Message from Rochelle Lesser, School Psychologist
Stories sustain us in times of trouble and serve to
encourage us towards ends we would not otherwise
envision. And, the story of Bob, from the book
, is one such story.
Written and designed by Tom Corwin, a talented
musician and music producer living in Northern
California, this book's deeply-felt rhythm is
achieved by a silhouetted Golden walking gracefully
through each one-sentence page. Although a mere 1,000
words, this beautifully designed book aptly conveys
the power of transformation that can come from the
unconditional love between man and dog. Yet, Tom does not take credit for
his own role in changing Bob. In fact, he believes
that it was Bob's ability to turn around his own
finding happiness and security for himself that
was so remarkable.
contacted Tom about his book (March 2006), asking if he could
share some personal photos of Bob and more about his
own Golden experiences. also sharing my
recent loss of my Golden Darcy with him. This was
I am so sorry for your recent loss. I know how big
that loss must be. I hope your other Goldens are
holding you up in this difficult time. Bob was a deep soul and a huge loss. He was also
the third Golden I've had and the second to find
me. I now have Pi, another Golden who found her
way into my life through different
circumstances. ... Thank you so much for your support of Mostly
Bob. I really appreciate it. Unfortunately, I
don't take a lot of photographs, so I don't have
many pics of Bob, but I will poke around and see
what I can come up with to pass on. Your site is fantastic and a rich homage
to these amazing loves. I look forward to taking a more detailed look at the
site. It looks like a very deep resource filled with great information."
How Mostly Bob Came About
A Dog's Tale
September 2006 Update
tell you more about what makes this story so
extraordinary, and how
Mostly Bob came about.
uniqueness and magic in this tale comes from its initial
premise, that is, of a dog adopting a man, along with
the unique love story that ensues. When almost 30 years
ago Dr. Allen Schoen asserted that animals had feelings
and emotions, he was scoffed at by his professional
peers. Yet, now, more and more, we are seeing how humans
and animals can mutually benefit from their heightened
awareness, respect, and love for one another.
It was when Tom's Golden Retriever, Bob, passed away
unexpectedly, that he decided to write a letter as a
tribute to Bob's life. But, it would also tell Bob’s
many human friends what they might not have known —
the surprising story of how Bob was once a
ferocious, abused, untrusting dog named Red, and how
he changed completely to become Tom’s best friend.
This is the beginning of that letter as it was
originally written and e-mailed to a list of 30 friends:
To all of you who have known and loved Bob:
I am terribly sad to say that Bob left us Saturday
He was a great source of love, comfort and laughs to
many of us.
He should serve as a powerful reminder to us all that
wounded hearts can, and do, heal. It seemed to me his
story deserved writing down.
He was amazingly successful in changing his own life.
There are not a lot of dogs who can make that claim.
He was a true hero.
As you may know, Bob came to me after nine years of
suffering and neglect. He had the misfortune of having a
dog owner who had very little understanding of how to
love animals. He was locked out of the house, and it
seemed the only time Bob got attention was when his
owner's temper was raging. As a consequence, Bob grew up
seeing life through the narrow eyes of fear and
I knew him for all those years as the psycho-dog next
door. He was unbathed, smelled bad and looked like hell.
He never set foot on my property. As much of a dog lover
as I am, there was little to love or appreciate about
Bob. If anyone (including myself) tried to walk onto the
neighbor's property and pet him, he would peer through
distrustful eyes, show his teeth, growl and bark like a
Occasionally when Bob would spend literally hours on end
barking next door, I would walk over, brave his threats
and try to calm him down. Sometimes it worked. I must
admit in spite of this even I couldn't find much to like
Then about four and a half years ago, through sheer
genius and determination on Bob's part, he changed his
He apparently noticed that Bubba, my fifteen-year-old
Golden Retriever, had recently and sadly departed. (He
may also have noticed that for the last year and a half
of Bubba's life I had been carrying him up my one
hundred stairs every day.)
About a month later I looked out the window and saw Bob
on my property. I remember thinking to myself, 'That's
weird, he never steps over the property line.' The next
thing I noticed was when he walked onto my deck about a
week later and lay down. 'Now that's really, really
weird.' Then he simply stayed. ...
The letter continues, but you will have to buy the
book to learn more.
Once Tom sent the letter out, he began receiving an
outpouring of heartfelt responses to what he thought
was just a slightly unusual story about his dog, but
was, he came to realize, a universal tale about the
possibility of change and the power of love with no
strings attached. Friends and strangers urged him to
bring the story to more people, and with a vision of
how it might look, Tom designed and made by hand a
special book version of the letter, complete with
flipbook illustrations of his beloved Bob.
