Press & Media: Short Tales Collection

The following is a general "Question & Answer" session about the Short Tales Collection by Deborah O'Toole.


What inspired you to write the Short Tales Collection?

My dog, Foofer. Each story in the Short Tales Collection was inspired by him, and our relationship. He passed away in 2007, therefore bringing the series to a permanent close.


Foofer was quite a character. I never really treated him like a dog. We had a "mother-son" relationship from the time he came into my arms at the age of six weeks until his passing more than ten years later.


He not only gave much love, joy and laughter, he also inspired me to write the collection of short stories with his shining character as the star. What began as a few "shorts" developed into a series of stories about Foofer and his adventures.


What is Foofer's back-story?

He was born in Chubbuck, Idaho on 31 March 1997. At the time, I was living in Idaho with my second husband.


One of my husband's co-workers offered him the only male in a litter of four pups born to his Husky/Retriever cross breed. We got Foofer when he was only six weeks old, and I fell in love with him instantly. I had never felt such an instant and irrevocable kinship with an animal before, or since for that matter.


It was mutual, unconditional love in its most purest form.


Why did you name him Foofer?

His real name was Barbarosa, after the Willie Nelson character in the movie of the same name. I thought it was quite mouthful, so I nicknamed him Foofer. It was based on his almost irrational fear of buzzing flies. Yes, my 130-pound dog was scared to death of flies. Every time one of the insects came around, he would dive for cover - under a table, under my legs - anywhere he could go and hide. The name Foofer just seemed to fit after that.


When did you start writing stories about him?

Not until much later. I wrote the first book, Foofer & the Ham Bone, near the end of 2000. I'm not sure what inspired me - other than Foofer himself - to write that first story, but it sort of took off from there. I was going through a transitional period at the time - divorce, remarriage, relocation - so it was easy to use my imagination to create the short stories. Many of them were based on real events, albeit embellished on occasion.


Is Foofer Goes East based on real events?

Yes. We took a trip through Wyoming and Colorado with Wilbert Alviso, who eventually became my third husband. The flying red ants were real, and the location descriptions were real.


Foofer didn't like Wilbert at first. It was touch and go for awhile. After we left Idaho in 1999, Foofer and I were basically on our own. When Wilbert entered the picture some time later, Foofer was none too pleased. As far as Foofer was concerned, I was his property and he didn't take kindly to any sort of interference. It took him a few months to warm to Wilbert, but once the ice was broken they became the best of friends. In time, Foofer adored Wilbert.


Wilbert and I almost went our separate ways before Foofer finally relented and accepted him. Wilbert was understandably frustrated by the canine hostility, and at one point told me: "It's either me or Foofer." There was no question I would ever abandon Foofer for anyone else, so I replied: "It was nice knowing you. Have a nice life." Luckily, Wilbert persevered and was thereby rewarded with Foofer's lifelong loyalty and love.


How did you come up with the story for Foofer, the Pooka & St. Patrick?

I wanted to relate the story of St. Patrick and other Irish legends, but in terms a child would likely understand. Putting Foofer in the center of the story with a grouchy Pooka leading the way seemed to be the perfect setting.


With Foofer being a dog, food had to figure into the equation. Foofer thought St. Patrick's Day was all about corned beef, so he needed a good lesson in history.


Where did you get the idea for Foofer & the Magic Mischa?

I'm sure most people recall the fable known as Aladdin. Foofer & the Magic Mischa is a loose take on the same premise. Rather than having a genie to grant three wishes, Foofer's experience was with a magical squirrel named Mischa.


It was such a fun story to write, with lots of humor thrown into the mix.


How do you compare writing short stories to full-length fiction novels?

Writing full-length fiction takes longer, but it's easier. Shorts are more difficult because the writer has to get across the complete story in the least amount of space. It's hard to temper dialogue meandering or detailed scene descriptions, which is why I prefer writing long fiction.


How difficult was it to write The Journey to Rainbow Bridge after Foofer died?

It was probably one of the most difficult bits I've ever written. I almost didn't release The Journey to Rainbow Bridge because it was too painful, but then I thought it might help someone else going through the same thing. Losing a beloved pet is just as devastating as losing a family member.


I actually took portions of my blog [Irish Eyes] to re-assemble the last months of Foofer's life. While he was receiving medical treatment, I was also trying to find natural ways to prolong his time. I wrote blog posts to track my endeavors just in case a miracle occurred. I think my efforts did keep him with me longer. Foofer was diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma in June 2007. His veterinarian gave him until the end of summer to live. However, I was determined he would beat the odds.


I learned about the benefits of cumin to help fight cancer, so I began to sprinkle bits of it into his food. I also prepared most of his meals, which included steamed turkey or chicken with brown rice, scrambled eggs and mashed broccoli. He lived until mid-December 2007, four months beyond the veterinarian's prognosis, so I firmly believe my methods helped to extend his life. This was very important to me because I wanted to keep him alive for as long as possible. I didn't want to lose him.


Do you think you will ever write more short stories?

I won't rule out the possibility, but I can say with certainty none of them will be about Foofer. He's gone, and I just can't see treading on his memory that way. It's sacred to me.


Unfortunately, Wilbert has since passed away as well. A few weeks after his death, I wondered if he had met up with Foofer in heaven.


I'm not entirely convinced there is an afterlife, but if there is I hope they are together, waiting for me.


< Back to Press & Media

Request an Interview

To request an interview with Deborah O'Toole, click here for contact options. Please include "Interview" in the subject matter if you choose e-mail as the method of communication.