Feeling the absence of a canine companion since his last dog “crossed the rainbow bridge,” Red Deer author Harley Hay decided to invent one.
His literary pooch — a space-ship/time-travelling character named Harold — is truly a wonder dog.
Hay’s self-published book, Harold is A Dog, out in time for the Christmas season, is set some 40 years in the future.
Through Hay’s science fiction lens, Red Deer has become Alberta’s largest (and capital) city, with a rapid rail connection to Calgary and Edmonton.
“The Tara Veer stop is located just across Highway 2,” says Hay.
In this metropolis version of Red Deer, a guy named Bud wants a pet he can relate to, and so he adopts a genetically modified dog from a University of Alberta research facility.
Harold can speak and also knows his way around an iPad with his paws.
“He’s exceptionally brilliant. He can drive a car and is studying for his master’s degree in sociology,” said Hay. “He’s studying the theory of Pavlov’s dogs…”
Over the course of 200 pages, Harold’s high-flying adventures will take readers to the moon and back. Harold will also be transported back a century to the 1960s, where he time travels to see The Beatles take the stage on the Ed Sullivan Show.
“He gets in trouble for knocking over Paul McCartney’s guitar,” says Hay with a chuckle, “and mayhem ensures.”
The Red Deer Advocate columnist had been writing with a certain kind of scruffy mutt in mind.
He spotted a dog with the exact look as his imaginary Harold being groomed at a local pet store. Hay was overjoyed when the pet owner allowed Miley to be photographed for the book’s jacket.
It turns out the distinctive, mixed-breed dog was among 201 canines who were in “terrible” condition before being rescued in 2015 from a property near Milk River.
Hay added that Miley has since become well-known and popular in the community: “She has white eyes and spiky hair and ears that stick straight out, like Yoda.”
His book, which is “for children of all ages,” made him resolve to get a new real-life dog in the new year.
It won’t be able to speak, of course — “but as one of my friends said, ‘All dogs talk, you just have to know how to listen.’”
Harold is a Dog is available at Chapters or from harleyhay.com. Part of the proceeds will be donated to the Central Alberta Humane Society. Book signings with Miley are planned for January.