The outpouring of emotion in the following personal
reviews and news article clearly demonstrates how
healing such tales of kindred spirits can be.
"Mostly Bob speaks straight to the heart."
— Marianne Williamson
"One measure of our humanity is the unconditional
love we are capable of giving to an animal. . . . Mostly Bob puts it beautifully and succinctly
into words." — Morley Safer, news correspondent,
"I love this story. Not since
— and really I read it as an adult — have I been
pushed passed the sadness to accept the beauty of a
life well lived. Tom says that Bob was ‘amazingly
successful in changing his own life.’ He changed
mine too." — Linda Winer, theater critic, New
"Simply a beautiful love story."
"Bob has grabbed our hearts the way he did Tom’s.
We cried, we hugged our dogs, and then we smiled
deeply for the wisdom, the humor, and the genius
that was Bob." — Richard Pryor and Jennifer Lee
". . . a small work but large in what it has to
say and the quality of its emotion." — Joanne
"If we treated each other the way we treat our
beloved pets, this would be a very different world.
My motto has long been WWLD, What Would Lassie Do?
From now on it will be WWBTD, What Would Bob and Tom
Do? The answer is sharing their love until there is
no time left. You couldn't ask for better role
models." — Dr. Bernie Siegel
"As I flipped through the pages of
I was instantly intrigued. I couldn't help but read
the entire book before putting it down. My chest
ached, tears streamed down my cheeks, and dog
memories — joyful and painful — flooded my brain.
Tom Corwin’s Mostly Bob is moving —
emotionally, and to the New York Times
bestseller list." — Dr. Ian Dunbar, author of
Before & After Getting Your Puppy
"Simple and elegant,
Mostly Bob clearly
expresses the power and meaning of our deep and
passionate interconnections with animals. Read it,
feel it, and share it widely. I'll be giving it to
all my friends." — Marc Bekoff, professor of
biology, University of Colorado, author of Minding
By Rick Polito, Marin Independent Journal, March 17, 2006
Waiters in black shirts with red ties bore trays of martinis past a towering ice
sculpture. Clots of Baby Boomer Bohemia clustered near the dim sum. It could
have been a cocktail party but the line snaking past the bar was not for drinks.
The people in the line clutched little red books, some with their fingers
stretching around small stacks, as Mill Valley music producer turned author Tom
Corwin flared his felt tip pin between the occasional dabbing cheek kiss.
Bob, Corwin says, would be smiling. But do dogs smile?
Corwin would say they do. He might also say his book, "Mostly Bob," is not a dog
book. Just the story of a dog. In a year when the No. 1 title on the
best-sellers list has been a writer's remembrances of a canine companion,
"Marley and Me," Corwin's tale of his dog's life and passing could be positioned
in a lucrative niche. But Corwin is running the other way. "You don't
necessarily get dog," he says of the palm-sized hardcover. "You get depth."
Whatever the readers are getting, they're getting it in droves. "Mostly Bob"
sold out its first printing in a matter of weeks, a very unlikely phenomenon for
a book that might not even be a book.
"Mostly Bob" is mostly white space. Spare, with one sentence per page punctuated
across 144 pages, many of them blank, the heartfelt canine eulogy borders on a
handheld art installation. Corwin calls it "a tactile experience." He also calls
it a "vision," an "obsession" and a "pure moment."
had a profound effect on the author. The retriever lived next door to Corwin on
a Mill Valley hillside and was little more than a snarling, barking menace for
most of his life. It was only after Corwin's own golden retriever died - "Golden
retrievers seem to find me," he says - that Bob came into Corwin's life.
The dog Corwin calls "neglected" sought out the music producer's company,
hovering on the redwood deck, greeting him at the top of the 100 steps to
Corwin's front door. Bob became Corwin's adopted dog and constant companion,
following him to recording sessions and waiting backstage at concerts.
And then he left. A sudden swelling of the spleen tore Bob out of Corwin's life
in the course of one night. The grieving dog owner was devastated and felt a
need to express that hurt. He e-mailed a list of 30 friends who knew Bob's
story. The words poured out of him. "The best moments of creativity are the ones
you get lost in," Corwin says. "Those moments when you just get out of the way."
The letter soon moved beyond the 30 people on his e-mail list. It's still
drifting through in-boxes across the Internet. The letter has a "life of its
own," Corwin says. But it was still a letter. It became a book only after
Corwin's friend, children's book artist and author Leslie McGuirk, told him it
was a book.
