I was recently recommended to take a look at the books of Leland Dirks and because my time is limited with Christmas and volunteering activities the last two months of the year, I decided to download Santa and the Border Collie onto my Kindle. It was advertised as a short story (about 5,000 words) and only cost me 99¢ which was another incentive. I love dog and cat books with Christmas themes and was able to finish this one pretty quick in one sitting. It didn’t disappoint.
The story is about a homeless boy and his dog, Sam, who meet a man named Nick who dresses up as Santa Claus. They both “work” the same street, asking generous people to contribute to their causes. They all become friends and end up much better off from being in each others lives.
Dirks and his dog, Angelo, are the official writers on record for Santa and the Border Collie. They live in Colorado in their off-grid home with two other furry family members. Pet Friends Magazine was lucky enough to have the opportunity to interview Angelo about his life as an aspiring writer and canine internet star…
What made you decide to write books with your dad, Leland?
Well, he’s not very good at running or chasing tennis balls, so I had to find something he could be good at. He’s getting up there in age, so agility was out of the question. Finally, I realized he was pretty good at writing, so I just started telling him stories, and he started writing them down, and the rest, as they say, is history! He also does pretty well with the camera, as long as he’s taking pictures of me.
Was your first “dog book” Angelo’s Journey about your disappearance? Do you consider that book to be fiction or non-fiction?
Yes, Angelo’s Journey was our first real book. We did a book of my poetry the year before, called Border Collie Haiku. Angelo’s Journey came about after I did a 40 day and 40 night walkabout. I left my human, something no Border collie should ever do, but my fate called me, and I listened. The book is a mix of both fiction and non-fiction. I had to change the names of some of the people, but I also changed lives on my way home. And I’m glad I made it back. I think the human is, too.
Do you share your house with any other animals and how did they become part of your family?
I have a little sister named Maggie, who is a black Labrador/philosopher mix. She likes to think a lot. The human got her while I was gone.
He said he was losing his mind without me around, and he needed to have someone to lick his tears away. So, I forgive him that. We also have another kinda sister, Misty. Misty is a free spirit, and comes and goes a lot. She used to belong to some neighbors who moved away. Misty decided that she likes hanging out with us most of the time, but not always. She won’t come indoors, even when bribed with raw meat. We like her, but sometimes we don’t understand her. I’m glad the human always makes sure she’s fed, and that she knows she had a nice dog house with warm bedding in it whenever she wants it. There are other visitors who come by, too. The other day a bobcat came to visit, and we’ve had a couple of bears, and there are all sorts of elk and deer. The coyotes love to sing out here in the open, too. We live pretty much in the middle of nowhere, way out in the country.
Are you planning any adventures in the future or have any new book ideas you are working on?
No adventures. My wandering days are over. I’m just glad to be back with the human. He’s a pretty good guy. We do have a few books we’re working on, one short story that we hope is out by Christmas. He’s also working on a second volume in his “100 Days of Gratitude” series. Our long term project is a story about the internment camps that the Japanese Americans were sent to in World War II, and the dogs that were there with them.
What’s it like being a well-known author and internet star?
I try not to let it go to my head. We Border Collies are pretty good at maintaining focus — wait, is that a squirrel over there? — and not being easily distracted. I love all the nice things people say about me on Facebook, and there are some pretty wonderful people out there who have been really supportive of my books. I try to send them happy tail wags as often as possible. Mostly, though, I focus on herding the human, the other dogs, and the wildlife.
What are your favorite things to do? Your favorite food and toys?
I of course love writing, and running, and playing fetch with a tennis ball. I love summer, because I chase the thunder during storms. I get it away from us. So far, 100% success rate. Sometimes it takes longer than others. I love listening to classical music, especially Bach and organ music. I have a friend in Poland who sends me his recordings in some wonderful cathedrals. Of course I love practicing my modeling skills in front of the camera. I try to walk the human five or six miles a day, just to keep him in shape.
Favorite foods. Hmm. That’s a tough one. I’m pretty partial to meat of any kind, and I love finding fresh deer antlers to chew on. They keep my teeth shiny white. The better to smile for the camera!
I’m pretty easy to please about toys. I like the occasional tennis ball, or a stick for the human to throw. Nothing complicated. I’m just a back-to-basics kinda dog.
I read your story “Santa and the Border Collie.” What is your favorite part of that story and what’s your message to everyone for Christmas this year?
Thank you for reading it! Well, I really like Sam. Sam is based on a friend of ours in Canada, who does the most amazing things. And I like how he and the boy are a team. Honestly, I think that’s what every Border Collie wants, is to be part of a team. Probably not just Border Collies, but that’s all I can speak to. I like the way that the whole story speaks to love and trust and friendship. I think that’s my message for Christmas. Focus on the love and trust and friendship. That’s what changes lives, what opens hearts.
And big tail wags to my friends out there in rescue shelters and to the humans who take care of them. I hope you find your forever homes soon. Those humans NEED you to make their lives complete.