Amy Sutherland

 
 

WRITERLY ASPIRATIONS hit me hard at 13 in the suburbs of Cincinnati. I decided to be a poet and began writing gems under the pen name Emily Long. (Emily Dickinson was already taken.) In high school, I came to my senses, somewhat. Inspired by the Watergate hearings and by an encouraging English teacher, I changed my future profession from poet to journalist. My financial prospects improved ever so slightly, though waitressing saw me through for years.

My young heart had it right but as a chronic late bloomer it took me a while to make my way to the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Master’s in hand, I spent the next dozen years working for daily papers, first in Burlington, Vermont and then Portland, Maine.  I figured I’d do that forever until I went to the 2000 Pillsbury Bake-Off and got hooked on the crazy world of competitive cooking. I left newspapers behind to write Cookoff: Recipe Fever in America. For a year I crisscrossed the country interviewing chili heads, cowboys, state fair cooking champs, and a few cheats.  Along the  way I learned a lot about American ingenuity as well as a special variety of American lunacy. I also had so much fun you could hardly call what I was doing work.

For my next book Kicked Bitten and Scratched, I headed to Moorpark Community College in southern California, where the top school for exotic animal trainers can be found. My book chronicles the year I shadowed students through this improbable, magical, grueling program. I went on walks with the baboons, the cougars and a wolf named Legend. This understandably went to my head, which became apparent for all when I wrote a column for the New York Times on how I improved my life and my marriage by using animal training techniques I had learned at the school. That insane outburst earned me a movie deal  (like most movie deal yet to be realized) and the contract for my third book, What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love and Marriage. I still stand by using exotic animal training to improve your relationships with the humans in your life. And, yes I’m still married.

However, I cut my husband a break and began focusing my love of animal behavior on shelter dogs. Which explains my most recent book, Rescuing Penny Jane: One Shelter Volunteer, Countless Dogs and the Quest to Find Them All Homes, the one closest to my heart. This book is about what I have learned as a volunteer working with shelter dogs, two of which, Walter Joe and Penny Jane, pictured below, have shared my home office in Boston. Miss Penny Jane saw me through four books and taught me everything I know about patience. Now it’s up to Walter Joe to make sure I get out for my daily walks.

© 2013 Amy Sutherland, All Rights Reserved