She knew it was a book when she saw his e-mail. "I read it and it stayed with me
for days," McGuirk says. She told Corwin to keep the writing "just the way it
is" and turn it into an "exquisite piece of art." "Mostly Bob" lived up to that,
she says. "It affects people in a way you don't see that often."
The suggestion clicked with Corwin. "I saw this image in my head which was the
book," he says, recalling how he was soon studying book binding, following his
vision to a hand-bound volume nearly identical to the one eventually published
by New World Library.
The book as he conceived it was a kind of meditation. The one sentence on each
page forces the reader to slow down as the words sink in. The blank pages become
deep breaths. "I began to see the rhythm of this book."
When he brought it to friends, he began to see its power. The book jacket
includes blurbs from "60 Minutes" correspondent Morley Safer, actress Joanne
Woodward and Bonnie Raitt, one of the talents on Corwin's collaborator's list,
who called "Mostly Bob" "simply a beautiful love story." People tell him the
book brought them unexpected insights.
Corwin won't say he's really surprised. People who have lost a pet will
understand the bond. People who have lost any loved one will recognize the
feelings. Loss, Corwin says, centers people. "It calls us and pulls us down to a
ourselves that is deeper than the one we normally operate in," he
And it's not just loss. There is a kind of redemption. A creature of barks and
growls found kindness and become a "loving beautiful spirit." As Corwin writes
in the book, Bob was "amazingly successful at changing his own life." The story
is archetypal, Corwin insists.
In the wrong words, or the wrong format, the story could also be sappy, perhaps
an "Old Yeller" in Hallmark prose, a "Kibbles and Bits for the Soul." But
"Mostly Bob" has little of that. It is heartfelt without being maudlin. The odd
format draws the reader out of the "not another dog book" cynicism.
Jason Gardner, Corwin's editor at New World Library, says the combination of the
book and the story won him over. "We're cynical here, too," he says. But the
book started making its way around the office. "People passed it around. They
said you have to read this," Gardner says. "That doesn't happen around here."
New World came to understand the format, the size, the blank pages, Gardner
says. It worked. "If it didn't work, we wouldn't have done it."
Corwin knows he'll be accused of committing schmaltz. He's not worried. The
story is too true, too real, too immediate for him to worry. "I don't think
sensitivity is a weakness," he says.
At the book's premier party last month, where the waiters in the black shirts
with red ties wove through the thicket of turtlenecks and natural fibers,
"Mostly Bob" was passed around the room in stacks. Corwin's pen was busy. Actor
Peter Coyote read the book in its brief entirety. The bartender cried. It wasn't
a dog book. Just the story of a dog.
September 2006 Update
Tom contacted me again in April asking about the best way to get out
news of his book to fellow Golden lovers.
He wanted to
get further information about attending the
upcoming GRCA Nationals in Kansas. Knowing
how full their schedule was and realizing
how well suited his book would be to Golden rescue
folks, I instead provided him with
information about the Labor Day festivities
also writing to camp mistress Gail Lustig
about the book and how I believed Tom's
involvement and participation would be a
While my health prevented
me from attending this wonderful Golden event, a couple of my Foundation
board members were in attendance. As I would have expected, Tom was an
enormous hit, his sincerity and own Golden obsession readily apparent to
all. I love the above photo of Tom surrounded by Gold, and this photo (on
the left) of him with Golden Rescue Gus shows just how happy these guys were
at the event.
After nudging Tom to let
me know about his current Golden kid, he finally
shared this photo (shown on the left) of Pi, nestled
in the foliage at his home. Oh, how serious and
regal she looks here.
Pi found her way to Tom
several months after Bob left his side. She was only
six-years-old and quite needy as she had recently
lost her human mom to cancer. She is Tom's first
Golden girl, and reportedly, quite cuddly.
You can keep up with the
latest with Tom and his writing and more at his new
Mostly Bob Blog.
was so exciting to discover Tom's book, and then
come to discover his musical talent as well. I was
not familiar with his work and when I listened to
the tracks of his recently created work,
it seemed to be providence that I would find a song
that so perfectly paid tribute to the miracle of
song playing in the background, "Forever Young," was
written by Bob Dylan. This particular rendition,
however, comes from the album,
Released in December 2004, the album is a result of
a collaboration between Tom Corwin and
Tim Hockenberry, and the inspiration of bringing new
perspectives to the indelible music of Bob Dylan.
Tom has many years experience as a composer,
producer and performer, having worked with artists
as diverse as Patti LaBelle, Bonnie Raitt, Kris
Kristofferson and Booker T.