I was born in Oregon in 1950s, but now live in the South. I came here in 1995 to teach at North Carolina State University and forgot to leave.
I love teaching here. I love watching good dog trainers and good scent dogs work here. I love the mountains and swamps. I will never adjust to North Carolina’s climate. It nurtures fleas and ticks almost year round. Southern air contributes to sweat, rather than evaporating it. I don’t glow. I drip. Cicadas creep me out and kudzu gives me claustrophobia. I’m a Westerner. Still, I’ve fallen for all sorts of southern goods and almost-southern goods, like my husband, David, a successful transplant from the Bronx. Fig trees, stone-ground grits. Early summer squash and fall kale. Several dog trainers. Many dogs, even some bad ones.
My first career, before becoming a professor, was as a newspaper reporter. I covered crime, poverty, the environment, and politics at newspapers across the United States. I battled dry valley heat in California, snow snakes in Wyoming, and ivy and old brick in Connecticut. I was on the special projects desk at the Hartford Courant in the late 1980s when I decided to take a brief break from newspapers to substitute-teach an editing class at a small university in Oregon. It fit me.
I quit newspapers with some regret, though they were already falling victim to changing technology and the maw of profit margins—and went back to school in my mid-thirties to get my doctorate at University of Illinois. There weren’t many distractions there; I looked out on endless fields of soy beans and corn. It was an ideal place to study hard. I became an accidental academic. Now, I teach a variety of reporting, editing, creative nonfiction, and science journalism classes out of a large and diverse English department.
I blame Solo, my third German shepherd, for this book. The dog didn’t eat my homework. He became my homework. I finally stopped making excuses to colleagues about the time I spent working and learning with Solo and conceded that I had become a sniffer-dog nerd. These days, I juggle cadaver-dog training, bee-raising, teaching and writing, and eating good food.
David and I now live with a German shepherd from the Czech Republic, Jaco, who is following in Solo’s footsteps. What the Dog Knows is my first book. Writing a dissertation and editing a magazine and academic books count, but they weren’t as much fun to research and write.
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