Dog Classism??

root - Posted on 28 July 2003

An interview with the illustrator of the new childrens' book; Walter the Farting Dog

A PNN ReViEwSfOrTheRevOluTion

by Alex Cuff/PoorNewsNetwork

About the same time as we began POOR Press, Dee noticed a great little book with an animal rights theme and
beautiful illustrations. Dee wanted to know more about the book's origins. Lucky for us, we were able to locate
the illustrator, Audrey Colman, and ask her all the questions about Walter the Farting Dog and her

Why do you oppose breeding? (as you mentioned in one of your emails) Does
it have anything to do with "dog classism?"
Actually, I don1t believe in domestication at all, let alone breeding, while
I do acknowledge our responsibility to care for the domestic animals that
are already here.

The breeding industry perpetuates the killing of countless healthy animals
by adding to the numbers of animals that are killed simply for lack of
homes. Making money through breeding and selling animals to those who wish
to acquire a status symbol pet rather than rescue one from a shelter is an
ugly business. Those who buy from breeders fund this blood industry, which I
equate with the selling of people in the slave trade. And when living beings
become "products", one can only imagine what happens to the "imperfect" ones
that are less "profitable". Finally, every one litter results in thousands
more in a short span of years. The industry should be shut down entirely.
Any one of us who has real empathy for other species would gladly forfeit
the joy of living with them and getting to know them in order for them to be
free from our tyranny.

Why were you chosen (or did you choose?) as the illustrator for Walter the
Farting Dog?

I'd sent some of my art to the publisher, North Atlantic Books, Frog Ltd.,
many months prior to the introduction of "Walter" into the picture, in hopes
of doing the odd cover for them. When they called me with "Walter the
Farting Dog" (the first children's title for this publisher) by William
Kotzwinkle, I was very excited. I'd never forgotten his not-for-children
book "Dr. Rat", (1971) about the wretched reality of the lives of laboratory
animals. While it was written in a fictionalized style, it stayed true to
the graphic horror and details of their existence. Having been involved with
animal rights issues starting in Montreal in the late 1970's, I'd
recommended this book to many over the years.

What are you thoughts on the relationship between humans and animal (in
body and spirit and myth)?

I think that we as a species are the most destructive and the most cruel of
all animals. We are so elitist a species that our tiniest whim takes
precedence over the life and death of any animal of another species. (I
won't comment on the latter part of your question because to me the word
"spirit" pertains only to one's mood or an emotional state, probably not
your intended meaning, and I have no interest in mythology, so the word
"myth" also has little meaning for me.)

What role do you think animals play in our lives?

I think that as the most destructive of all species, people tend to consider
other species more in terms of how they can serve our needs or even our
whims rather than simply respecting their sentience and their right to live
their lives free of our manipulation and control. And ironically we deem
ourselves the exalted species, singularly infused with enough intelligence
to feel compassion!? Yes, I'm jaded from years of meeting with human apathy
regarding any animals aside from our own species.

In the lives of indigenous people?

For far too long, human culture/customs of all sorts have been considered
I also think that many people naively romanticize the relationship between
indigenous people and other species. I don1t see a significant difference in
their treatment of non-human animals. Giving "thanks" to victims before
murdering them does nothing to diminish their fear or pain.

One example of animals treatment by indigenous people, the Siouxan nations
perpetrated pishkun, or buffalo jumps, wherein entire herds were panicked
and driven off cliffs, at the foot of which the people waited to spear and
club to death the broken bodies.

Another example involves the Hopis, who are still "legally" allowed to hunt
eagles, endangered or not, because it1s an ancient custom/ritual. Upon
capture, the terrified eagles are tethered with a leather band to the
rooftop of the capturer1s house and kept there for about 16 days. On the
final day, the eagles are smothered. The prayer during this time is one for
good fortune and happiness for all creatures. I think think it1s safe to say
that the eagles would be happier without the imprisonment, murder and

Are you familiar with the "master animal"?
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How does any, all, or none of this relate to Walter?

It doesn't directly relate to "Walter", but when the project was first
offered to me, I was thrilled that it was written by William Kotzwinkle,
author of Dr. Rat, one of my all-time favorite animal rights-themed books.
Walter does encourage acceptance of foibles, and appreciation for of all
sorts of dogs, not just the stereotypically "cute" types.

And North Atlantic Books, Frog Ltd., acknowledging my interest in doing
more animal rights-oriented stories, did encourage me to go ahead with a
story of my own that has a pro animal theme. "Francine Francine the Beach
Party Queen" will be out this May. A dog's story that people who love dogs
can relate to, based on issues that dogs actually deal with, Francine's
familiar message has a twist, addressing a deficit in the children's book
market in relation to animal rights issues. I wanted people to commiserate
with Francine without her having to act like a small person in a dog suit.
Her plight encourages empathy and love while making us laugh.

People and other animals are alike in more ways than we realize, and dogs,
for example, frequently suffer indignities and hurt as a result our
misunderstanding them.

Eventually I hope to do a portrait book of rescued dogs and cats together
with their biographies.

Dutton (a division of Penguin) will be publishing the next two Walter the
Farting Dog sequels.

See work by Audrey Colman at


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