How amazing is Gone Dogs? Don’t take our word for it, check out what readers are saying.

People and dogs have gotten a lot closer in 2020. And we’re all pretty happy about it.

With the onset of COVID-19, people around the world hunkered down and sheltered in place. Because we’ve learned that isolation is the only sure way to defeat the spread of the virus.

But people are social animals. Isolation is hard for us. And so in a year when we all desperately missed routine socialization and companionship, our dogs provided it. In buckets.

Our dogs have given us solace, hope, and a warm body to lean on when the days felt heaviest.

A recent study by Washington State University showed that more than 70% of people reported spending more overall time with their dog as a result of COVID-19, and 42.5% said they were walking their dogs more frequently. Respondents also said that their dogs helped ease depression and anxiety while providing purpose/meaning to their lives during the self-isolation from COVID-19.

People need companionship. Which is why animal shelters across the country reported surges in adoptions this year—often emptying once over-crowded facilities. Breeders also reported a rise in demand and have waitlists deep into 2021. And nearly half the people who fostered dogs early into the pandemic, ended up adopting the dogs themselves.

Why?

Companionship. Steadiness. Love.

As any dog-lover will tell you, our dogs want only one thing—to please us. And this year they’ve done more than that. They’ve helped us survive.

Give your dog an extra hug tonight. He deserves it.

For a book filled with remarkable stories of love, get a copy of Gone Dogs today. ❤️

Gone Dogs - Tales of Dogs We've Loved

Back in 2015, we had an idea to create a crowd-sourced book dedicated to the dogs of our lives. Dogs who are gone, but not forgotten. We completed the book in the fall of 2019, and the result was a stunning anthology featuring 50 stories by people from all over the world. We all but sold out by February, and were feeling pretty good about things.

In preparing to ramp up again, 2020 arrived with all of its, well, 2020. And so our priorities shifted as we hunkered down with our families and did our parts to stay safe and sane. 

Still, we always knew we wanted to publish Gone Dogs as a softcover book since our fans asked for one. And so we pointed to December to complete the project. 

Only, 2020 being what it is, even the most well-intentioned plans this year have been challenging.

But we did it! And we are delighted to now offer Gone Dogs as a paperback. Just in time for the holidays. Whew! 

Gone Dogs - Tales of Dogs We've Loved

The softcover edition, which is available in both full color and black and white, has all the great stories, poems, and photographs as the hardcover book. But the best part is that this edition includes two new stories by renowned blogger Heather B. Armstrong, and celebrated columnist Tommy Tomlinson. And yes, they’re each as heartwarming and beautiful as you’d expect.  

Suffice it to say, Gone Dogs more magical than ever. Plus, because we’re selling and mailing directly, we are able to offer FREE SHIPPING on all orders through December. 

As we wind down on a pretty crazy year, we can look back on its lessons with gratitude. We’re grateful to have made it this far, and grateful that we were able to fulfill an important task with the softcover edition. Thank you for continuing to inspire us to share these amazing stories of love.

If you know someone who loves dogs, this book makes the perfect gift.

We hope you enjoy it.

Jim and Laurie

Gone Dogs - Tales of Dogs We've Loved

Last month we were honored to share out book on the Charlotte Readers Podcast. Listen here.

Last week I took my old dog on a 500 mile trip to see my daughter at college. I spent a lot of time thinking about why we care about dogs so much.

The most important lesson I’ve learned putting this book together is that dogs are family.

We’ve had a busy December and there’s still a lot to go!

Hollywood Legend Jimmy Stewart shares a touching poem about his dog Beau.

We’ve been promoting our book for a couple of months now, and if you’re following along you no doubt know about the heartwarming stories and poems, and the remarkable photography of  each dog. 

But there’s another element of the book that I want to bring into the light—the design. 

When I had the idea for Gone Dogs in 2014, the first person I talked to was my wife. The next was someone I respect in the publishing industry. The next was Laurie Smithwick, a friend since the mid-2000s, who is also one of the most talented designers I’ve ever known. And, being in advertising, I’ve known plenty. If this book was going to become a thing, Laurie was the person I wanted marching this long road with me. Because I knew she was the one who would make it beautiful. 

Boy did she. 

From a design standpoint, I only had one suggestion—that my dog Sydney be on the cover. That was it. Everything else was Laurie. 

