Author writes about singleness alongside her pups
Oxnard resident Susan Hartzler adopted a “rebound dog” after a bad breakup in her late 20s.
She adopted her dog Blondie on an impulse, which paralleled her dating life at the time: jumping in unprepared.
Now, at age 60, Ms. Hartzler has embraced her single life — which is far from lonely thanks to her dogs and friends.
She writes about the dogs of her past dating life and the pups that keep her smiling in her new book “I’m Not Single, I Have a Dog: Dating Tales from the Bark Side.” Published by McFarland & Company Inc., it’s available at $19.99 at mcfarlandbooks.com/product/im-not-single-i-have-a-dog.
“I got really tired of trying to explain to people why I never was married,” Ms. Hartzler told the News-Press, explaining why she decided to write the book. “Even at 60, people still say, ‘Oh, you’re going to meet someone.’”
But she’s not looking for someone.
She’s decided she likes life as it is: with tail-wagging love.
“I think maybe people project onto me that they don’t want to be single,” she said. “You have to be a self starter. You can’t just lie in bed all day, and dogs are good for that.”
She hopes the questions go away when family members turn the 221 pages in “I’m Not Single, I Have a Dog.”
“Some people are better off single,” she said. “I just have a bad picker when it comes to guys, but I have a good picker when it comes to dogs.”
In her book, she describes her type as a “quintessential bad boy.” Eventually, her dogs help her sniff out the bad matches and enjoy her independence.
Her story isn’t just about romantic heartache. It includes struggles beyond a dating life, including the loss of loved ones.
“This book took me a long time because you have to talk about the bad things as well as the good things. But writing them, it took me right back to the tragedies,” she said. “I took a lot of naps and shed a lot of tears writing.”
Themes of faith and self care are throughout her narrative, as Ms. Hartzler wrestles with grief and trauma.
“I’m hoping the book will help people not be afraid of therapy and not be afraid to do something,” she said.
Although it’s her personal story, the humanity she demonstrates is relatable for many audiences.
Readers hear about her three rescue dogs, a cause she advocates for today (though she is also supportive of responsible breeding).
“From my experience, it seems like rescue dogs tend to know that their human rescued them, so the relationship can blossom very quickly,” she said.
She notices a more grateful attitude from her rescues. And Blondie, the spitz she adopts in the first chapter, enters her life fully trained and ready to love.
“If anything, I had to untrain her. Really with her, I just had to love her,” Ms. Hartzler said.
Her dog Baldwin, a poodle mix, brought a new element of dog ownership into her life: dog sports and a therapy dog license.
She took Baldwin to hospitals to cheer up patients, something she always wanted to do. It was exhausting but rewarding for the pair.
Ms. Hartzler and Baldwin made an excellent team during agility trials. She taught him to weave through a line of poles, and he was a natural walking over an A-frame obstacle.
“It’s a great way to bond with your dog and teach them obedience. It’s fun and it’s natural, and your minds start becoming one,” she said.
Her current dogs, both Australian shepherds, enjoy dog sports and even starring in commercials. For her, it’s a lifestyle.
Recording her dog ownership and dating journey took 12 years. She was patient and as a public relations agent, she was already busy.
She published short stories from the book, winning her writing awards (one of which is a “Pawlitzer Prize”).
The interest propelled her to finish the book, which she originally intended to self-publish, but McFarland & Company Inc. expressed interest.
When the Dog Writers Association of America requested book proposals on the dog-human bond, she gave it a try. She was pleasantly surprised to get an offer.
Ms. Hartzler already has two more book ideas in mind that she hopes to write soon.