J-School faculty member publishes tale for dog lovers

Rebecca Johnson, associate professor in the W. Page Pitt School of Journalism and Mass Communications, has just published a book recounting the fictional  adventures—or misadventures—of her real-life rescued Basset Hound.

Titled Gone: Cleo’s Misadventures, the book is based on an actual event which became a fanciful recounting of a three-week period when the real Cleo went missing but then, hungry and bedraggled, miraculously found her way home.

The tale unfolds as the fictional Cleo, engrossed in chasing a deer trail, gets separated from the loving family that had rescued her from a harsh former life. Frightened and alone, she’s picked up by a well-meaning stranger who inadvertently takes her farther away. Now the intrepid  doggy  heroine has to find her way back through tough and unforgiving terrain on the way encountering obstacles and pitfalls of her former life on the road.    But the plucky and street-smart  hound prevails and lives to tell of her often humorous, sometimes tearful misadventures as told from her point of view.

The book is really for dog lovers of all ages, the author says.  Johnson has loved animals of all kinds all her life and she  grew up with ponies and horses, dogs, frogs, a raccoon, a groundhog and even an opossum for a few days.  She’s raised zebra and society finches, love birds and parakeets.  She’s worked as a horse trainer and riding instructor, won numerous barrel races on her Quarter Horse mare, Bobby Mu, and even ridden a circus elephant and a Lipizzaner horse.   She’s also raised national show horses and half-Arabians  and helped her father, Edward Love Johnson, an avid naturalist and outdoorsman, establish and operate the Old White Rodeo in White Sulphur Springs.

Cleo is just one of many canines who have been taken into the Johnson home because rescuing unwanted dogs has become a passion for her, she says.  “For years it seemed as if our farm was on the map as a drop-off for unwanted dogs.  We couldn’t resist loving them, and once they were named, they became part of our family.”

As new dogs arrive, they’re kept isolated from the others until they’re free of parasites  and have a clean bill of health from their vet.  Through the years Johnson and her husband, J.P., have placed more than 100 rescued dogs  while  trying to keep the number of dogs in their household  pretty constant. “Twelve is just about our limit,”  she says.  “That many dogs, plus our horses, keep us both pretty busy.”

As a writer, Johnson’s been able to combine her profession with her passion for animals through a number of  magazine articles that have appeared in National Show Horse and Rider and American Rifleman and now in her first published novel.  Currently she’s working on a second book recounting the further misadventures of the intrepid Cleo.  Both books will be available through Amazon.com and Empire Books.

And according to the book’s website, Cleo’s tale is  generating overwhelmingly favorite reviews from canine fans.  “I loved this book, it tasted just like Mom’s socks,” said Squirt.  “I couldn’t put it down, I just kept chewing and chewing and…” added Grif.  Streak was coy:  “I hid my copy.  I know where it is.  You can’t find it.  Maybe I buried it.  Maybe not.  You can’t tell.” Beetle raved, “I ate up every word of Cleo’s book.”