Always obey,” which I didn’t much like, and “Let your owner know when you are annoyed!” That made my tail wag, and I hope my owner heard it too!
Contact Maggie Mae Pup Reporter. Maggie Mae lives in Chappaqua with her adoring owner Ronni Diamondstein, who, when she isn’t walking Maggie is a freelance writer, PR consultant, award-winning photographer and a School Library Media Specialist and teacher who has worked in the US and abroad.