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This is not a book about a dog. I really do prefer my husband—honest. But it’s hard to tell the story of our journey into the empty nest, and leave out one particular animal. Which kind of illustrates the problem.

It is November 2009, and after mourning the loss of Arrow, their beloved Australian shepherd mutt, Susan and David Morse and family are finally ready to adopt a new dog. David’s acting jobs keep him away from home for long stretches of time, the last two teenagers are on their way to college, and this time it’s Susan’s turn to pick the dog. She probably should have thought a little more carefully before falling for a retired racing greyhound.

Enter Lilly, who lands like a disoriented neutron bomb in Susan’s comfortable suburban home after living the first three years of her life in the rugged and ruthless world of the racetrack. Instantly lovable but hopelessly inept at domesticity, Lilly turns out to be more than Susan bargained for, throwing all Susan and David’s plans for their long-anticipated, footloose empty-nest years into complete disarray.

In The Dog Stays in the Picture, Susan Morse tells the hilarious and moving story of how an anxious dog and a high-strung woman find tranquility together.

ABOUT Susan Morse

  • BIOGRAPHY

    Other than two years in Ireland in the sixties and a stint at a Newport Rhode Island boarding school during my teens, I spent most of my childhood in Philadelphia, where I was born in 1959. I majored in theatre and French at Williams College and then moved to New York, planning to become a wildly sought-after actress specializing in the classics. This got me as far as an off-off-off theatre in the Bowery, where I played Lady Macbeth for six heady weekends. (Most nights our cast outnumbered the audience, which worked well because it made my sleepwalking scene particularly spooky.)

    I met my husband David in 1981 across the bar I was tending near his apartment in Hell’s Kitchen. It may have been foolish, but I agreed to go on a date almost immediately, which, due to conflicting schedules, meant I had to see him in a play (this turned out to be sort of convenient, as it gave me a chance to figure out his last name by checking the playbill). Not long after his first entrance, I decided it would be best to marry him as quickly as possible.

    I studied Meisner technique at the William Esper Studio, and we then moved to Los Angeles for David’s work. Over a six-year period I managed to build up a bit of a resume – small movies, television, and plays. I was George C. Scott’s daughter on Mr. President, Colleen Dewhurst and Candice Bergen’s sparring partner on Murphy Brown, Peter Riegert’s one-night stand on The Twilight Zone, and somebody’s dead lesbian lover in an episode of Hotel. I ran a program on the side teaching horseback riding to disadvantaged kids, and I became a member of a theatre company, Circle Rep West. After we had our daughter and twin sons, things got complicated: Roused in the night by the Northridge earthquake in 1994, we found we had to leave our ruined house for good. So, within weeks, we landed back East in Philadelphia. Because I had always loved to read, I stopped acting and began editing books, freelance.

    A few years ago my elderly mother got sick and we had some outrageous adventures trying to get her stabilized. It was stressful. I emailed nightly update rants to my siblings, and it turned out they were entertaining in a warped sort of way. A sister told me I had a book, and so I began to collect notes in earnest, becoming more and more amazed at the classic arc that unfolded. It wasn’t just that my mother decided to drop everything at one point and become an Orthodox Christian nun. We had a damsel in distress (actually two, if you count me), a villain, a chivalrous knight, a whole background cast of those bumbling peripheral characters you get in Shakespeare and Chekhov, and even a stunning deus ex machina twist at the end. All I had to do was carry around a notebook, convince my mother her rectal cancer nightmare was worth sharing with the masses, and try to come up with a catchy title: The Habit.

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