I first ran into pet-book author and radio host Tracie Hotchner at a BlogPaws conference in Denver three years ago. We tried to arrange to go out for a drink or cuppa, but she was so besieged by her fans that it never happened. As soon as we’d start talking about a meeting time and place, people would inevitably come up and ask for autographs, or tell her how much they loved her book, or how they listen to her radio shows every week, or take her away to introduce her to their colleagues.
“Who is this woman who attracts people like Jake attracts fleas while I stand here listening to the crickets?” I wondered. I found out part of the answer later, when she sent me a copy of her book The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know.
It’s a well-written, comprehensive guide to everything you ever wanted to know about your dog, and a few things you didn’t want to know –- like an explanation of coprophagia, where dogs indulge in eating (gag!) poop. Tracie manages to shed some light on this gross issue by giving some pretty unusual tips to fix the behavior, like putting pineapple or zucchini in a dog’s food. It’s supposed to make eating poop unpalatable. Does it work? Hey, I eat zucchini and pineapple, and you will never catch me having a bout of coprophagia!
Three years after the BlogPaws conference, Tracie interviewed me about my book Soldier Dogs for her radio show, Dog Talk. She was one of the earliest of the 80 or so radio interviews I’ve had for Soldier Dogs, and her passion for the topic, her knowledge, and her enthusiasm set a strong tone for interviews that would follow. (At least on my end. Some interviewers have had no idea what they were asking about.)
I recently decided it was time to turn the tables. I interviewed Tracie for Dogster. I learned some interesting things, which I think you’ll enjoy.
Although Tracie writes dog and cat books and does dog and cat radio shows, she got her start working in the world of human babies. She wrote her first book, Pregnancy & Childbirth, decades ago.
“I was a freelance journalist and had done some investigative reporting, and I decided to research every aspect of the topic from a consumer standpoint, even though I had no medical degree and had never been pregnant,” she says. “Because the book told the truth and I functioned as a consumer advocate, the book gained a very large audience –- it sold over a million copies and Oprah (amongst other top shows) invited me on the air as an expert on the subject.”
As outwardly unrelated as this book is, it was the genesis of her future books, The Dog Bible and The Cat Bible. “With Pregnancy & Childbirth, I discovered that it is possible to become a credible expert on a topic by thoroughly researching and interviewing the top people in the field. Twenty-five years later I decided to do the same thing about dogs and cats for their owners. The Dog Bible and The Cat Bible were the result of years of similar research, interviews, and exposing facts and advice that pet owners would otherwise not have.”
In 2006, about a year after she came out with The Dog Bible, Tracie started Dog Talk, the radio show I was on earlier this year. (Her show Cat Chat is its corollary in the feline world.) She has three guests, usually related in theme, during each weekly show.
I asked her about some of the celebs she’s had on her show. That was a stupid question, because if I’d been a regular listener, I’d have known that Tracie doesn’t do the whole celebrity thing.
“I made a decision very early in my radio shows to avoid celebrities –- other than celebrities in the feline and canine world, like the head of the Morris Animal Foundation research organization, or veterinarians and behaviorists who are famous in their own circles,” Tracie says. “Celebrities may be perfectly nice, but I don’t see what we gain from hearing that a star has rescued a dog or cat. I mean, it’s very nice for that person, but it doesn’t fit with my mandate to learn something new all the time.”
A mandate to learn something new can bring with it some emotional topics. Surely Tracie has heard so many stories that nothing affects her demeanor, right? No! That’s the beauty of her show. She feels the dogs and the bonds they share with their owners with all her heart. Tears occasionally flow. Microphones sometimes have a few seconds of silence as she tries to pull herself back together.
“I am hopeless when I talk to guide dog or assistance dog trainers and owners, and military working-dog handlers –- I totally have to hold in the tears! I am so moved by the brilliance of these dogs and the relationship they have with their person that I am often overcome by emotion,” she says.
Dogs may not really be able to talk, but they don’t need to. They’ve got Tracie Hotchner as their voice, helping the world get to know them. You can tune in weekends on various stations or sign up for weekly free podcasts. For info, go to her Dog Talk page.