Monday, December 31, 2012

Most unnecessary souvenir? Oh, Jake, not really!

In my most recent email newsletter, I referred briefly to Jake as the most unnecessary souvenir of 2012, and claimed he was a gift from the city of New York. But this is only partially true. Jake is a strange little 62-pound dog, part basset hound, part mastiff, who was tied to the front of my editor's Harlem apartment building after Hurricane Sandy. I first learned of him in my editor's frantic, middle-of-the-night Facebook posts, and, as a favor, posted his ridiculous mug online, hoping some kind organization would offer to help. I was in the middle of a book tour, so I didn't imagine I'd be the only one to step forward. But it was post Hurricane, and everyone was overwhelmed with stray animals and damage. Jake, because of his "bully" appearance, had been surrounded by cops with their guns drawn when my editor entered the scene. My book, "I'm a Good Dog," is all about changing the way we view dogs that are thought to be dangerous by virtue of just their appearance.

Next thing I knew, the NYACC and the Mayor's Alliance for Animals had conspired to send
Jake to me, if I would take him. How could I say no? So Jake went from the Harlem shelter to a Pennsylvania boarding facility to wait through his quarantine. And I prepared myself to welcome him into my home. When I drove to the cargo area of the New Orleans airport to pick him up, the cargo staff warned me, "He's not nice." "You're here for that dog" they said, skeptically. So naturally, when I drove him home and let him out of his kennel, he immediately glued himself to my side.

He loves kisses. He loves sleeping in my bed. He loves to clear off the kitchen counters when I'm gone, eat holiday cakes that aren't his, unload my municipal trash can in my yard, escape the house looking for me, consider diving through closed windows, squeeze through the fence to terrify the local drug dealers. He is a joy.

But what happens next?

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Rainn Wilson on "I'm a Good Dog"

“This is a brilliant bible of the glorious, gorgeous terriers.”
—Rainn Wilson, star of The Office

A few weeks ago, Rainn Wilson, who apparently has three pit bulls along with a wife and child, tweeted about my new book, I'm a Good Dog. I might have completely missed this, except that someone at Penguin discovered it within minutes and sent it to my publicist, who sent it to me. And, of course, I thought, "Well, if I'd known he had pit bulls I would have asked him to be in the book!"

Early on (in the very brief process of constructing the book), my publisher had hoped we could include a number of high profile pit bull owners, because they thought it would help sell the book. And there are quite a few owners to pick from: baseball players, Broadway stars, radio personalities. But many of them are already active in promoting animal rescue, and a few were advised, unfortunately, to limit their public pit bull activities. In the end, the only living "celebrity" in the book is the wonderful Bernadette Peters, who also is the godmother to Butley, another of the dogs in the book.

While my publisher may have been initially disappointed at the lack of celebrity, I think in the end it made a better book, because the owners and advocates featured represent the majority of dog owners--just regular people. And our sales seem to be doing just fine--already in a second printing.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

I'm a Good Dog--Book Trailer & Tour Dates

Time flies! We're just four days away from publication--and I'm busy packing and spending extra time with my own dogs as I prepare to hit the road. I'll be posting blog updates from the tour at Stubby Dog, and of course, I hope to run into everyone in person along the way.

I've also been lucky to get some early coverage of the book, including in The Atlantic Magazine's "Cities" site, Bark Magazine, Writers Digest and Animal Farm Foundation's blog. AFF was incredibly generous while I was researching the book, and they are bringing me to the No More Homeless Pets Conference in Las Vegas to launch the book on the 25th.

I also spent a few days last week whipping together this book trailer:

Suddenly it feels like there is a lot of momentum behind all this hard work, so I can't wait to get moving. Here are my tour dates; hope to see you on the road:

10/25-10/26: No More Homeless Pets Conference in Las Vegas
10/27: Bad Rap Hoe Down, Oakland CA
10/28: Book Soup, Los Angeles
10/30: Annabee's, Pacifica, CA
10/31: Barnes and Noble, Campbell, CA with Our Pack
11/1: Powell's Books on Hawthorne, Portland, OR
11/2: Elliott Bay Bookstore, Seattle, WA
11/3: Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA
11/4: Maple Street Book Shop at the Healing Center, New Orleans
11/7: Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA
11/8: Louis 649, New York, NY
11/9: Atomic Books, Baltimore, MD
11/10: Books on the Square, Providence, RI
11/12: RJ Julia, Madison, CT
11/13: Nichola's, Ann Arbor, MI
11/14: Summit Brewery, Twin Cities with A Rotta Love
11/15: The Book Cellar, Chicago
11/20: Book People, Austin, TX
11/27: Denver, CO

