- Illustrations by Parker Ross
Turning a bad experience into a book.
When Ed Hanson lost his dog, naturally he was filled with worry and concern. However, what began as five days of anxiety turned into a book that has changed both Ed and the Columbia community.
Sixteen years ago, despite two initial refusals to take him, Ed brought his dog home, where he wiggled his way into Ed’s heart. Partially because of Ed’s love of theater and partially because his dog was taken right off the street, Ed dubbed his pet Artful Dodger, after the popular “Oliver Twist” character.
“He’s a little bit of an odd-looking dog. He’s brindled and has a brushy tail. I wasn’t thinking he was an attractive dog,” Ed recalls with amusement.
Fifteen years later, Ed had dropped Dodger off at a sitter’s house. Unfortunately, Dodger slipped out the front door and embarked across Columbia in search of his owner. Ed organized his social group and he was able to form a large search party for his missing dog.
Ed says: “I had people calling in and volunteering to get out in their neighborhoods to look for him. We had 30 or 40 people walking out one morning. It became kind of a city-wide saga.”
Dodger made his way east of Columbia, where he was eventually found — 15 miles out of town.
“And the funny thing was, the lady who found him didn’t see him on Facebook,” Ed says.
Once the general excitement settled down, Ed recalled an illustration of Dodger that local artist Parker Ross had made to help with the search. The illustration impressed Ed so much that he began to toy with the idea of writing a book based on his experience.
“My friends said what a good picture it was, so I thought, ‘What a good idea,’” Ed says. “I approached Parker several weeks after about the idea of doing the book.”
Within a few months, Ed churned out a children’s book exploring his and Dodger’s experiences during the five days Dodger was lost.
Ed had never had any extreme aspirations to be a writer. “I did a lot of directing of plays with children, and I sometimes wrote my own material,” he says. “And I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I never thought I’d author a book. At the same time, I just enjoyed learning the process.”
With patience and his editor’s help, Ed was able to release his children’s book, “The Adventure of Artful Dodger” in 2020. A sequel book, “Dodger Makes a Move,” was released in May 2021. Since so many people were involved in the search for Dodger, the book has been relatively popular in the Columbia community.
“I think people have taken a lot of delight in the book,” Ed says. “I think one of the things that’s kind of nice about it is that people have recognized that it wasn’t only an artistic journey for me, but it was also kind of therapeutic. I could write about my anxiety over losing [Dodger] and my love for him. . . . I have been able to express myself artistically and also emotionally.”
Managing to remold his experience into something positive for the community has turned Ed into something of a local celebrity. As for Dodger, he prefers to spend his days at home and, as Ed’s book puts it, enjoying his three favorite spots: “Ed’s bed, the armchair next to the bed, and his orange sofa.”