Sometimes the right book comes into your life at the right time, and for me, that book was Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home.
Review by Tracy Campion
Sometimes the right book comes into your life at the right time, and for me, that book was “Fetch.” Having just accompanied a senior pet on her end of life journey, the story of Beija the dog and her steadfast human parent, Nicole Georges, hit me like a blast of wind from an unexpectedly opened car window. It woke me up, stirred up feelings of connection and loss, and reminded me just how complex our journeys can be with our animal companions.
Award-winning artist Nicole Georges’ candid, poignant graphic novel details her life with her perfectly imperfect dog, Beija, an eccentric being who loved tomatoes just as much as she disdained anything unpredictable. In 328 beautifully crafted pages, Nicole tells the story of Beija, a shy, reactive shelter dog who she adopted for her boyfriend when she was only 16 years old. From the onset, Nicole empathized with this little corgi/shar-pei mix, a dog whose emotional issues mirrored the complications that she herself experienced from her own self-described “feral” upbringing.
“Fetch” is an unusual coming-of-age story that’s steeped in vulnerability, perseverance, and the warmth that comes from the constant presence of a “difficult” animal. “Fetch” is just as much a memorial for Beija as it is a raw and resonant examination of Nicole’s young life.
“I began as Beija’s biographer when I first got her, almost 20 years ago,” Nicole explained.
“Our voices were intertwined as I wrote diary comics starring the two of us together…We really grew up together. The responsibility of her grew me up.”
Nicole admits that Beija entered her life based on “questionable teenage decision-making skills,” but “she stayed there because I was devoted to giving her stability and joy. I couldn’t give her up. I think the animal you choose says a lot about you.”
“Fetch” weaves between Nicole’s early childhood, her teenage years, and her young adulthood, illustrating how she learned about empathy and compassion not from parents who were always conspicuously absent, but from a myriad of animals and books such as “Mrs. Piggle Wiggle.” In cleverly marked sections, the book details “come,” “stay,” “leave it,” easy, girl,” “speak,” “get down,” “heel,” and “good dog,” but all the while it’s also detailing how Nicole learns to live, love, and just “be.”
Long before she crafted this page-turning book, Nicole had written about Beija in her comics, and her community was familiar with their unusual story. And when Nicole found a lump on Beija that required expensive surgery, she turned to the community for support – and their response was overwhelming.
“With their donations, everything felt like it was going to be okay. We could afford to fight,” Nicole wrote. “In order to really, really love her, I needed to accept her just as she was. She was imperfect and she was mine.”
While Nicole would never take back her time with Beija or the opportunity to get to know her and be her trusted friend and protector, she realized that she was allowed to have a break and choose situations that were easier for her. “I learned that leaving martyrdom behind didn’t make me a selfish monster,” she said.
Nicole now shares her life with a dog she adopted from the Oregon Humane Society.
“My current dog, Ponyo Georges, AKA Ponzini Linguini, AKA Tonya, is a Chihuahua mix who was found as a stray on the mean streets of Merced, California,” she said. “She was shipped to Oregon, and I found her at the Humane Society while I was on a quest to adopt a previously hoarded poodle. The poodle turned out to be a dud, but Ponyo was recommended to me by staff at OHS as ‘the best dog’ and they were correct. She’s the best dog.”
Adjusting to the “best dog” took some time, though. “I’m not programmed to accept the easiest dog – she had no problems! She didn’t need me!” she said. “It took us awhile to get close, but we’ve been inseparable ever since. We’re together 20 to 24 hours a day.”
What’s up next for Nicole Georges? She’ll be at Wordstock in Portland on November 11!
Nicole publishes diary comics on her Patreon page, nicolejgeorges.com/patreon, and she’s currently working on a fully illustrated book about gender for kids with Judith Butler and Kenneth Corbett.
“We are interviewing kids around the country and telling the story of how people are experiencing gender now from their perspective,” she explained.