Monday, June 10, 2024

Q&A with Michelle B. Slater



Michelle B. Slater is the author of the new book Soulmate Dog. She also has written the book Starving to Heal in Siberia. She is the president of the Mayapple Center for the Arts and Humanities, and she is based in Connecticut and in Switzerland.


Q: What inspired you to write Soulmate Dog?


A: Although I had fallen in love at first sight with my German shepherd companion, Brady, I never imagined sharing our relationship or my private life with readers.


However, Brady went on to teach me extraordinary lessons that went well beyond the scope of anything I had ever encountered before in a few important subject areas. Most notably, his veterinarians urged me to write about Brady’s arduous medical journey and his miraculous ability to recover.


In Soulmate Dog, I write that one of his veterinarians told me: “You need to write a book about Brady’s story because it defies conventional veterinary wisdom.” He went on to say: “Brady is a miracle dog. He is one of the highlights of my career as a veterinarian.”


Those statements inspired me to write Soulmate Dog, but it wasn’t just about the holistic and allopathic combination of treatments that we employed, it was also about how the power of animal communication helped me and Brady to work through this challenging period by employing what I call “the language of dog.”


In addition, I had something philosophically to say that diverged from even the groundbreaking field of animal studies today.


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you? How would you describe your relationship with Brady?


A: I originally chose the title: “Soulmate Dog: Becoming Fluent in the Language of Dog,” but my editor encouraged me to drop the second part because the book encompasses so much more than just that, and it’s powerful on its own.


I chose the title because Brady was—and still is in my heart—my soulmate dog, and that carries claims about love, loss, and invites questions about the nature of our relationship.

I called Brady my soulmate dog because we shared an unconditional love with each other, and he taught me what it meant to love without limits. I would have done anything for him, and I did. I’m sure that he would have gone to any length within his power for me, too.


I like what I wrote in Soulmate Dog about my love for Brady, based on my extrapolation of Aristotle’s explanation of philia. “My love for Brady is a higher order love that is axiomatic and irreducible, and that kind of love can transcend species.”


Q: What do you think the book says about grief?


A: Grief is a pivotal theme in Soulmate Dog, and humans already grapple with how to grieve when it comes to losing other humans, so it is also messy and complicated to grieve one’s soulmate animal. I write about grief as a legitimate and valid response to a relationship so profound, and I write about how I grieved Brady.


I think grief is an integral part of love, and I write about my process in a coda that details it. I hope that in doing so, I will provide solace to my readers who may be grieving their animal companions.


Soulmate Dog makes the point that soulmate love is a forever kind of love that doesn’t end when the beloved animal companion dies, and I hope that is a comfort to my readers.


Q: What impact did it have on you to write the book, and what do you hope readers take away from it?


A: Soulmate Dog will always be the most meaningful book I will have ever written, because it imparts not only a profound canine wisdom, but it reaches the heart of what I think touches all of us, the depths of profound love and loss and how to navigate that.


It was both cathartic and empowering to write Soulmate Dog, because I shared unconventional wisdom that I had learned from my experiences with Brady, and I learned to write about grief in a way that I thought would also help the reader.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: My first novel is coming out in early 2025, The Lunatic, with Guernica Editions in Canada. I’m just finalizing manuscript edits now with the editor, and the novel also happens to feature a German shepherd co-protagonist who does speak the language of dog.


I’ll be working on a second novel in Switzerland this summer, where it takes place in the Alps.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I like to write books that will help readers, and that will resonate with them in a powerful way.


That’s why I wrote my first book, Starving to Heal in Siberia: My Radical Recovery from Late-Stage Lyme Disease and How it Could Help Others, because I thought that it could make a positive impact on people suffering from Lyme disease.


I really hope that Soulmate Dog will help save dogs from being put down when they could be saved with the help of holistic and allopathic combinations of medicine. I hope that the readers will find the language in the book to describe their own relationships with soulmate animals.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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