Mystery-lovers know David Rosenfelt for his “Andy Carpenter” series. The fictional Andy is an exceedingly reluctant attorney whose real passion is dog rescue, particularly Golden Retriever rescue. He’s most likely to be persuaded to take a case if a dog’s somehow involved.
What his readers may not know is that Rosenfelt is himself dedicated to dogs. He and his wife—whom he credits as the real force behind their dog-welfare work—started out volunteering in the LA shelter system and in short order, found themselves running a home-based rescue and placement group. At times, they had as many as 40 dogs, some of them unadoptable due to age or infirmity.
His recent book, Dogtripping: 25 Rescues, 11 Volunteers, and 3 RVs on Our Canine Cross-Country Adventure, is nonfiction, the story of relocating the pack from the West Coast to the East—an improbable and wildly complicated exercise made possible, he says, by the extraordinary help and generosity of friends and fans.
While on a Dogtripping book tour earlier this year, Rosenfelt gave a reading at a local Berkeley bookstore that benefited a northern California rescue group, and The Bark took advantage of the opportunity to talk to him in person. Following are the edited highlights of that conversation, which took place in our office and included an inordinate amount of laughter (which we didn’t transcribe).
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Q: Why did you choose Maine?
A: My wife and I are both originally from the East Coast, and we wanted to have real weather. Also, we have grown kids and two grandkids in NYC. We chose Maine after my son, who went to law school with a guy who lived there, went to his wedding and said we should take a look at it. We did, and we liked it.
Q: In Dogtripping, you suggest that the move happened in spite of you. Would you do it again, and would you do anything differently?
A: I wouldn’t do it again. What would I do differently? I don’t think anything. We had a great group of volunteers. If everybody else had their option, they would’ve done much the same, just left me at home. They literally say it was one of the greatest adventures of their lives. It was just terrible, but everyone else loved it.
Q: How did the dogs take to RV travel?
A: They all found their favorite resting places; it turns out that there are many places for dogs to sleep in an RV. They were fine, really—no trouble.
Q: What’s a typical day like at casa Rosenfelt?
A: The dogs wake us up at 5:15 every morning. I go downstairs and they get quiet. (The first day I was gone [on the book tour], they let my wife sleep until seven. She woke them up.) Around 6:30, I feed, I clean up the outside after that, which is quite a job. We have a doggie door that’s like the Lincoln Tunnel, they go through that, and there’s a 60-by-60-foot fenced-in concrete area, because we didn’t want them to bring mud inside. Then we decided that’s not good enough. Last year, we put in a gate that gives them access to about an acre of forest to run around if they want, and now we’re adding another acre to that (all fenced). But they want to be inside.
Then I give the medicine, which is a major production. That’s it, unless I go to the vet, which happens with alarming frequency—I go there three times a week at least, and it’s a 40-minute drive. Around 4:30 or so, I feed again. It’s not really that hard. A day only becomes a hassle if someone’s coming over; then you have to prepare.
Q: Over the years that you and your wife operated the Tara Foundation, you must’ve become quite an expert on dogs.
A: I’m much more of a dog lunatic than an expert. You’d be amazed how little I know about dogs, and certainly nothing about breeds.
Q: Do you work with behaviorists?
A: We’ve never worked with behaviorists for our dogs at home. They’d tell us we couldn’t do what we do. For the foundation, we had a trainer who did temperament testing.
Q: You mentioned that you’re particular about vets. What are your criteria—what do you look for?
A: Everything with us is magnified, so a vet has to “get” us—he or she has to understand us. A vet also has to be responsive. I want to know things; I want information to be quantified. We flew east to interview vets before we moved and decided on one who turned out to be not as great as we initially thought. Then we found a vet in the phone book and he turned out to be fantastic. He understands me. He talks to me like I know what I’m talking about. Quality of life is his key concern. He really knows what he’s doing.
Q: You take in older dogs and dogs with health problems. How do you deal emotionally with the loss of a dog?
A: We take in dogs who are doomed if we don’t take them. You just have to adjust your mindset. It’s all about the dog’s quality of life. You have to focus on the fact that for whatever time you had them, they were happy and safe and loved. It’s very sad, but there’s something peaceful about it, too.
Q: Are you involved in rescue now that you’re living in Maine?
A: There’s no need for us to function as a placement group, but we do still take in dogs. We just got two seven-year-old Great Pyrenees—sisters—who are just fantastic. Sometimes we’ve gotten dogs who came as a pair but once they were in our house, they never saw each other again. These two are bonded at the hip; wherever one is, so is the other.
Q: How would you compare living in Maine to living in California?
A: It’s night and day. There are no pretentions in Maine. If you see a pickup truck, you can bet there’s a dog in it, always. In California, people would come into our house—workmen—and they were like deer caught in the headlights when our dogs mobbed them. In Maine, it’s business as usual.
Someone said to my wife recently that in LA, they ask what kind of car you drive, and in the South, what church you belong to. In Maine, they ask what kind of dog you have.
Discover more at davidrosenfelt.com.