University of Albany
If The Wisdom Of The Tao Helped This Pug, Imagine What It Can Do For You
At best, we live in a bipolar society when it comes to our dogs. For some, dogs are merely pets we love. We care for them, providing some or all of their basic needs but they remain lowest on the family totem pole nonetheless.
For others, dogs have become much, much more. We dress them up, take them everywhere, and treat them like children. If that weren’t enough, we create clever television and book series that close the gap between canine and human even further, like Downward Dog (ABC) and The Tao of Pug (Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.) I am a fan of both and was disappointed when I learned that Downward Dog was cancelled during its first season. Oh, well. At least, I know, that The Tao of Pug will continue to stick around, probably as long as the principles of the Tao Te Ching (in which it was based) do.
A former pug-owner myself, I fell in love with this series -- a collaboration between Wilson “the pug” and veteran dog photographer Nancy Levine. And although Wilson crossed over the Rainbow Bridge in 2014, I caught up with Nancy recently to discuss the highly acclaimed, philosophical series that has captured the hearts of so many dog-loving fans since it began in 2003.
I urge you to read the interview below as there is much more to this charming series than meets the eye.
Share your personal mantra.
"This above all, to thine own self be true." - Shakespeare
What do you do?
I'm a writer and author of the four-book series starting with "The Tao of Pug" -- published in hardcover by Penguin Books; newly released in paperback by Skyhorse Publishing, and Co-authored with Wilson the Pug. Wilson crossed the Rainbow Bridge in 2014 but lives forever in my heart and in our books.
How did you come up with the idea?
I remember wishing for a pug dog companion when I was a little girl, inspired by the Eloise books. In 2002, my wish finally came true. Wilson the Pug was born with a life-threatening genetic defect, a liver shunt. I took him home and made sure he got life-saving surgery. We became fast friends. The book, The Tao of Pug, was his idea. Pugs originated in China around 500 B.C. Around the same time, the ancient Chinese book of wisdom, the Tao te Ching was written by philosopher Lao Tzu. No one really knew what inspired Lao Tzu to write the Tao te Ching. Turns out he had a pug dog who inspired him and his writing!
What makes it different?
There were already many photos and picture books of cute pug dogs. We wanted to do a book that was cute and funny but also meaningful. I studied philosophy in college. This book makes the timeless philosophy of the Tao accessible to everyone, kids and adults.
Explain the turning point to the uphill climb?
I spent many years writing and performing comedy and a one-woman show. I think the turning point was surrendering to "what wants to happen." I followed the philosophy of the books themselves -- go with the flow. Or as the inscription in Letters to a Young Pug says, in the words of the poet Rilke: "Let life happen to you. Believe me: life is in the right, always." I took my cues and inspiration from Wilson, and the books flowed forth.
What keeps you going?
Friendships, both with humans and canines, and with all animals really.
Share a piece of advice to those who want to follow in your footsteps in their own way.
Never ever give up. Let your passions be your guide and inspiration.
I think you should take a cue from what you’ve learned here and allow the The Tao of Pug to flow into your life...or at least onto your coffee table. Did I mention that the series works with The Humane Society of the United States to raise awareness and help stop puppy mills? That’s reason enough to lend your heart and your eyeballs to this series. It’s rich with warmth, wisdom, and Wilson on every page.
Many thanks to Nancy Levine for making this interview possible