The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

April 1, 2016

April 1, 2010

Mordecai Siegal (July 25, 1934 to April 1, 2010) wrote the best book on dogs I ever read: Good Dog, Bad Dog (1973). Below we sketch his career, using obituary quotes from his friend Steve Dale. 
[Mordecai] Siegal, who was born in Philadelphia, was once an off-Broadway actor, toiling in mostly forgettable work. [His backup plan was to write a best-selling novel.]...

Meanwhile, in 1970, he and his wife Vicki had a blessed event. Their “baby” was Pete, a Siberian Husky who liked to chew. Siegal met a young dog trainer named Matthew Margolis on the street. He hired him on the spot to deal with the out-of-control puppy. [Their friendship grew to include co-authoring 10 books together.]
....[Roger Caras became a life-long friend after doing a book blurb for that first book, Good Dog, Bad Dog]  When Caras helped, Siegal asked how he could possibly thank him. Caras simply said “pass it on.” Siegal did just that through his entire career — supporting others who write about pets, especially later in his career with his involvement in the Dog Writer’s Association of America.

Siegal was president of the Dog Writer’s Association of America (DWAA) from 1994 to 2000. When the Cat Writers’ Association was founded by the late Michael Brim of the Cat Fanciers’ Association and pet writer Amy Shojai, Siegal was right there as a cheerleader and to offer advice. Shojai says, “Morty had the experience of running DWAA, and was generous with his time and advice — and encouragement. During those early years, he was only a phone call away. Morty was someone I personally counted on, and the organization depended on, to steer us through. His positive influence lives on.

Among Siegal’s many honors, colleagues gave him those that mattered the most; he was twice presented with the DWAA Distinguished Service Award (1987 and 2000) and he was inducted into the Dog Writer’s Hall of Fame in 2007.

One story Siegal authored in "Dog Spelled Backwards" — which is a collection of writings about dogs — is a salute to his own childhood dog, Tarzan. “I was an introverted kid, and I really mean troubled,” Siegal once explained in an interview. “This puppy wouldn’t have it. He instantly became my best friend, and I believe he changed my life. I don’t know what would have happened without Tarzan. In a sense, he saved my life.”

While he never did write the great American novel, his writing was no less great and no less important.

Mordecai Siegal's Cornell Book of Cats is considered a classic of the genre. ....

“After all these years, I think I pretty much have a handle on dogs,” Siegal told me just as his book, "I Just Got a Kitten. What Do I Do?" was about to be released. “But cats are still a step ahead of me, and they will always be.”

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