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What Pet Should I Get?

Theodor Seuss Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss, died in 1991, leaving behind boxes and boxes of stuff. Soon after his death, his widow, Audrey, packed most of it and shipped it away for proper archiving. Around 2013, Seuss’ longtime assistant Claudia Prescott called Cathy Goldsmith, a publisher at Random House. She had found something very special – a treasure trove of drawn cartoons on onion paper with typed text, taped precisely into place on each page. The fragile originals were to be the book “What Pet Should I Get” by  Dr. Seuss. The writing and drawings were complete, but still required some art decisions, backgrounds and shading.

“I tried to do the job he would do if he were doing it today,” said Goldsmith. “I also wanted it to be a piece that, when somebody looked at, they would know it is a Dr. Seuss book.” Goldsmith started working on Dr. Seuss books in 1978. She remembers the first time she met the author, a tall, imposing figure with a wicked sense of humor. She had no idea what to call him. “No one else called him Dr. Seuss,” said Goldsmith. He finally noticed that she was awkwardly avoiding using his hame and told her to call him Ted.

Goldsmith would end up working with Ted for the next 11 years. Toward the end of his life, when he was too ill to finish coloring in the final pages of “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!,” he called Ms. Goldsmith. She flew out and stayed at his home for several days, coloring under his direction.

“What Pet Shall We Get” was written some time between 1958 and 1962, a time when pets were spoken about a bit differently than we do today. Goldsmith tweaked the script to encourage people to adopt, rather than buy, pets.

Dr. Seuss was an animal lover. His first “pet” was a brown stuffed toy dog given to him by his mother. He named the dog Theophrastus. He would keep Theophrastus for the rest of his life. The stuffed dog was often seen perched near his drawing board. Just before he died, at the age of 87, Dr. Seuss gave Theophrastus to his stepdaughter Lea Grey. “You will take care of the dog, won’t you?” he asked her.

Ted and Theophrastus
Theodor Seuss Geisel and his first “pet” a stuffed dog.

Ted (Dr. Seuss) got his first real live dog around 1914 when he was 10 years-old. Rex was a Boston Bulldog who had a habit of walking on three of his four feet. Perhaps this habit inspired Dr. Seuss to create odd-legged animals in his books.

Ted and Rex
Rex, a Boston Bulldog, was Ted’s first real live dog.

Ted and his wife Helen loved big dogs. In this photograph, Cluny sits with Ted by the pool at their home in La Jolla, California in 1957. This was around the time that Random House published Dr. Seuss’s 13th book, “The Cat in the Hat.”

Cluny and Ted
Cluny checks out some of Dr. Seuss’s drawings.
Ted, Helen and Cluny
At the beach, Helen and Cluny watch as Dr. Seuss draws a creation in the sand.

After Helen died, Ted remarried. His second wife, Audrey, loved small dogs. This is Ted and Samantha, a Yorkshire Terrier, the first of several Yorkies he and Audrey lived with over the years. Photobombing Ted and Sam is one of his creations – a Semi-Normal-Green-Lidded Fawn.

Ted and Samantha
Sam would be one of several Yorkies who lived with Ted and his second wife Audrey.

Dr. Seuss wrote over 60 books, beginning in 1931. “Green Eggs and Ham” was his biggest seller with 17.5 million copies sold, to date. “The Cat in the Hat” is next with 15.5 million copies sold to date. When “What Pet Should I Get” was released on July 28, 2015, 200,000 copies were sold in the first week, making it the fastest-selling picture book in Random House Children’s Books history.

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