Some Thoughts on Spud

Spud is a book about dogs, people, and life on the land.

It’s a kind of tribute to the Australian working dog, whatever the breed. They’re an amazing animal. Where ever sheep and cattle are handled, the Australian working dog is there doing most of the work, often with a pat as the only thanks. 

But it’s not just the work they do. It’s also the companionship they give. There are no questions asked or conditions attached to their love. They understand emotions and feelings, and are often real mates to people on the land. Of course there are those who abuse their canine mates. But then love and trust will always be abused by some.

So Spud is about the timeless relationship between dogs and humans, a relationship that we easily forget in today’s techno-obsessed world. We sometimes see ourselves as distinct from the world of Nature, yet we aren’t, and dogs are there to remind us of this.

But although it’s a dog’s tale, Spud is very much a book about people, people on the land. There are two sides to rural life in Australia. One is the dark side of drought and rural recession, always claiming victims. Yet at the same time there is also something wonderful about life on the land, a romantic magnetism that holds people there often longer than is wise. Spud tries to capture these two faces of rural life, and attempts to glimpse some of dramas that are acted out somewhere on the land every day of the year.

The use of the dog as the observer in the story was a very conscious decision in this novel. I wanted to make some simple but strong comments about life on the land, and yet I did not want to moralise or preach. Seeing the action through a dog’s eyes, allows those comments to be made without judgement. It helps make Spud a raw, honest book.

John Heffernan


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