Seeking Sebastian by Author Susan Johnston Taylor

As we ambled along Newport, Rhode Island's Cliff Walk, soaking in the coastal breezes, my then-boyfriend (now husband) Steve announced, "someday we're going to bring little Sebastian here."

"Who's little Sebastian?" I asked.

"The dog we're going to get," he said matter-of-factly.

This was the first I'd heard of getting a dog, and while part of me wanted to turn cartwheels that he was envisioning a future together, another part wasn't sure about chewed shoes or emergency vet bills.

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I grew up in a cat family, and I'd never spent much time with dogs. A few afternoons with my aunt and uncle's dutiful golden retrievers, sure, but I knew next to nothing about house-training a dog, cleaning up after a dog, or keeping a dog fed and entertained. I'd seen enough YouTube videos and funny online photos to know the kind of mischief that can happen when, say, a beagle is left unattended with chicken nuggets or a Boston terrier gets in a fight with a Slinky (Google it).

When we moved to the west coast for Steve’s job, his desire for canine companionship only intensified. We secured a dog-friendly rental and before we'd even fully unpacked, he began scouring dog photos online. Since I was unsure, Steve suggested we foster a dog. But we were new in town with no local references and no yard for a dog, so our repeated foster applications went unanswered.

Determined to bring home a dog against all odds, Steve drove us to see a group of dogs who'd been abandoned after their owner’s eviction. He pointed to a scrappy little Chihuahua in the corner.

"Can we see him?" Steve asked. The attendant brought us a red dog with the name Tom as a placeholder.

Tom had a little white streak down his forehead, floppy ears and irresistible big brown eyes. Although he'd been abandoned and clearly wasn't happy in his current surroundings, he seemed to instantly trust us and licked my nose to prove it.

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We renamed him Sebastian. This long, fancy name that somehow suits our stubborn, 10-pound bundle of energy who hates being cold or wet, but somehow enjoys snow. Fortunately for me, he was already house-trained when we brought him home.

We still haven’t taken Sebastian to Newport and probably won’t subject him to another plane flight. But a few months later, the three of us drove several hours to Tofino, British Columbia and stayed in a rented A-frame with a wood-burning stove. After Steve tried unsuccessfully to light the damp firewood, we bundled up in several quilts and let Sebastian snuggle in our bed rather than shiver in his dog bed. He spent the night pressed against my back for heat. By morning light, we discovered that the A-frame also had a thermostat and baseboard heating.

Despite the cold, I have warm memories of the three of us curled up together that night. Every time he greets me at the door or jumps into my lap or even lovingly chews on my favorite patent leather pumps, I'm so glad we finally found Sebastian. 

According to Susan, why small moments matter: Amidst the frenzied pace of everyday life, small moments help us reconnect with our humanity. 

Susan Johnston Taylor photo by  BK Studios

Susan Johnston Taylor photo by BK Studios

Susan’s Bio: Susan Johnston Taylor is a freelance writer based in Austin, Texas and co-president of the Texas chapter of the American Society of Journalists & Authors. Her writing has appeared in or on The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, The Christian Monitor, Entrepreneur and Fast Company. She's also a member of SCBWI, a frequent student at the Writing Barn (where she met Rebekah), and is hard at work on several picture book manuscripts, including one about Sebastian. Her Twitter handle is @UrbanMuseWriter.

Sebastian photo by  Susan Johnston Taylor .

Sebastian photo by Susan Johnston Taylor.

Sebastian’s Bio: Sebastian is originally from Las Vegas, Nevada. After his owner was evicted, leaving Sebastian to fend for himself, a nonprofit called Foreclosed Upon Pets (FUPI) arranged for a vet to repair a hernia and sent him to Victoria, British Columbia, where he found his furever family and got his new name. Sebastian and his family have since relocated to Austin, Texas, where he enjoys naps, nachos, and tweeting about #doglit as @littleredrescue

Brave Tutu note: Susan informed me that 2018 is, INDEED, the year of the dog, so in that spirit, I’m thrilled she agreed to write this article. Also, mega bonus, January 24th is "change a pet's life day"! Therefore, this sweet article couldn’t have come at a better time. We are so fortunate to have Susan and her talent in our Austin SCBWI community. Susan is a talented journalist and co-president of the Texas chapter of the American Society of Journalists & Authors. She is planning their “Write in the Heart of Texas” conference on February 3, 2018 in Austin, Texas. Also, she has crazy talent as a picture book writer. I’ve read her manuscripts, and you are in for a treat when they hit the shelves!


Your Brave Tutu (You’re Brave Too-Too)

-Take Courage in delight. Discover power in small moments.