In the city limits of Denver, dogs can be put to death simply for the way they look.
“It’s a ridiculous law that has decided the way a dog looks makes it dangerous to other people and animals,” says W. Bruce Cameron in a phone interview last week. “The rule is very weird. Once your dog has been picked up, it can be labeled a pit bull, which happens when three animal control officers all agree that it looks like a pit bull. No DNA test required.”
He adds that if a dog is picked up and deemed a pit bull and then picked up a second time—it’s euthanized, no questions asked.
The National Writers Series is excited to host Cameron, a New York Times bestseller who will talk about his newest book—A Dog’s Way Home, which was inspired by the controversial law—his writing career, and the movie, A Dog’s Purpose, which he co-wrote with his actress wife, Cathryn Michon. Guest host is Ron Jolly, host of WTCM-AM’s NewTalk 580. Cameron will take the City Opera House stage on July 7.
Cameron says an owner can challenge the pit bull label in court, but it’s expensive, time-consuming, and there’s no guarantee of winning—and the dog is forced to remain in a shelter during the court process.
An owner’s only option is to move. And that’s what the human of Bella, the pit bull mix in A Dog’s Way Home, intends to do. He puts Bella into a foster home 400 miles away while he tries to find a place to live outside of Denver’s city limits.
“Bella doesn’t understand. She thinks a horrible mistake has been made,” Cameron says. “She belongs with her person, and she decides to rectify the mistake and sets off on a journey back home, which will take her years and hundreds of miles through the Rocky Mountain wilderness. It’s a love story, an adventure story, and also a spiritual story about the bond Bella has with this person. That bond is so strong, it motivates her to take horrendous risks.”
Cameron is no stranger to Northern Michigan. He was born in Petoskey and moved, as an infant, to Kansas City, where his father accepted a job as a professor of medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Each summer the family drove north to vacation at the family’s stone cottage on Holy Island, located between East Jordan and Charlevoix.
“That really informed all of my decisions. When I got out of college, I worked for General Motors in Michigan and they put me in Traverse City, which, as far as I was concerned, was coming home. I lived in Traverse City for three years, bopped around the state of Michigan and then they moved me out to Colorado, where some things clicked for me in my career. I was in finance and decided to go into software development, and then I started writing humor columns for the Rocky Mountain News. I did that for a while and when the newspaper went out of business, I became a syndicated columnist.
Life took a big turn with the publication of a column, “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter,” which gained a huge following thanks to gems like these: “Having a child mutate into a teenager is a bit like being an airline passenger who must suddenly take over for a stricken pilot and land the plane. And in this case, the passengers are all yelling, ‘I hate you! I hate you!’ and slamming the door to the cockpit.”
Cameron turned it into a book and sold it to a TV show, leading him to move to Los Angeles where he wrote for the show.
So does Cameron have his own furry friend?
Cameron is the proud owner of Tucker, “a random accident of dog DNA. He’s 24 pounds of scruff. He looks like a miniature golden with terrier fur. He barks like a beagle. I just don’t know what he is.”
So does he take Tucker everywhere he goes, as those in L.A. are prone to do?
“L.A. is very dog-friendly lately. I think they just gave up. There are so many people, they have to focus on the really dangerous behaviors and let the rest go. They just don’t have time. You see dogs in people’s laps in restaurants. At the farmer’s market, there are no dogs allowed, and dogs sit under the sign yawning because they can’t read. I don’t take my dog everywhere. I like to go to the gym and ride my bike, and his legs are too short to reach the pedals.”
Oh, yes. Cameron is funny. But not funny enough, he says, to do stand-up comedy.
“When I give a speech, it can be funny. I have the humor bug. But a comedian works the room, and can puzzle out what will get a laugh. I’m just not that good. But I do like to tell stories. And I do stand. I have that going for me.”
Doors open for the National Writers Series event at 6 p.m. with live music, a cash bar and Morsels. Tickets are going fast, so buy yours soon. Tickets can be purchased at the City Opera House Box Office at 106 E. Front St., by calling 231-941-8082, ext. 201, or online at cityoperahouse.org. Ticket fees apply. If you have any questions, please email [email protected]
Thanks to our major sponsors: Cordia, Traverse City Eye and the Cherry Capital Airport.