Let’s just get this out on the table: I am not a dog person.
Oh, I really like dogs, and I think dogs like me. But I didn’t grow up keeping dogs as pets, despite the fact that at age four I was putting out dog chow for five of them. We lived on a ranch, and they were working dogs. I loved their warm brown eyes and their soft coats, but I never got to play with them, and they never came inside.
In An Oath of Dogs, there’s a dog on almost every page. Her name is Hattie, and she’s a mental health companion dog, a little bit like Gary, the French bulldog who famously helped Carrie Fisher. (Although I must point out that Hattie is a seventy-pound Swiss Shepherd who might not appreciate the comparison to a dog smaller than my cat.) Her human companion loves her and plays with her, walks her, feeds her—all the things you do with your pet dog, but with one difference: Hattie is always working.
In this era of doggie daycare and pet psychologists, it’s funny to imagine an animal with a job, but of course, the main reason humans domesticated animals was to put them to work. In early agrarian societies, every animal in a community earned its keep. Most dogs lived the life that my parents’ dogs did, herding sheep and protecting small livestock from predators.
But people have come up with many clever uses for our canine companions. The sled-pulling feats of Inuit sled dogs is legendary, but dogs have been used as draft animals in many cultures, carrying packs and pulling small carts. Their use in hunting is well-known. Dogs have even been going to war on behalf of humanity. Strabo, a Greek historian, described seeing dogs wearing coats of mail. And who can forget the teams of dogs who helped in the rescue efforts after the World Trade Tower bombing of 9/11? Dogs helped rescue survivors, recover bodies, and restored the spirits of rescue workers on-site. (If you need your heart melted, you can read a little about Bretagne, the last living 9/11 rescue dog.)
Perhaps because I grew up with working dogs, I have always had a deep appreciation for these animals. Dogs keep us safe and protect our homes. They fight crime and save lost hikers. They guide the blind and the hearing-impaired. Dogs give autistic children the comfort they need to thrive. They ease the hearts of the elderly. They sniff out and give advance warning to seizures and diabetic crises. They run races for us, learn tricks, pose for cameras. They do so much for humanity and ask so little in return.
My parents haven’t lived on that ranch in nearly thirty-five years, but they still keep a working dog on their small property. Her name is Maggie, and she is a massive Great Pyrenees who excels at frightening coyotes. She was born to be a show dog, but two cream-colored patches on her back exiled her to a life outside of entertainment. She seems happy, patrolling my parents’ acreage and chasing deer. My mother certainly adores her.
When I visit, Maggie turns her brown eyes to me, mutely asking what all dogs ask, the Golden Question of dog life: Am I a good dog? Am I? And since she’s such a hard-working dog, I answer truthfully: Yes, Maggie. You are a good dog.
I think all working dogs are good. In fact, of all the creatures, they are perhaps the Most Good, helping humanity so much with such unflagging spirits. I’d like to think An Oath of Dogs is a kind of thanks to them. They deserve it.
We’re excited to share the cover for An Oath of Dogs, a new off-world science fiction novel from Wendy N. Wagner. Designed by Joey Hi-Fi, the cover shows off the forest-world’s towering flora as well as some of its terrifying fauna—a pack of sentient dogs. As author Wendy N. Wagner mentioned above, An Oath of Dogs heavily features a service dog—Hattie—and inspired by this, Angry Robot Books will donate $1 of each pre-order (up to 500 units) to a service dog charity!
From the author:
Mental health companion animals can change lives—I knew that before I started writing An Oath of Dogs, but living in the head of a character re-inventing her life with the help of a service dog really made that real to me. So it’s unbelievable that it can cost nearly $20,000 to train a service dog. That’s a massive chunk of money for an ordinary person. If the funds were available, so many people could benefit from the help of an assistance dog! I am overjoyed that Angry Robot and I can help out in any way. I feel like this is a moment when good people and a good read are coming together to do something great.
And from Penny Reeve, Publicity Manager for Angry Robot Books:
Angry Robot absolutely love Hattie, Kate’s canine chum in An Oath of Dogs. While discussing the novel and Hattie’s place in it, we decided it would be a nice gesture to give $1 of every pre-order of An Oath of Dogs to a service dog charity, so we can help people like Kate back on earth. We spoke to Wendy about our plans and she was pretty keen, having had the same idea! All we ask is that people pre-ordering the novel send an email to [email protected] with proof of purchase and then, as soon as An Oath of Dogs is published we’ll send our donation on.
An Oath of Dogs publishes July 4th with Angry Robot Books. From the catalog copy:
Kate Standish has been on the forest-world of Huginn less than a week and she’s already pretty sure her new company murdered her boss. But the little town of mill workers and farmers is more worried about eco-terrorism and a series of attacks by the bizarre, sentient dogs of this planet, than a death most people would like to believe is an accident. That is, until Kate’s investigation uncovers a conspiracy which threatens them all.