MDI Author to Appear on 20/20



PHOTOS COURTESY OF JENNIFER SKIFF

Author Jennifer Skiff’s new book “The Divinity of Dogs,” was released on Tuesday. She will appear on 20/20 on Friday evening.

MOUNT DESERT — To say author Jennifer Skiff is a dog person is the epitome of understatement.

Connections to her canine companions, and the spiritual lessons she has learned from them, form the narrative arc of her life. So it is no surprise then that the subject of her latest book, which was officially released on Tuesday, is “The Divinity of Dogs.”

Ms. Skiff begins each section of the book relating her own spiritual connection with dogs. While some of her stories are themselves harrowing, and are a testament to her ability to transcend tragedy and adversity in her own life, she wisely keeps the book’s spotlight on the experiences of others.

As a journalist, including a stint at a TV station in Bangor and a long affiliation with CNN, Ms. Skiff has learned the importance of showing the reader why they should care, not just telling them that they should. As narrator here, she doesn’t let her voice, however compelling, outshine a compelling spiritual connection that runs throughout.

One of the stories comes from a woman from Bar Harbor who was abused by family members as a child, leaving her an angry, self-destructive adult. “This is the first time she is coming out with her story,” Ms. Skiff said in an interview last week. “She met a stray dog on the beach and took him in. That had a profound change on her. For the first time in her life, she could be someone’s friend.”

Of the 70 or so stories, two other area residents, including Kay Moore and Judy Tardiff, contributed their experiences to the book.

The process from idea to release has taken a total of three years. After finding a publisher, it took a long time to solicit and choose what to include out of a mound of submissions. “The actual writing only took about eight months,” she said.

Recently, Ms. Skiff lost her dad, Bill, a well-known businessman on Mount Desert Island. When asked if his not being here to see her hitting the big-time in the publishing world was bittersweet, Ms. Skiff explains that in her dad’s last days, as he slipped in and out of consciousness, she read the entire book to him. As she spoke about one particularly tough situation in her life, and about her love for him, she noticed tears streaming from her dad’s unopened eyes. “That was the best review I could have asked for,” she said.

“Divinity of Dogs” is poised to be a marketing juggernaut. Along with the release of the book, and a big city tour, Ms. Skiff was interviewed for the ABC news magazine 20/20 in New York on Monday. That show is slated to air on the evening of Friday, Oct. 26, at 10 p.m. Locally, the ABC affiliate is channel 7 out of Bangor.

Magazines, radio stations and newspapers are lining up to promote the book. “It’s just been crazy. The phone has been ringing off the hook for interviews,” she said last week.

In addition, Ms. Skiff’s close personal friend, Susan Rockefeller, has designed a special piece of jewelry for release along with the book.

And, a special CD of piano music, “The Divinity of Dogs,” by George Skaroulis, designed to “calm dogs and the people who love them,” also is out. “They are using it now at the SPCA in Trenton,” said Ms. Skiff, who is vice president of that organization’s board of directors.

Ms. Skiff, whose previous offering, “God Stories,” shared people’s experiences of direct encounters with the divine, seemed a natural jumping off point for this collection, which, she explains, continues having people share extraordinary and deeply personal moments of their lives. “I decided these are stories that need to be told,” she said.

In “The Divinity of Dogs,” she writes: “Dogs, for a reason that can only be described as divine, have the ability to forgive, let go of the past, and live each day joyously. It’s something the rest of us strive for. The truth is, if you respect what you don’t know and live your life assuming that there are legitimate reasons why some people bite, you won’t take it personally. The end result is the ability to find joy in your own life.”

So has her quest to share proof of her belief in the connection between people, dogs and the divine changed her? Not really, she’s quick to respond.

“It hasn’t changed me but it has validated everything I’ve ever thought. I used to think I was the only crazy dog lady,” she said. “Now I know there’s millions that ‘get’ the divinity of dogs.”

Meet the ‘Divine’ Ms. Skiff

BAR HARBOR — Mount Desert Island author Jennifer Skiff, author of “God Stories,” will sign copies of her new book, “The Divinity of Dogs,” on Saturday, Nov. 9, at Sherman’s bookstore on Main Street in Bar Harbor, from 1 to 2 p.m. She also will read and sign copies at the Jesup Library on Mount Desert Street from 6 to 7 p.m.

The event is being co-hosted by the library and Sherman’s.

For more of the latest news, pick up a copy of the Mount Desert Islander.

Earl Brechlin

Earl Brechlin

Editor at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander editor Earl Brechlin first discovered Mount Desert Island 35 years ago and never left. The author of seven guide and casual history books, he is a Registered Maine Guide and has served as president of the Maine and New England Press Associations. He and his wife live in Bar Harbor.
Earl Brechlin

Latest posts by Earl Brechlin (see all)