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Pam Houston’s Sight Hound, Dante

When author Pam Houston published her first collection of stories, Cowboys Are My Weakness, in 1992, she established herself as a promising young American fiction writer and a model for women who aspired to a life of outdoor adventure. Houston drew on her experiences as river guide, rafter, rock climber, skier, and extreme backpacker for the stories.

After graduating in English from Denison University in Ohio, she rode across Canada on a bicycle and then down to Colorado, where she worked at various odd jobs, among them bartender and flagwoman on a highway crew. Eventually, she entered a doctoral program at the University of Utah.

A licensed river guide and an accomplished horsewoman, Houston teaches at many writing conferences and programs in the United States and England. In explaining her pursuit of outdoor and often dangerous activities during her early twenties, she says: "You think I spent three summers leading hunters through Alaska because I like watching guys like David Duke shoot sheep? No. It was because if I didn't go with my boyfriend, somebody else would. I wanted to win."

It is her 2005 novel, Sight Hound, just released in paperback that stole our hearts here at Urban Dog Magazine. Reviewed in our Spring, 2005 issue, Sight Hound is loosely based on her late real life Irish Wolfhound, Dante. "I've never had a dog that wanted to cuddle quite this much, or quite this… humanly," says Houston, "But it is also true that Dante has a wider range of emotions than any man I dated during my twenties."

Pam says, “I think I'll miss him every day of my life.” We thank her for sharing Dante with us and for taking the time to answer our Inner Dog Questionnaire.

What was his idea of perfect happiness?

That’s hard because he found happiness in so many things. Maybe going down the road with his butt up against the back seat and his chin on my right shoulder, me driving, the Counting Crows on the CD player. Or….laying on the bank of a river with his chin on my ankle. Or running hard across a field straight into my arms.

What was his favorite treat?

Kobe Beef tataki, with yellowtail sashimi on the side

If he could change one thing about himself, what would it be?

I think he would have lived forever, so he could have made sure I didn’t forget any of the things he taught me.

What was his most treasured possession?

He was a Buddhist, he practiced non-attachment when it came to his possessions. But he was partial to this one little duck that both quacked and rattled

What is his most endearing quality?

He worried about everyone’s well being, even his stuffed toys. He used to gather them into his chest if they squeaked, as if to comfort them

Assuming there is such a thing as reincarnation, what or who might he have been in a former life?

The Dali Llama (I’m serious)

Was there anything that embarrassed him?

Yes, it embarrassed him that when ever I came home and let he and Rose outside, he would have to interrupt his happy dance to pee on top of where Rose peed.

What was it that he disliked most?

The sight of suitcases, until he figured out that most of the time, he got to go too.

What was his greatest fear?

I’m not sure he had fear, exactly. He feared for me, that I wouldn’t learn the lessons he came into my life to teach me

What was his greatest accomplishment?

He taught me about the way that love and loss go together, that without the possibility of loss, love doesn’t have any meaning, and that without love, life is nothing more than a series of losses. Also, he once got a great big cow to jump back to the right side of our fences….he made that cow look like an Olympic pole vaulter.

What was his favorite place?

The grass between the house and the barn at my ranch in Creede, Colorado.

What did he really like in other dogs?

He liked other dogs who valued their personal space, who approached each other with care, and grace and a sense of decorum. He was embarrassed for dogs who wanted you to like them too much.

Did he have a motto?

Either: Always approach the world with love instead of fear OR
MORE KOBE BEEF PLEASE! (I’m not sure which….)

Photographs by Cami Johnson,