by Lisa Saunders
If you meet Doolittle, a basset-coonhound mix, on his daily waddle through the seaside village of Mystic, Connecticut, please say “Hi!” and give him a pat on the head. If you have a biscuit, even better. If you have a story to tell us, you may end up in my next TV interview, newsletter, Facebook post, or even my next book!
Although I prefer to write about the dead who don’t complain when their stories comes out, Doolittle prefers the living—and that’s you! To meet our funny-looking hound my husband retrieved last year from a local Navy family being transferred to Hawaii, your best bet is to follow our walking path along the “Mystic Seafarer’s Trail map,” a route I designed from my travel memoir, Mystic Seafarer’s Trail, to help visitors find “The 7 Wonders of Mystic” and places to boat, bike, or eat along the way.
On days I’m not working as an historical Interpreter at Mystic Seaport, I work from home as a freelance writer. Around noon, just in time for the bell-chime tunes heard from the Union Baptist Church (the big white church on the hill near my home), I take a break from my computer to see who Doolittle and I will meet along the Mystic Seafarer’s Trail.
First, we stroll down Library Street to visit the Mystic & Noank Library where Doolittle gets a biscuit from the librarian; then to Union Baptist Church, where April from the office gives him another biscuit; then past the statue of a dog running beside his Boston Marathon-winning master, inspiring Doolittle to exercise me more; then past Mystic Pizza where Doolittle grabs pizza crusts tossed on the sidewalk; then to Bank Square Books to check on my books, which include Mystic Seafarer’s Trail; After the Loss of a Spouse: From Henry VIII to Julia Child (stories of 18 famous widows, some with area connections such as Mark Twain and Amelia Earhart’s widower); and Once Upon a Placemat: A Table Setting Tale. If they need replenishing, Doolittle proudly wears his doggy knapsack filled with books on our next trip downtown.
Business taken care of, we head over the Mystic River drawbridge to see what’s happening at Mystic River Park. If we are lucky, Rod, the bridgetender shouts “hello” from the bridge house window before holding up traffic to lift the bridge for boats coming in from all over the world.
Resting a spell in Mystic River Park, we are often approached by folks wanting to pet Doolittle. Some even say, “I think I recognize this dog. Is he the one from the book, Mystic Seafarer’s Trail? Are you the author–the lady who had that serious ‘wardrobe malfunction’?”
What do I tell them—the truth? That yes, I’m that author with the humiliating start in Mystic upon moving here in 2010—but that the dog they “recognize,” though having the same odd shape of a basset hound-mix, is not the same featured in the opening lines:
Wanted: Epic Adventure
Shortly after stepping out of my new home with my hound for our first stroll through the historic seacoast village of Mystic, a woman pulled over in her van and yelled, “Excuse me.”
Assuming she was a tourist wanting directions to Mystic Pizza or some other attraction, I wasn’t prepared for what she really wanted to know: “Do you realize the back of your skirt is tucked into your underwear?”
What a debut in my new hometown—I don’t think this is what National Geographic meant when they named Mystic one of the top 100 adventure towns in the United States…
When I respond, that yes, I’m the underwear-flashing author, but no, the hound beside me wagging his tail and wearing his “pet me” bandanna is not the semi-famous Bailey featured in the book, but rather Doolittle, adopted after sending our very sick Bailey off to that distant shore. As always, the stranger’s face falls as they mourn the pesky hound they grew to love in my travel memoir.
In hopes of cheering up the Bailey mourners quickly, I assure them that although Doolittle, unlike Bailey, is terrified of sailing (and water in general—even wet grass), Doolittle does, in fact, do a lot!
Doolittle’s social charms, such as leaning adoringly against those who pet him, helped me butter up local residents when I needed their help for my latest project. In the middle of the busy, hot 2015 tourist season, I begged them to climb into their steamy attics to look through their long-forgotten photographs from the last half of the 20th century. I was working on an image-driven book about Mystic’s recent history with co-authors, Kent and Meredith Fuller. The book, Mystic (Images of Modern America), was released by Arcadia Publishing on July 4th, 2016.
Although a photograph of Doolittle didn’t make it into this book (the featured dog is Clancy, the paraplegic canine famous for pulling himself through Mystic on his cart), it was with Doolittle at my side that I pounded the pavement looking for images. Together, we walked into shops and knocked on doors seeking anyone willing to share their private photographs showing how Mystic transitioned from a working-class village into a world-class tourist destination—recently named among “The 30 most beautiful towns in America.” The publisher didn’t give us a budget for images, so Doolittle bartered snuggles and affectionate glances in exchange for use of the photographs—most never seen by the public until now.
What will Doolittle contribute next to Mystic? That may be up to you! To keep up with Doolittle’s ambles through Mystic, you can subscribe to my free monthly newsletter, or “Like” Facebook.com/AuthorLisaSaunders.
If you have a Mystic story or photograph you are willing to share, I continue to collaborate with Kent and Meredith Fuller in telling the story of the area. See their request for volunteer writers and photographers.
If you would like to write your own book and need advice, write to me to see how I can help you at LisaSaunders42@gmail.com.