Blog of Pulitzer Prize Nominated Author, Jory Sherman. Get the latest information on his books, appearances and his candid reflections on writing.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Do our pets know when they are about to die? I think they do. I think many people also know when death is calling to them from out of the mists and those dark caverns of the mind.

I also believe that our pets choose us, that we do not choose them. It seems to me that they want someone to spend their brief lives with and so find ways to come to you, if you are the chosen one.

There are good reasons why these conclusions came to me. It is difficult to sort them out because of their emotional content.

There seems to be a strong bond between humans and animals, especially domestic animals, like dogs or cats. Recently, there have been two deaths that struck my senses with unfathomable grief.

Our dog Bucky, part rat terrier, part Jack Russell, died recently. He had cancer. We took him in for surgery and some of the cancer was excised, but the vet said that it had spread all through him and that noting could be done.

Bucky clung to me in his last days. He could barely walk, but he followed me from home to my office out in back and when he could no longer jump up in my lap or onto my bed, I lifted him up and put an arm across his tortured body so that he could sleep. He was 10 years old when he died one morning in our bedroom. He is buried next to a covered swing in a corner of our property, my “meditation corner.” It is shaded by pines and surrounded by bamboo a neighbor gave me. When I sit out there, the dogs and cats find me and play among the bamboo shoots or jump up on the padded seat of the swing.

My son’s two female cats, Peaches and Piper, gave birth t0 their first litters a month and half ago, 3 kittens each. One of Peaches’ kittens took to me and started following me around. I named her Kiki. She was a darling. She stuck to me wherever I was, on the porch, in my livingroom, in my office. My son also has two pups. One of them played too hard with Kiki and killed her. I was broken-hearted. She was frail and small and could not take the rough stuff. The dog thought she was a toy.

Kiki’s sister has adopted me. I call her Squeaky. She squeaks because her little lungs are congested. She sneezes and coughs. She naps with me, crawls up on my chest and snuggles under my chin or in the hollow of my arm. When I sit on the porch as I do every morning long before dawn, she finds me and crawls up my pantleg and onto my chest.

I am afraid she will not live long and I think she knows this.

Over the years I have been adopted by many pets, and most of these were the runts of their litters. None of them lived a long time. One kitty used to crawl into my desk drawers and play with the pencils and paper clips. My dog Snowball used to crawl through my papers on the bed and watch me type on the Underwood. Snowball was a toy poodle. The cat, still a kitten, died under my covers one morning.

My first story was about a Cocker Spaniel puppy named Doopers. He chased my father’s car and barked at its wheels. One day my dad’s car ran over him and I cried for five days.

All of these creatures who adoped me seemed to have intimations of their looming deaths. They all wanted to give and receive love during their last days on this earth. I believe Squeaky knows that she will not live long. The four other kittens are all growing but Squeaky is a Pater Pan lagging behind.

Love is the fuel that drives the engine of this universe. I can feel it in the love I get from my pets and I am energized by the love I give them. I feel a kinship with them since I have intimations of my own mortality. I have COPD, diabetes, kidney disease, and assorted conditions endemic to aging. So, when I see Squeaky struggling for breath, I empathize with her.

My doctor gave me a timetable for my existence, but I don’t need it. Like my pets, I will know when my hour of departure draws near. In the meantime, all I want to do is to give them my love. I know that this is what they want and need.

So do we all. By all, I mean, all living things in this wonderful universe.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


I did not know Peter Falk. But I admired him as an actor and thought that he created a superb character in Columbo. A day or so after his death from Alzheimer’s disease, I heard that Glen Campbell was suffering from the same affliction.

Glen once owned a theater in Branson, Missouri, and it happened that Branson held their annual Fanfare exhibition in his parking lot one year. I was there with many other celebrities, including my friends, Janet Dailey and Shoji Tabuchi. This was an event much like the one held in Nashville, where the public can meet the performers and pick up their albums or books and shake hands.

That day marked Glen Campbell’s last appearance in Branson. He had sold his theater and was returning to Nashville. My wife Charlotte and I went to the theater and watched this stirring performance. His daughter Debby also sang and the audience was captivated.

After the performance we met with Glen and Debby just off the lobby. I told him about a song that seemed perfect for him at this stage of his career. I also told him that I had been a fan long before he ever sang a note.

When Glen was a studio musician in L.A. performing for many bands on recordings, he also recorded a number of albums featuring him on stunning guitar solos. I had all those recordings and loved them.

A while before I talked to Glen, country music star Tommy Overstreet and I had been talking to singer/musician Jimmy Rodgers at Caravel Studios in Branson, which was built by our friend, Bob Millsap and then called Ironside Studios. Later it was boughtt by a wealthy man and the name changed. Rodney Dillard was managing it when Jimmy was writing songs and doing some recording there.

Jimmy played a song he had written for Frank Sinatra. It was called “Leader of the Band,” and Tommy and I were stunned by the beauty of both melody and lyrics. Tommy offered to give the song to Nancy Sinatra to show to her father. But, nothing ever came of it.

I told Glen about the song and told him he should get in touch with Jimmy, who lived in Forsyth on Bull Shoals Lake. I don’t know if he ever did but I have not heard the song since Jimmy sang it for us in the recording studio.

When I heard that he had Alzheimer’s and that Peter Falk had just died, I was reminded of how devastating that disease is. We had lost a dear friend to Alzheimer’s, Edith McCall, a writer who lived in Branson until the disease robbed her of memory. Her daughter Mary came out and took Edie to her home in California. Later, Mary told me that her mother “didn’t even know what a keyboard was.” I wrote an article about Edie which was published by Linda Fisher in her anthology, Alzheimer’s Anthology of Unconditional Love, after her husband died of the disease. And, still later, I wrote a short story about Edie and Alzheimer’s which was also published, Dark Solitude and is now in my short story collection, Little Journeys. The book is available on my website,

Recently, my friend Stephen Woodfin published his novel, Sickle’s Compass, (Gallivant Press), which features a man in the throes of that spectre, Alzheimer’s. It is a touching novel of love and war and, of course, Alzheimer’s.

The disease touches us all. As some of us grow older and our memory fails us, we wonder if we are in the early stages of the disease. It comes without warning, though, and robs its victims of not only memory, but of dignity and life. Edie lost her memory of how to write books, but eventually, she forgot to breathe. That is when this dark thief takes the life of its victims.

Glen Campbell, Peter Falk, Ronald Reagan, Edith McCall and many others left us with their creations, creations that were stolen from them, but continue to enrich our lives.