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Just three days left to get one of these terrific shirts

This "official" tour shirt, featuring Doug and I, is so ridiculous, I love it. Even Doug gets a kick out of them. And they make the perfect reward for people who have been sponsoring my tour with donations via Kickstarter, where my "North American Tour" fundraiser has just three days to go. I've been really stunned at the support people have offered. And I've also been adding more dates and cities to the tour, so while my original goal has been surpassed, I'm really hoping to end this campaign with at least $4000 pledged. The whole idea of a "North American" tour is a bit of a joke, since there are no plans for a South American or European tour. (And, as of yet, there is also nothing planned for Canada.) In addition to the shirt, you can get signed copies of my books, dog kisses and other rewards. No donation is too small!

Here's one of the original photos that Alison Bechdel used to create the image:

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Book tour financing 101

One of my old professors said that publishing a new book was like running for office; you have to go out and shake every hand. While the publishing industry relies more on online presence these days, I still believe that the best way to let people know about a new project is to go on the road. But, no one pays for tours any more, and certainly not large ones. Book sales certainly don't cover it. Add to that all the additional costs: lost income from taking off from work, kenneling dogs, renting cars, etc. It gets pretty pricey. So I'm trying a little experiment with Kickstarter. Individuals can donate tour my tour budget, and in return they get to choose from some great rewards, including signed books and a special "Ken and Doug" shirt with art by Alison Bechdel.

Am I crazy? Or could this work?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Author photo? How about this?

If you hate being photographed as much as I do, then you know that photo-anxiety is the number one cause of bad photos. My shoulders rise, my jaw tightens, my mouth fights its way between a frown and a smile. UGH. So for far too long, I've been relying on old photos,including one by the wonderful Marion Ettlinger. But ten years later seems to be an awfully long time to still be using it. In anticipation of my next book, I'm a Good Dog: Pit Bulls, America's Most Beautiful (and Misunderstood) Pet, I decided to go a different way altogether. I contacted my childhood friend, Alison Bechdel, and asked she would do something for me.

Here it is:

If you haven't yet read Alison's graphic-memoirs, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
and Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama
you don't know what you're missing.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Somebody stole

This is one of the more absurd things that has happened to me, and barely worth mentioning except a) to explain what happened to my domain name, and b) to warn others to avoid my fate.

A few months ago I missed the renewal date on my two domain names: and Big deal, I thought, upon discovering my error. I'll just renew them late. But I can't, because within days of their expiring, both were purchased by two different companies. is now owned by a German media company, and is with someone else. Neither are actually using them for anything--instead they are "parking" on them and waiting, it would seem, for someone to pay to get them back. All of this comes just as I have a new book coming out (in October) and was about to get to work on creating a more functional site. Now, anyone who follows an old link goes nowhere. I've contacted the new owners to inquire about reclaiming the domains, but there's been no response. So the next step is to take legal action, which should be successful, but also may take quite a while.

In the meantime, my nephew is at work creating a new site for me:

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Praise for "I'm a Good Dog"

Well, it finally happened. After rushing to finish the manuscript, I've spent the past few months helping to find the right photos and refine the text of my new book "I'm a Good Dog." And now it is done. It won't be out until the end of October (at which point I'll likely be coming to a town hear you), but the feedback so far is incredibly exciting. Here are a few quotes:

A beautiful book about some of the most beautiful and big hearted dogs in the world -- dogs who've been misunderstood and discriminated against for far too long. Ken Foster and his rescue work are a gift to animals and people alike. Everyone should read I'm a Good Dog to learn the truth about pit bulls, and celebrate them.
--Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

An insightful, loving, and compelling book about the magnificent dogs whose loyalty and forgiving natures are an inspiration. -- Amy Hempel, author of The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel

The definitive book on the dog that's been so hard to define. This book is a gift, one that I'll be giving many times.-- Julie Klam, author of You Had Me at Woof

If you want to be sure to catch the news and events when the book publishes, sign up for the newsletter.

Thoughts on "Beasts of the Southern Wild"

So last night I finally saw "Beasts of the Southern Wild," the strange new film by director Benh Zeitlin and Court 13. I was a huge fan of his short film, "Glory at Sea," which came out a few years ago (check it out at the link!). And I was vaguely aware of this new project as they were working on it over the past three years. But the short film was so striking and original and wonderfully compact, I was also somewhat skeptical about how they would approach a longer film with very similar elements.

