The sorrowful story of a golden retriever turned into this neighbor’s first children’s book.
Reading Lakewood resident Bill Cochran’s first children’s book, “The Forever Dog,” seems to evoke the same reaction from everyone: tears. “Grown men have had to walk out of the room,” Cochran says, “The first time my mom read the manuscript, she was bawling. It seems to strike a nerve.” Of course, that’s to be expected for a book about a boy and his best friend, a mutt named Corky, who suddenly gets sick and dies. “Every time someone picks it up, I have to say, ‘Don’t get too attached to the dog. It doesn’t make it past the midway fold'” Cochran says. It’s a fairly autobiographical story, except that Cochran was 26 the first time he ever adopted his “own” dog, a golden retriever puppy named Mo. Soon enough, he found himself reorganizing his life around Mo-heading home at lunch to take her on walks, overlooking her shedding and chewing tendancies, and endearing himself to her quirks, such as finishing every walk by picking up a rock the size of a fist and building a pile in the corner of his apartment. Then one day Cochran noticed Mo wasn’t acting herself. He took her to the veterinarian and found that something was wrong with her white blood cells. Mo had been sick for some time, Cochran says, but because dogs have a high pain tolerance, she hadn’t let on. Four days later, the vet called Cochran at work to tell him that his dog had died. “I was absolutely a wreck. I made a scene at work, and I left and went to my girlfriend’s apartment and fell down trying to get up the stairs because I was crying so hard,” Cochran recalls. “Mo was 2 years old, and I just wasn’t prepared for that at all. Devastated is an understatement.” Cochran was still mourning a few days later when he suddenly had the sensation that Mo was still with him. A peaceful feeling washed over him, and he realized that as horrible as it was that she was gone, he was blessed to have shared even a short time with her. At the time Cochran, now an advertising creative director at the Richards Group, had been professionally employed as a writer for only a few years, but he thought writing children’s books was something he would like to do. So he translated the entire experience into a children’s story. “When I got to the end, I felt like this thing really works. It felt really honest and true,” Cochran says. “It was a six-page (Microsoft) Word document, and I’m more proud of that document than anything I’ve ever written.” That was 12 years ago. It took about seven years and 15 rejection letters (from publishers whom Cochran wasn’t sure even read the book) before he found himself in Los Angeles on a commercial shoot and overheard a conversation about the children’s book industry. The story of how his book finally came to be read by a Harper Collins editor is one of those involving a wardrobe manager’s sister’s friend, and even then it took almost five more years before being published this month. “The children’s publishing world is incredibly slow, especially if you’re not Jamie Lee Curtis or Madonna,” Cochran quips. But Harper Collins was since purchased by a second manuscript from Cochran, another somewhat autobiographical story about a boy whose parents are divorced. “I gave them a lot of manuscripts that were happy and fun, but they loved my spin on sorrow, so maybe that’s my niche,” he says. Cochran did choose a “happy and fun” location for his first book signing and release party-White Rock Lake Dog Park. Though “The Forever Dog” is a children’s book, it’s written for dog lovers of all ages, and Cochran knows that plenty of them live in our neighborhood. Cochran won’t, however, be bringing a dog with him to the park for the party. Since Mo’s death, he hasn’t been able to adopt another one. “I tried once,” he says. “I went so far as to contact that Golden Retriever Rescue, but when I got to the place and met the dog, I realized that I was hoping it would be Mo, and I lost it again. I started bawling and had to leave.” He still has one of the fist-sized rocks Mo used to pile in the corner and a couple of photos taken before she died. Cochran wishes he had more; that’s why he’s panning to bring a photographer to the signing party to take pictures of neighbors and their dogs. The book is, essentially, about enjoying your dog every day and loving every moment, Cochran says, and he believes that one day he’ll be able to experience that again. “Someday,” he says, “I’ll get another dog.”
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