It’s clear that Thom Barker’s life is going to the dogs. In fact, it’s going to a specific dog, one named Lady Macbeth, a big black Newfoundland who is afraid of everything. Now on a trek to his new home in Postville, Labrador, Barker is raising funds to get a children’s book about the dog into print.
The book, Lady MacBeth was Afraid of the Stairs, was born while walking the dog, Barker explains. A combination of the rhythm of walking and watching the dog’s odd fear of everything was the start of the story, and after a few weeks, Barker had the basic setup in his head - though the first draft was admittedly too long, once edited down he had something.
“It’s really funny, because this dog, she’s a huge dog. She’s a Newfoundland dog, she’s 130 lbs, but I’ll be walking along and her head will go up and her tail will go down and she’ll start barking. I’ll go over to investigate, and it’ll be a paper bag or something. She’s afraid of everything. The first thing I noticed was that she will not go down the basement stairs. As I was walking along and I had this thing, ‘Lady MacBeth was afraid of the stairs...’”
The theme was something which Barker thinks kids can recognize in themselves.
“That works out to be a theme that works in children’s literature. Everybody has fears and phobias, and part of growing up is to have these things and work your way through them.”
Children’s books also happen to be a form of publishing that is still strong, as kids still want something they can hold and bring to their parents or grandparents.
“This is something people still want in a physical format, is children’s books. I have my own two grandchildren now, and during the process that was a big part of my thinking, part of my motivation, something for my own grandkids.”
As a children’s book, it needed pictures, and Barker also knew the perfect artist for the book.
“I thought Dave Rheaume is the perfect guy to illustrate this... Sure enough, he has put together some plates that are just fantastic.”
If the first book goes well, Barker sees an entire series chronicling Lady MacBeth’s many adventures, with at least five books kicking around in his head already. Not bad for a barker that Barker didn’t even think he wanted.
“Lorraine, my wife, had been bugging me for two years to get a dog, and when I finally relented, I told her this is not my dog, this is your dog... Within two or three weeks she was my dog, I walked her pretty much every day. It never occurred to me in a million years that a relationship with an animal like that could be so rewarding.”
One of those further adventures could be the trek to their new home, as they embark on a cross-Canada trip, man and dog in a small SUV.
“I’m sure I’ll have lots of inspiration for another book.”
The GoFundMe campaign started strong, now at $2,215 of a goal of $8,000. Barker designed the campaign to be responsive to what people want to give, with rewards being the book itself, as well as a stuffed doll of the titular canine and prints signed by the artist.
“I figured out that basically you have to be absolutely shameless, go after people and ask them to help.”
Keep track of the Barkers and their adventure on his dog’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ladymacbeththenewf/ or the GoFundMe site at https://www.gofundme.com/ladymacbethafraid.