Of course, now the film arrives after causing a sensation at Cannes and Sundance and essentially everywhere it has played. So last night, at The Prytania, I finally saw it, with the added bonus of a director's Q & A at the end of the film. The place was sold out, and once the film started, you could hear a pin drop, not that anyone was dropping them. Initially, I was somewhat disappointed--and feeling guilty for not being swept away by this new film. Yet part of the problem was that some of the story and characters and even some of the (non-)actors were carry-overs from "Glory At Sea," so in spite of my better judgement, I couldn't stop from comparing the two. Both feature an other-worldly yet familiar rural community that has its own folk-lore and belief system, and more significantly, an unbreakable bond to both the land and the water.

But about two-thirds of the way through "Beasts of the Southern Wild," all of its carefully placed elements began to bleed together in a way that completely swept me away to the point that I thought I might begin wailing so loudly that I'd drown out the film. I love a movie that turns on me that way!

Even more impressive was the post-film discussion with Zeitlin, who is almost

perversely focused in a way that I wish I was (and he's twenty years younger!). For someone who only moved here after the storm, he has a solid understanding of the way the world looks from here, rather than from the outside in. That sensibility includes believing that the film is actually a piece of realism, rather than the magical realism for which so many outsiders admire it.

Hopefully Ben is more amused than I by this completely insane interpretation from some misguided know-it all in Chicago: "Beasts of the Southern Wild: A Republican Fantasy?"

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Saying goodbye slowly

It's no surprise that I haven't blogged about this until now; it isn't a pleasant subject to dwell on. For the past year, Zephyr, my rottie/shepherd mix, has been battling degenerative myelopathy, for which there is no cure. DM, as it is referred to by the owners of dogs who suffer from it, is the dog version of multiple sclerosis. It often affects shepherds, but I guess any dog can get it. It is genetic, and once we had narrowed the diagnosis, I sent her blood off to confirm that she carries the gene that causes the disease.

In the summer of 2010, Zephyr was diagnosed with Cushing's disease. She'd been ravenously hungry, her hair was falling out and she didn't want to do much else but stay at my feet. Then one night she snuck out of my bedroom to eat a chicken that had been left in the trash, and I knew something was truly wrong. Lots of tests; expensive medication. But she returned to herself again. In fact, her energy came back so intensely that I decided last January to take her to our old dog park for the first time in years. This was to be her reward after a long illness.

Within minutes of arriving at the park, Zephyr was chasing squirrels and birds, and tangled her front wrist in the chain link fence. She hung there by her wrist for a moment before falling back to the ground and we all knew instantly that it wasn't a minor injury. She had torn the ligaments in her wrist and had to have a plate put in; the cost was outrageous, the recovery was interminable. She had to keep off of it for three months. When she was finally able to walk again, her back legs started slipping out from beneath her. At first I thought she just needed to get used to walking again, but it was the beginning stages of DM. It would have revealed itself eventually, but her extended recovery had allowed the disease to take hold sooner.

We started working with hydrotherapy, but she contracted an infection that made it impossible to continue with that. We've tried acupuncture. But the most I can hope for is that it makes the transition easier for her. After our last session of acupuncture last Wednesday, Zephyr has been virtually unable to walk without my assistance. This is incredibly painful, because she used to be so incredibly active an athletic. Now even when drinking water she prefers to lay down. Because of the way she drags herself, I have to wipe her down throughout the day to prevent urine burn. Yet she's still my cheerful Zephyr.

The disease isn't painful, but that's one of the things that everyone has advised me makes it most difficult; we don't know what our dogs are feeling or thinking and we can't explain to them why things aren't the same as they once were.

So I'm blocking off some time to spend with her and the other dogs, up in our house in Mississippi. DM doesn't evolve at a predictable pace, so it might actually be months or even a year before she is paralyzed to the point that she begins to lose other functions. Or it could be sooner. In the meantime, I want to spend some time hanging out together on the porch, just being happy with each other's company.

Monday, February 27, 2012

I've got a new book coming out (and still have a spare Rottweiler)

I've been so busy getting the manuscript ready for a new book that my blogging has slowed to nothing--and even my Tweeting and Facebooking have become scarce. Hopefully that will all change as I begin to shift gears to work on something entirely new and different.

My new book, coming out on October 16th, is called I'm a Good Dog: Pit Bulls, America's Most Beautiful (and Misunderstood) Pet And yes, it is about pit bulls. Penguin Books is putting it out, and it is remarkably close to the book I wanted to do five years ago, but at that time the subject of pit bulls was still too risky. (One publisher at the time told me that people on their editorial board threatened to quit if the book was published.) Things have changed. Not only is Penguin committed to this book, but also Knopf has signed up Bronwen Dickey for a pit-centric book of her own, due a few years from now.

I'll share the story of the roundabout way this book suddenly landed in my lap, but in the meantime, here's the cover: