And a Dog Called Fig is the story of one writer’s life with dogs (including a frisky new puppy), how they are uniquely ideal companions for building a creative life, and some delightful tales about dogs and their famous writers
Into the writer’s isolation comes a dog, to sit beside the chair or to lie on the couch while the writer works, to force them outside for a walk, and suddenly, although still lonely, the writer has a companion.
An artist’s solitude is a sacred space, one to be guarded and kept apart from the chaos of the world. This isolation allows for uninhibited wandering, uninterrupted meditation, and the nurturing of sparks of inspiration into fires of creation. But in the artist’s quiet there is also loneliness, self-doubt, the possibility of collapsing too far inward.
What an artist needs is a familiar, a creature perfectly suited to accompany them on this coveted, difficult journey. They need a companion with emotional intelligence, innate curiosity, passion, energy, and an enthusiasm for the world beyond, but also the capacity to sleep contentedly for many hours. What an artist needs, Helen Humphreys would say, is a dog.
And a Dog Called Fig is a memoir of the writing life told through the dogs Humphreys has lived with and loved over a lifetime, culminating with the recent arrival and settling in of Fig, a Vizsla puppy. Interspersed are stories of other writers and their irreplaceable companions: Virginia Woolf and Grizzle, Gertrude Stein and Basket, Thomas Hardy and Wessex—the dog who walked the dining table at dinner parties, taking whatever he liked—and many more.
A love song to the dogs who come into our lives, and all that they bring—sorrow, mayhem, meditation, joy—this is a book about companionship and loss, creativity and the writer’s craft, filled with the beauty of a steadfast canine friend and the restorative powers of nature. Just as every work of art is different, every dog is different—with distinctive needs and lessons to offer. If we let them guide us, they, like art, will show us many worlds we would otherwise miss.
Includes Black-and-White Photographs
About the Author
Helen Humphreys is an acclaimed and award-winning author of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Her work includes the novel The Evening Chorus, Coventry and Afterimage and her non-fiction includes The Ghost Orchard and The Frozen Thames. She has won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the Toronto Book Award, and she has been a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction, the Trillium Book Prize, the Lambda Literary Award and CBC Radio’s Canada Reads.
“It’s not often that a book inspires as much as it entertains, but somehow I felt like a better person after reading Helen Humphreys’s book And a Dog Called Fig. It’s a meditation on solitude, writing, and our connection with dogs, as seen through the eyes of Humphreys and a parade of famous dog-loving writers. I picked it up intending to glance at the first few pages and put it down hours later, but only because my hungry dogs needed their breakfast. I folded the corners of so many pages that the book looks twice as thick as before. It’s a rich, sumptuous, and brilliant book, and we are all lucky to have it.”
—Patricia McConnell, author of The Education of Will
“I read this book with a knowing smile; Helen Humphreys explores the troubles and rewards of animal companionship with great tenderness and insight.”
—Sara Baume, author of Spill Simmer Falter Wither