From the moment you hold the book in your hands, you feel its quality. When you open the cover,  you’re hit with a green full-bleed liner that she custom created. (The one in the back of the book might look the same, but it’s actually different.) The weight of the pages, Laurie. The composition of the stories, Laurie. And the photography, as beautiful as it is, was sent from people all over the world in multiple formats and resolutions, and all required intense Photoshop work. Laurie. 

But there’s something else that to me is the most important design element in the book. 

Every story and poem begins on a left page. Clearly not all of the stories/poems are the same length, so some of the them also ended on a left page. Which meant we had to decide what to do with the empty right page. It was something we thought a lot about. Then one day Laurie said, “I have an idea.” 

The result of her idea is the brightly colored pages that complete stories that end on a left page, with an outline of a dog in white on the right page. Simple. Elegant. Beautiful. Right? 

But there’s more. 

They’re not just outlines of dogs. They’re not even just outlines of the kinds of dogs in the story they bookend. 

They’re holes. 

Every dog lover knows, when a dog dies it leaves a hole in your heart. A hole in your life. 

This seemingly innocuous design element is actually a stroke of genius, and precisely why I wanted Laurie on this project back in 2014. 

When I asked her about these “holes,” she told me that the idea is from a line in the book, “The God of Small Things,” by Arundhati Roy, which reads, “Joe was dead now. Killed in a car crash. Dead as a doorknob. A Joe-shaped hole in the Universe.” 

“I read the ‘The God of Small Things’ in 1998. That line has stayed with me ever since. And seemed like a perfect fit for our book.”  – Laurie Smithwick

Design is important, kids. And this book is as much a tribute to great design as it is the dogs who grace its pages. Thanks to Laurie.

Gone Dogs. It’s about love. ❤️


Jim

Here we are, nearly five years after having the idea for the book Gone Dogs, in our 11th hour.

Actually, it’s more like 11:59. 

So I should be elated, right? To finally see all the hard work come to an end. Come to fruition. 

Well, in one sense, I am. But in another, I’m frustrated. 

Back in 2014 one of the first people I spoke with about the idea for Gone Dogs was my longtime friend Laurie Smithwick, a designer who I trust and admire. After talking about the concept, we decided to jump in and take it on as a part time project that we’d somehow squeeze into our regular work and busy lives.

We established a brand. We procured and built a website. We told all of our friends—who were highly supportive. Then we built a strategy to glean content, and began to employ that strategy via social media. We established social media accounts for the brand. We created a legal entity (a publishing company) and opened a bank account. We asked friends to tell their friends about the idea. We built a submission engine in WordPress. We opened a PayPal account. We hired a lawyer to ensure that we were protected from copyright and other issues. We launched the website. We spread the word. We used Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to promote the brand. We used Google and SEO to ensure we were being properly indexed for the search engines. We set a deadline—but didn’t have enough content—so we extended the deadline. We advertised the call for entries on Facebook. We reviewed content. We asked established writers to help us evaluate submissions. We made tough decisions about what content would be part of the book. We edited, proofread, and edited some more. We routinely and effectively communicated with 50 authors to ensure their stories and photographs were correct. We researched how to self-publish a coffee table book. We worked in Word, and Google, and Photoshop (a lot of Photoshop), and Illustrator, and Indesign, and WordPress. We used Slack, text, email, and DMs in every platform to communicate. We had countless in-person meetings. We researched print-on-demand publishing, distribution models, and wholesale markdowns. We did a lot of math. We researched and chose a fulfillment vendor. We researched and found print vendor then established a relationship with them. We decoded their templates, redesigned the book to fit, and sent them files. We ordered a sample book, but it wasn’t up to par on quality—so we hit the brakes, reset, and rebuilt files for other printers. And we waited. 

We continue to wait. 

I can’t tell you how hard this is. 

After all this time. 

After all this effort. 

When you simply want to be finished with a project, but aren’t willing to sacrifice quality. 

And the reason we won’t isn’t for us. It’s also not for our fans. Or even our authors. It’s for the dogs. The dogs and their stories that make up our maiden volume of Gone Dogs will always have a special place in my heart. 

Trust me when I say that as excited as you are to have this book, we’re even more excited. 

Getting it right takes time. As it turns out. Five years ago I had a 4-year-old dog under my desk. Today he’s getting gray around the eyes. 

What started out as a good idea that seemed to have some traction within our networks five years ago has become a remarkable work that I can’t wait to let loose into the world. 

It’s coming. And it can’t come soon enough.

Love, Jim