Chronicle Journal


Sunday, April 1, 2007



By Linda Turk

Marsha Boulton
McArthur & Company $24.95

Marsha Boultonís achieved a name for herself as someone who brings laughter into the lives of those around her. Her books about starting out as a shepherd gave great pleasure to readers who farm and readers who live in high-rise apartments.

But who makes the humour writer laugh? In this case, the answer is: Wally does. Wally is a bull terrier ďwhose face looks like a bicycle seat with eyes,Ē as Boulton describes her four-legged friend and official cheerer-upper.

Wally the Wonder Dog had his work cut out for him. He came into Boultonís life when he was such a small puppy he could cuddle up in a baseball cap for the ride to his new home, and neither he nor Boulton nor her partner, Stephen Williams, could know how much his special brand of joy would be needed and appreciated in the years ahead.

Like so many Ontario farmers, Boulton and Williams needed other sources of income to keep the farm afloat. Both work as writers, and if you havenít yet read Boultonís books about her career as a shepherd on her farm, Lambsí Quarters, youíve certainly seen her work on TVís Heritage Minutes. Williams is an investigative journalist whose research for two books brought the couple into a frightening experience of lawsuits and investigations. Though never named here, the subjects of his research and writing were Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo

Writers are superstitious about words and about naming things, and Boulton is no exception to that rule. She wonít give these two the dignity of naming them, and when you read how her life and Williamsí life were so horribly disrupted, itís small wonder that she refrains from naming root causes.

Ask anyone whoís suffered a home break-in and theyíll tell you it can be a scarring experience. In Boultonís case, it was the police who showed up and removed everything that might be related to the Bernardo-Homolka trial after Williams was named in a newspaper column as someone who had illicitly seen videotapes protected by court order.

Picture two writers who have taken from them every file, every tape, every disk, every computer ó they were left without their means of earning a living. Boultonís novel-in-progress was stored only in her computer and it was gone. Gone too was her history of the township and in the midst of all their legal woes, itís a telling point that Boulton was concerned for her neighbors.

There were many days when Wally the Wonder Dog was the only bright or cheerful being in their lives. A dog is a wonderful companion ó Wally knew when they needed to be sad and when they needed him to cheer them, he made them laugh, he was someone who could be happy as long as his people were with him. Just as Boulton has brought humour to the lives of her readers, Wally brought laughter and a sense of fun to his humans.

This is an early memoir for someone of Boultonís age, but her experiences and the insight she seems to have been born with make it a valuable and entertaining read, whether you are a big fan of dogs or not. Itís a tribute to one brave little dog, and a terrifying description of how events can snowball out of control, and of the support we find in the unlikeliest places. Itís categorized for library retrieval as ďanecdotesĒ but itís more than that. Itís a great book and should be read.