Woof-out Wednesday: Walter Stoffel and Lance
What was it like living day-to-day with a dog that could attack at any moment?
“After rescuing him, Lance didn’t adapt to us; we adapted to him. Although we always held out hope he would get his act together, we gave Lance wide berth in the house, rarely petted him—and then only for seconds—and dared not pick up any food that landed on the floor if Lance was nearby. We also made sure lights were on to prevent surprise attacks. I didn’t fully realize what we had gone through until after Lance was no longer with us. After a seven year storm, the peacefulness has been eerie. I notice him in his absence just as, when he was with us, I was very aware of his presence.”
It’s clear that–despite his problems—Lance could be very entertaining. What would you consider his funniest caper?
“Well, there are so many to choose from. His swimming contest with a swan certainly ranks up there. That seems to be a favorite of readers. Of course, any car ride with Lance was absolute bedlam. Then, there’s the time he snuck off our property and ended up on a school bus…that earned me a visit from a policeman. After the officer left, I checked the entire perimeter of our fenced yard for any digging (found none) and wouldn’t you know Lance followed me on this tour, merrily wagging his tail. I had the strongest feeling he was laughing up his sleeve because he was escaping the yard and I couldn’t figure out how. Months later, I did, but I’ll leave that as a surprise for those yet to read the book.”
You utilize various slogans from 12-step groups. How did that come about?
“Years ago, I had my own battles with drugs and alcohol and I’m currently a drug and alcohol counselor. Some of the 12-step slogans fit seamlessly into the story.”
In the book, you refer to Lance as a teacher. Can a dog really teach?
“Lance taught by example. He struggled to overcome years of horrific maltreatment. He held on to his enthusiasm. He made the best of what life gave him. He never completely gave up. He fought to overcome his mental/physical handicaps. All this, even though he had been turned into a semi-feral animal with a damaged mind and body. I’d say he set quite an example.”
Chapter 40 is loaded with self-disclosure. Was it difficult to write?
“I belong to a writing group wherein we critique each other’s work. One member told me, ‘People are going to want to know what your connection with this dog is.’ At the time I thought Well, I like dogs, this dog was in a bad spot so let me get him out of that bad spot. End of story. Later I realized that every once in a while I’d thought of Lance and me as a couple of—pardon the pun—underdogs. That’s what led to chapter 40 in which I compare my childhood to Lance’s years of abuse. I’m a private person by nature but I decided to let it all hang out to make the book better, more impactful. Since dog lovers consider their canines family members, connecting a dog’s experience to a human’s seems natural.
The age-old question: Why did you write this book?
“The reasons for writing Lance: A Spirit Unbroken morphed over time. When I first sat down to write a book I was challenging myself to, once and for all, complete a project. I’m an accomplished procrastinator (pun intended) and, as a result, I’ve had many creative projects or ideas in the past that never got anywhere near completion. This time I was determined to finish something I had started. When it came to deciding on a topic for the book, the list was short and it always came back to Lance. I knew he was a very unusual experience for my wife and me. I had no idea if anybody else would find his story interesting and the only way to find out was to write and publish it. The response from readers has been truly gratifying. At this point, just having written this book is no longer enough. A portion of any book sale is going to animal rescue operations that I have vetted. I think that’s what Lance would want me to do. I have also put together a PowerPoint presentation that is half-lighthearted, half-serious and ends with me asking people to do something to help dogs that are in dire straits like Lance was. Actually, the call is to do something to help four-legged or two- legged creatures, just do something. I show it at libraries, senior centers, schools, YMCAs—wherever I can. I would ask your readers to please contact me if they have a venue in mind for such a presentation.”
Why should someone read Lance: A Spirit Unbroken ?
For a dog lover, it’s a natural. Marley and Cujo rolled into one dog—Lance. Even non-dog people marvel at his resilience and enjoy his humorous side. I also think a person in recovery from addiction, an abusive childhood or some other trauma can take heart hearing Lance’s story. Beyond that, Lance: A Spirit Unbroken appeals to anyone that can laugh, cry, or enjoy having his/her faith in humanity restored.
Go to www.lanceaspiritunbroken.com to read Chapter 1 for free!
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